It was easy to spot the artist in the room. Heavily bearded and swathed in flannel and scarves, Chris Gwyn spent the time talking about his art, his ideals, and the world in which they must coexist.
So Chris, where did you get your start in photography?
Well, before I left the University of Missouri [School of Journalism], I worked for newspapers and magazines that had pretty high circulations. There’s nothing that compares with real-life experience. But my problem with [working in photojournalism] was that there was a sense of denial in the level of objectivity demanded of you. I found that the work you actually care about are the projects you spend your own time on while the work that’s paying your way is the most flat and boring work. In reality you just have to find a way [to live] that works for you.
What have you decided “works” for your art and your lifestyle?
I don’t show with photographers typically. I show with a lot of painters. I believe that it’s more about showing an idea, something with true emotion, even if it’s easier to sell work in a community strictly revolving around photography. So many people just find a method to sell the work. For me, I just want my art to be seen. And not just by buyers, but by a wider community. People only see the peaches and cream, the good shit.
Do you think this alienates you from the photography community?
I’m just making a conscious decision not to be thrown in a lump of people who are just going through the motions. When I show with paintings I challenge myself in an entirely different way. I think [the art community] has lost a lot of its drive to express and believe in the work you’re putting out there. You can’t just come out of the gates, saying you’re an artist and showing off total crap in order to sell the pieces.
So what does it take to be an artist?
I think people really have to have diligence and perseverance and belief in what they’re putting out there. What happens so often is that people get on these schedules: I’m showing at this time, I’m creating at this time. It’s become a nine-to-five.
How do you avoid that?
I always seek to find inspiration outside the art world: from my community and the people in it. Now that the art world has gotten bigger you can get lost in the madness. You have to separate yourself from that. I think a really good artist is equal parts of being social and being reclusive.
A good amount of your work is based on your travel experiences. What locations have especially inspired you in your photography?
I have kind of a unique relationship with the road. I identify with the people and the way of life there. It’s something that’s persevered through my photographic career as well as just my life in general. I find inspiration from my travels, but also from my memory. I think a lot of my work stems from memories that I had as a child when I would spend months on the road with my family.
Is that what started this whole photographic endeavor?
Yeah, for sure. Wanting to document different places. My earliest memories of photography were when I was a kid back on the road. Consciously making images of something important, knowing there was something bigger than just what I was seeing. I have made images that are both taken and not taken that are still in my head.
What projects are you currently working on?
The new work deals with one person. Treating her like a celebrity, with that same amount of detailed attention. When dealing with this one person, I find I can get deeper than ever before. Also, with this kind of slow, conscious work, you build a level of trust that doesn’t exist anywhere else. But in the end it can’t be calculated.
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Born and raised in Washington, DC, Julia Knight now aimlessly wanders
the streets of New York City looking for the perfect white fish salad
(which may or may not reside at Madison Avenue's E.A.T.).
A recent graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, ME, Julia uses
her Art History degree to compile interviews in her spare time.