Copy of Fruit of Your Labor
the woman’s eyes followed him
Interview by L. Valena
Can you start off by telling me what you responded to?
It was a script for a scene that seemed to be an interview. It was called She's Already Made of Plastic.
What was your first reaction to it?
I'm sort of a not-typical person who doesn't watch much reality television, celebrity interview stuff. I don't connect with celebrities, it feels like conversations that I don't participate it, I'm not a big podcast person. So it was weird for me, because it's really fantastical, and I can only suppose that it's something that would happen.
You don't have any first-hand experience.
Not a ton. Years ago maybe I'd watch Inside the Actor's Studio once in a while, or catch a post-game wrap up. But I don't tend to watch interviews with people when it's celebrity based. Anytime someone is being interviewed and asked “Why do you wake up in the morning?” I just don't connect with it.
Where did you go from there?
Well I had these dolls in my house. I'm not a very conceptual photographer- I use it as a shield a lot in social situations. I had brought this little wedding cake topper to a bachelor party that was like a bar crawl. And a friend of mine knew I did stuff like that, and he had brought these off-brand Barbie dolls, and was like you should take pictures of every bar we're at with these two dolls. And I somehow ended up with them in my house. I did it- I have a whole weirdo series of photos of dolls all around Manhattan. I had them in my house, and even just reading the title of the prompt, I wondered if I would use these dolls. I have toys and other stuff- I'm a collector of things. So immediately I knew I would use a toy or something. My wife is a hairdresser and educator, so we have a lot of plastic doll heads around the house. And after I read it I knew it would definitely involve a doll, one of the two figurines. I don't usually think too conceptually- I'm a documenter mostly, and it was an interesting task to push myself and try to do it. I wasn't sure if I understood- is it almost like those drawings that people make on folded-up paper?
Yep- exquisite corpse!
I wasn't sure if I was supposed to imagine a scene that was exactly from the script, or if it was just meant to be inspired by it. I'm a very literal person, and sometimes I don't understand words if I don't have someone telling me exactly. I can spiral out of control.
There is no right answer to this, which I know can be tough. Some people take a very literal approach, others go way out into the netherworld. And we kind of relish that. So yes- you did it right. You can't do this wrong. Tell me more about the piece you submitted.
So I had these dolls in my house, and everything I had was just kind of lying around. I'm a terrible hoarder, and pretty minimalist when it comes to photography set up stuff. I like using one light and one wall or a reflector of natural light. About a month ago I had stopped by a gallery my friend runs to see a show of a photographer. I personally think photography is kind of underrepresented, especially in New York City street level galleries. So I knew there was a show of a photographer. But it wasn't actually his photos, it was going to be sets that he would normally shoot, and there were going to be real people in them- a weird scenario. It was a one-night installation. But I got to see a kind of thing I would never do. I had known this photographers work, and some it is kind of dreamy and weird-looking. And he clearly uses a kind of slow shutter speed and shoots through a plastic painter's drop cloth from pretty far away.
So I thought, if I take this doll and put it in this gold christmas tree (I don't know why I have that), and I was trying to think about the words 'She's Already Made of Plastic' and what the story was getting at. And I have a weird relationship with Hollywood. I like glamour, and I tried to get some glamour in there. I had just bought those pearls for Drag Con. In my head, I wanted it to be kind of dreamy Hollywood glamour, as best I could do with what I had. I shot it through a piece of plastic with a flash, a steady light and slow shutter, to hopefully give it some sort of surreal feeling. I felt pretty surreal reading the prompt. I'm going to guess it was about the Kardashians, but I only know that because of the way people talk about them. For me, I needed it to be specifically dreamy.
Then the last couple lines when it trails off, I do have some toys in the house, and I found a gun that kind of fit it the hand. And I picked the title. I have this weird habit of naming photographs after random pages from books. So I opened a book, picked a page at random and picked a line. It was so fitting.
I like that- it seems like you're almost surrendering a little bit of your creative control to fate, or the universe, or some other force. I think that's a lot of what this project is about- the surrealists were really into finding ways of tapping into the collective consciousness. And they were really committed to the idea that creative genius could be a shared experience, which I think is pretty cool.
This is a great project to force me to look at my work as something more. This will inspire me to do a bunch of other things. It has opened a thing that I just put on the back burner for a long time. What's shooting stuff, even if it's in a poetic or dreamy way? It was a pleasure and a gift to be able to do this.
Call Number: C12PP | C17VA.capg
Jesse Caldwell: a photograph is a photograph is a photograph & i believe in making a photograph any way i can. is this my artist statement? i don’t know, there’s only this compulsion to depress the shutter button and try to make things stay still for once in my life.