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An Interview with Aaron Anderson

Updated: Apr 15, 2019

Aaron Anderson's photography (@a.theartist on Instagram) transcends the moment. His portraits appear to have an immense tenderness for their subjects, but beyond that, they relay this sort of intimacy to the viewer as well. His photographs make me feel as though I know the people in them, even though they are strangers.

His potential as a photographer lies in his vulnerability. You get the feeling that each photo also reveals something about the artist, and perhaps that's what really speaks to me in his work: the sort of dual meaning, or dual purpose: photography as preservation, but also self-expression, and all the sensitivities that come with that. It's a bit like that chapter in The Picture of Dorian Gray, where the artist, Basil, explains why he chose not to exhibit Dorian's portrait: "Without intending it, I have put into it some expression of all this curious artistic idolatry, of which, of course, I have never cared to speak to him. He shall never know anything about it. But the world might guess it; and I will not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope. There is too much of myself in the thing!"

But Aaron does bare his soul to shallow, prying eyes, and that rawness is a courageous act. He welcomes the many interpretations of his work, and by extension his personality. He lets whatever truths are present in his photos to reveal themselves to the viewers, and allows his artistic persona to take shape in the eyes of his audience.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I, personally, gather inspiration from a number of different outlets. The main one being just life itself, which usually takes shape in what I am feeling at any given time (I am a big ball of feeling and I am constantly searching through my feelings so there’s always some inner dialogue going on and that often leads to images forming as well). It can also be in other forms of art, people (whether it is specific attributes they have, which can be both physical or personality wise). Music (lyrics and sounds) produce all kinds of feelings for me that I use as the foundation for a lot of my work, and even movies/other photographs [serve as inspiration]. With those, it's mostly taking inspiration from the elements of art, i.e, composition, color, and texture/movement. Movies can also tap into some pretty strong feelings depending on the story. So, basically I am always (and I mean always) absorbing everything around me, and within me it moves me in ways that can only be explained [this way]. Most of the inspiration/creative process is unknown because it’s almost chemical how it occurs but we do not know the science behind all of it.

Do you believe in natural creativity?

Yes, I do. I am a product of what you could say is natural creativity. Our environments shape us and mine turned me into an artist. I was a pretty lonely kid, because I lived in the “projects,” as they call it here. Most know them as the ghetto. My mom was very stern about us being controlled by that kind of environment because, you know, it pushes violence, drugs, and the things she did not want us falling victim to, but as a consequence I was always alone. In that alone time, I created characters (not imaginary friends), beings who had their own stories and personalities. I would try and think of ways to flesh them out and that led to me drawing them. Which led me to study art heavily and so forth. You can see where that’s going. It came naturally to me because my environment produced a need in me to keep my mind preoccupied/sane. I did not feel as lonely because I had these creations constantly forming in my head. It helped me a lot. I think the same occurs in a lot of other people. No one is inherently gifted, I do not think. I believe we are all blank slates at the start, but what's around us molds and shapes what will be capable of or believe we are capable of.

What's your favorite quote?

Damn, this is a very tough question. I have so many quotes I love and hold dear. I will just give you the one I think describes me and my life. It’s a quote from the late great Ernest Hemingway.

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” - E.H.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced creatively?

The biggest thing for me is facing myself. I am a manic depressive so I have bouts of extreme self doubt. I look at my work and think it’s all terrible and things of that nature. It’s something most artists deal with. You know, not feeling worthy or not feeling “good” at creating. I learned to accept that my work is probably the purest outlet for me to express myself and how I feel. With that, "good" and "bad" are not even in the equation. The work speaks for me and I have a lot to say.

What work are you most proud of?

All of my film work. Starting from phase 2 though, when I really committed to shooting only film work. That’s when the major shift in my work and outlook on photography changed. My work became purely me and I am so incredibly proud of that.

How do you think your work will change in the future? Who knows honestly, I take it a day at a time. I might one day realize photography is not how I want to keep expressing myself (I doubt it) but you never know until you know. Anything can happen and everything can change. I do know, at the moment, I want explore more black and white work. Up until this point, my work has been strictly color work so delving into a different kind of film photography is destined to shake things up for me and I’m extremely excited about that.

Using a metaphor, how would you describe your creative process? My creative process is going to the in between seconds of each moment captured, a somewhere place.

Do you think it's possible to separate the art from the artist?

I have put a lot of thought into this before because it is something that a lot of people debate differing opinions on. My thoughts on this are not only is it possible, I think sometimes it's necessary. Now, this is reserved for artists who create extremely powerful works of art, so powerful that the art transcends the creator. Contrary to popular belief, the artist does not make the art what it is, but the experiencers [define the meaning]. The artist is a mere conduit, bringing these ideas and creation out from the creative ether, as some like to call it. The person(s) experiencing these works then give it it’s meaning and value whether that is emotional or monetary. Enjoying art that inspires you or even moves you that may have been created by a “vile” person does not make you vile nor does it make you a supporter of their views or actions. The two are not mutually exclusive; in my opinion. I could go on about this for days but that’s the gist of what I think about that.

Photos used in collage via @a.theartist


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