I really like the panoramic format, and I think it is a shame that usually it is used only for classic landscape, most of the pictures out there have the 1:1 or 2:3 format. It is the same for music, i love the 20′ tracks of the 70′s, and I don’t understand why today it seems that a song can be only 3′ long. The photos by Aaron Hobson are a nice example of the possibilities offered by the panoramic format. Furthermore he always plays the character represented in the picture, thus his photos are an interesting mix of staged photography, with a clear and intense cinematographic look, and self-portraits.
Following text and images by Aaron Hobson.
I would like to tell the background story behind one of my photographs, “a decisive moment”, that might be surprising for those familiar with my work and this particular image. The majority of my images are intentionally “dark” and tend to be misleading, which is not a hard feat to accomplish in a society where violence can be seen anywhere you look if you try. Whether it’s at the arcades, the movies, or on Television, violence is a major part of our society. So much so that I might go so far as to say it has softened our view of violence. It’s almost trendy to add violence to a music video and how many more TV shows do we need about Ganglands, Police chases, and so on and so forth?
A little background about me. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on it’s Northside. My father was a commercial photographer that shot for Kodak, Xerox and other fortune 500 companies in Rochester, NY before moving myself and my brother to Pittsburgh. For a while his studio was at the Mattress Factory before it became a world renowned museum. I used to run around the light installations of James Turrell and visit Joseph Fiedler‘s studio to see his newest paintings. Outside of the studio I hung out with the other children in the neighborhood (see photo of me with pookie and ray-ray from 1985). There were definitely times where myself or my friends got into trouble. Not suburbia-type shenanigans, but more like the time I had my lower vertebrae fractured after escaping three kids with baseball bats by jumping out of a 3rd story window. That and many other inner-city stories are the fodder that feed the majority of my cinemascape series.
So back to the image “a decisive moment”. This panoramic depicts a particular incident from my childhood. During the summer months on Pittsburgh North Side, me and my friends would buy a few jugs of Wild Irish Rose, the finest of all hobo wines, and take them down to drink by the defunct railroad tracks along the Allegheny River. This one particular time I had a bit too much wine and bit too little food. Combine that with the summer heat and I passed out. In an attempt to not be out after curfew and get a lashing from their parents, my friends just decided to leave without me (as seen by the departing legs in the right of the image). Although that story could still be considered dark to many, it also could be found humorous to some.
Case in point… at my recent solo opening at the Collette Blanchard Gallery in New York City, a lovely older woman came strolling into the gallery to see the work. She looked a little out of place and may have come in just for the hors d’oeuvres and wine? She had a smell about her that reminded me of the homeless. She was semi-respectably dressed and was very nice and polite. She started to ask for the artist and someone hunted me down for her. She was standing directly in front of “a decisive moment” and started chuckling.
She looked at me and laughed some more and then perhaps it was the tequila, but I started laughing as well. Once she gathered herself and stopped laughing, she commented on how she left her friend just like that just the other night. I was amazed that she assumed I knew what she meant and doubly astonished that it was the same story. We laughed a bit more and then I asked her what she thought of the other pieces. I think I spent a half hour or more of my opening talking with this street lady instead of schmoozing collectors and shooting the shit with other photographers. It was a great experience and I hope to run into her on the streets of NY again someday.
That said, I do not think the true stories behind my images are necessary to understand my work. I hope that they can be easy to read and enjoy for the common layperson as well as an Art historian. They are intended to be open ended narratives where the viewer can write their own stories in their head… and it doesn’t matter how they interpret them as long as they enjoy the interpreting them.
My newest series “femme vérite” is inspired by more recent times. In this particular series I am looking at past relationships in my life with women. Whether it’s a friend, my mother, or past lovers. Continuing to retain the self-portrait, this series is a little bit more involved that the first three (dark, even darker, and winter). I cannot just pose and switch clothes for the other character. I have to become a woman. This means shaving my legs, shaving my precious facial hair that I love, wearing false breasts, stockings, and finding the right outfits from friends who are the same size as me. Not to mention the awkward moments from strangers when I am shooting now. I’ve had a few bizarre and uncomfortable moments thus far on location.
I don’t work with assistants, but for this series I might just to have someone else “break the ice” or explain what is going on and why I am dressed in drag. One note about this series, is that I have to do a minor tweak to my files in post-processing. I typically stay away from altering or manipulating things that aren’t there or editing out things that are, but in this instance it’s a must… my Adam’s apple. Makeup or concealer won’t do the trick. Only Photoshop will permanently remove that from body. Other than that, it’s trying to master the female pose and facial expressions. I have only begun this series and hope to start in earnest this spring and hope to perhaps introduce it by way of an exhibit later this year or early 2010.
After that, who knows? Maybe I will develop a series that is inspired by events that have not yet occurred? A Lily Dale or Nostradamus inspired series about me at a very old age. Throw in the two characters from the previous series now and then to tie everything together.