By VICTOR SLEDGE, September 2022
“What does it feel like to be alive right now?” artist Brett Foraker asks.
It’s not an entirely organic experience. Our world has been progressively infused with the digital world the more technology has advanced, and at this point we can’t describe the society we live in without addressing how integral technology is to it.
Foraker is an artist embracing our collective experience in a more digital world, and he sees the artistic potential in celebrating that.
“Maybe there’s a beauty where we accept the digital fragmentation of our brains, and we can see what can be made of it,” he explains.
As an artist, Foraker is focused on the pulse of our increasingly digital world. As technology has progressed and has often been characterized as an element of our world that is somewhat cold and lifeless, Foraker has challenged that notion by tapping into the breath that runs through the digital as it integrates with the organic world. He isn’t focused on the sparks and wires that comprise our digital world, but instead the heartbeat we give that world when we engage with it. Instead of asking how the physical world has led to the digital, he asks how the digital, technological world can lead back to something organic.
Beginning his artistic career as a painter, and then progressing into photography and filmmaking, Foraker eventually started doing commercial work for a number of established brands. As his career in commercial work expanded, he naturally had less time to devote to his painting but had time to refine his prowess in filmmaking and photography. Of course, it helped that he had a dream team of visual creatives surrounding him whose brains he had the privilege of picking as he grew into the visual artist he is today.
Foraker experienced a pivotal moment with one of the photographers he had the pleasure of working with when the photographer made the creative decision to distort an image he was capturing by placing a sort of glass prism in front of the lens as he worked to distort and manipulate the image. Seeing this photographer playing with the light and dimensions of the image through the camera itself set Foraker on a path to his own unique photography style and technique that we see today in his work.
From there, Foraker’s art became about cracking an image open and seeing what lies in the fractures. “Let’s break things and see what we can find in the debris,” he says.
In essence, Foraker works with these distressed images because he is trying to capture what it actually means to reflect what we see in the real world when it’s negotiated with the digital world – the visual transitions, the obscurities, the moments that we only get to take in for the better part of a second. He freezes the moments in between when we lay our eyes on a scene and when our brain actually processes what we see.
He compares his work to being driven around downtown and looking out the window on a drunken night with friends, watching as the buildings pass by the car. The visual echo of the buildings as you ride past them, the way the light seems to struggle to catch up to itself. Foraker’s work is about what happens in those moments.
Within these moments, Foraker explains, he tries to unearth the emotion that can be found. He isn’t concerned only with what it looks like to see these moments. He’s also concerned with what it feels like to live these moments.
“What’s the visual representation of how I feel?” he asks. “I try to let the camera fuck up so it can capture something that is more in line with what I feel.”
By the sheer nature of his work, chasing these small scenes, Foraker celebrates the value in the ephemeral. Fundamentally, he takes these fleeting, split-second moments, whose beauty was previously exclusive to the human eye, and he immortalizes those moments in photography. As he makes the impermanent permanent, he invites his viewers to step in the gap between his eye, what it sees through the lens, and the subject of the shot. He encourages us to sit in that gap and dig up the marvels that can be found there – a blink of beauty that often escapes the permanence of photography.
“It’s a glimpse of things that have such beauty to me that I’m obsessed with capturing them,” he says.
Working with these glimpsed moments also necessitates a certain level of patience and release. While Foraker can set up a shot and capture the energy in a transitional moment, a part of his work is also being patient and surrendering to what moments meet him. In that way, he again mimics the experience of the human eye through digital, photographic means.
“I’m after that equivalent feeling of catching scenes from the corner of your eye, little flashes of light, people flying past you. I really want to capture that,” he says.
With the inherent imperfections of the visual experiences he photographs, the nature of his work creates an endearing space to welcome the mistakes in capturing these kinetic, gestural moments. His work is perfectly imperfect, blurred, glitched – all in a way that seems to mimic the nature of the human eye.
In that way, his photos have a sense of humanity, as defined in the digital world. While, at a glance, the sometimes stuttering, jutting moments of movement he captures seem to embrace only the accidents of lifeless, insentient digital photography, you soon realize that his work actually still has rosy cheeks. His art captures and radiates the warmth that happens when humanity embraces the digital.
“If you are alert to the beauty of accidents in all your art, it’s incredibly empowering,” Foraker explains. “It’s intentionally imperfect. It uses the camera to own the fact that we are seeing things more and more through digital means. Shouldn’t our art reflect that?”
As he moves forward, Foraker plans to continue exploring photography in his fresh, reimagined way. He aims to keep taking long-standing photographic subjects, such as landscapes and portraits, and reveling in what can be found when we look at those subjects through a more timely, digital lens. Foraker is committed to exploring the classic in the modern, and he plans to continue creating artistic ways to reimagine archetypal, staple images in today’s world.
For more information about Brett Foraker, please visit his website here. WM
Victor Sledge is an Atlanta-based writer with experience in journalism, academic, creative, and business writing. He has a B.A. in English with a concentration in British/American Cultures and a minor in Journalism from Georgia State University. Victor was an Arts & Living reporter for Georgia State’s newspaper, The Signal, which is the largest university newspaper in Georgia. He spent a year abroad studying English at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, where he served as an editor for their creative magazine before returning to the U.S. as the Communications Ambassador for Georgia State’s African American Male Initiative. He is now a master’s student in Georgia State’s Africana Studies Program, and his research interest is Black representation in media, particularly for Black Americans and Britons. His undergraduate thesis, Black on Black Representation: How to Represent Black Characters in Media, explores the same topic.