Other Investigations: Billy Buck

Billy Buck lives and works in Chicago, IL. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago this past spring. Billy, featured on Make Space last summer (here), shares new works and talks about his process and practice.

On process and collecting:

Most of the time the “collecting” happens from everyday experiences, not that they are mundane, but a large part of my work deals with familiarity; whether it be places, objects, or even emotions. I think that using what is within reach to communicate feeling with art, on any scale and in any form is something to strive for. Usually, I use an iPhone or 35mm point and shoot to use as not taking devices, rather than writing things down, because using a photographic image as reference or fodder for a growing idea is what I am ultimately producing; a photograph. Text has seemingly become less and less important in my work in terms of collecting, simply because I find it more straightforward to use photographs to make photographs.  It’s almost like being able to see the future, or predict it rather.

I don’t really work in projects. I just make images when and how I see fit at the time. I think this is the reason why I jump from using 35mm, to medium format (6×7), to large format (4×5) in no particular pattern. Whatever the image needs to be shot with is what I shoot it with.

After shooting and all post-production, (e.g. scanning, color correction and even printing), I begin to make rough edits or sequences of a large amount of photographs. These sequences usually end up being their own edit, separate from others. So I guess that might be where the “project” concept comes into play yet the work as a whole is all relative to itself and takes many forms.

On medium and materials:

Well I mainly work with photographs but have recently started to make paintings, and they seem to have similarities with older photographs I have made in the past, such as flatness, strong presence of primary and tertiary color combinations and subject matter that revolves around materiality, artifice and pleasure (pleasure I think as a kind of associative term synonymous with artifice… or instant gratification). This process of painting is so different from photography yet the partially feel the same way as some of my photographs do, at least the ones with the awkward, slightly uncanny nature to them… actually I guess all of them do.

In terms of photographs, I work with what is around me and what is familiar; family, things I am in constant contact with and revisiting places of my youth. It is important for me to realize where I come from and how my consciousness has formed or informed my subconscious. Visiting places of my youth entails not just going to actually places, but more poignantly, how these places manifest themselves in whatever environment I may reside in.  Familiarity is important in an existence that consists of multiple absurdities.

On research processes:

I have a lot of influences so I’ll just list some: Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Grant Cornett, Roe Ethridge, Lisa Lindvay, Lucas Blalock, Ed Panar, Jessica Labatte, Sam Falls, Lisa Lindvay, and Talia Chetrit.

All of these photographers resonate with me because their work strongly reflects their visual/emotional/psychological/personal responses to the world around them. Working in different ways, either specifically with material or simply by interacting with their environment, these artists to me represent a very real sense of understanding about who they are in relation to themselves.  This understanding I think comes from a extreme closeness they have with what they choose to photograph.

What is the difference between “taking” a photograph and “making” a photograph?

Simply that taking involves a reaction to intuition, the “I NEED to take this photograph” drive, which is a kind of desperate act saying “I exist”, like cave paintings.  Making a photograph still says the same thing but it is a statement more about self awareness for me.

What do shadows represent in your photographs?

I think they evoke a state of instability. They represent a sense of consciousness and mortality by the passage of time that is associated with them. For me, in my photographs they are a reminder of that passage of time, which insinuates mortality and consciousness of it.

What is art making like for you currently?

I feel like art making in some sense has become about my childhood coming back to haunt me. I feel like if I’m not making art I feel like a bad person.