Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Art Space Talk: Tyson Crosbie

Tyson Crosbie is an artist based in Phoenix, Arizona. Crosbie’s photographs are straight photographs of found objects that are often composed of urban decay. He does not utilize manipulation or cropping with these images. Crosbie considers the camera only as a tool, a black box with a hole on one side. Lens and shutter, film or digital do not matter-- Tyson is focused on what he can create with the tools at hand.

Phoenix 20 # 19 by Tyson Crosbie

Brian Sherwin: Tyson, my understanding is that you have pursued photography for over a decade. Can you give a brief history of your practice. For example, what inspired you to step behind the camera, so to speak?

Tyson Crosbie: My introduction to photography is one I consider backwards. It started in my High School darkroom developing prints for the year book. Never used the camera and quickly forgot about my experience.

I was a sophomore in the College of Engineering at Utah State University as a Mechanical Engineering student when I reintroduced myself to photography. My engineering career choice happened through a natural aptitude for spacial relations and mathematics. After two years in the program I started to realize that most engineering students do not aspire to create, just fix other peoples problems with math. Their main motivation and satisfaction is finding an answer. Beyond that the reality was that I did not want to call most of my classmates colleagues, they bored me in their khaki pants and plaid shirts. It was more than the conservative atmosphere of going to school in Utah. It tied to a deeper cultural rift, I was a dreamer and they seemed a mass of pragmatism that wore on me day after day.

I took the intro to photography as an elective course, probably just to fill a gap in my schedule. From the first moments of that class I knew I'd become a photographer. It just all made sense, all the contradictions I'd been struggling with in the Engineering program came together in photography. From the mechanics and the science of the process to the intuition and the ability to create and express through art. Most importantly I'd found a medium that allowed me success through asking more questions than providing answers.

USU had a traditional photography program, and I learned and respect that tradition in my current work. I've had the experience of shooting the whole gamut of photographic equipment from cameras I've built myself to high end studio and back again to digital. I've mixed my own chemistry and emulsions and experimented with 19th century processes that are nearly extinct, such as carbon printing. I'd be surprised if as I mature as an artist and I don't return to these traditional and historical processes as time and circumstances allow.

Phoenix 20 #1 by Tyson Crosbie

BS: Tell us more about the thoughts behind your work. For example, do you adhere to a specific school of psychology or philosophy as far as your practice is concerned?

TC: Nearly ten years is not enough time to develop any clear understanding of the meaning of anything. I am not so sure I'll ever reach any clear understanding, I can speak to where I am now.

I view my work as an evolution, the most important image I've ever made is the next one. It is my goal to create a lifetime body of work that evolves as I do that is recognizable visually as a journey of a life. The first abstracts that I took in school were exercises in composition and theory. What I call the Mexico series was when I became self aware as an artist. Following that the early work is when my language really starts to develop and refine. My most recent work is confined by rules and language and far more complex and yet the subtleties of information that I can contain in the imagery fascinates me.

Of course it is my obsession to observe the world, this ties me to the medium of photography intimately. Still I am drawn to contradictions like; Creating work as a purist, a traditionalist and using digital media. Loving observation and information as a scientist and an artist. Believing that I am solipsistic and an existentialist and an egoist at times.

My big contradiction from my childhood was between perfection and truth and it still informs my work to this day. The idea that there is a conflict that has no perfect answer for more than a moment is the basis of my understanding of evolution. My work is constantly evolving through the acceptance of any idea and then testing it repetitively over and over until you reach a beautiful unique conclusion. Not a perfect conclusion because that just doesn't exist, just the best conclusion for that moment in time. When considering time and environmental change, this moment is so important. The record.

Phoenix 20 #6 by Tyson Crosbie

BS: How are those thoughts reflected in the equipment that you use? Many photographer view the gear they use as part of the process-- do you share that stance? Or is it just a means to an end, so to speak?

TC: Meh. A camera is a black (without light) box with a hole on one side. It is a tool. I use a digital camera on my current project because it allows for a greater amount of iterations. I can move very quickly from one idea to the next and follow a much more intuitive path to the next choice.

I suppose it is all connected but my personal stance is that it is a dangerous path to give too much thought to the tools used. Photographs are made for our eyes, find the tools that are most pleasing to how you view the world or want to express your view of this experience.
The process is exciting when searching for the right tools. But this work is about obsession and finding that core part of a single idea, feeling or beautiful truth.

Phoenix 20 #16 by Tyson Crosbie

BS: You have said the following, "Copyright is dead. Through digital media, and the ability to make a copy so efficiently that there is NO difference between the original and the copy, the founding idea of copyright has become obsolete." Can you go into further detail about that? What is your stance on copyright?

TC: Sometimes to wake people up you need to yell. This question actually made me consider many things I had not previously. It reminded me of Nietzsche's statement that "god is dead" from the gay science. Realizing that the fight that is going on in the commercial world of photography is likely to rage on well past me. Lets just hope I don't face the same fate as our friend Nietzsche.

Honestly I don't really know the answer to this question yet. I've certainly been playing around with the idea in the commercial world, challenging some of the conventions. I see that the domain of copyright is getting dangerously out of control. It is a thing that if left unchecked will begin to erode at free expression and already is limiting what is possible. I think it is well understood that nearly any idea you could execute is in the context of history just repeating a previous idea. If we are to get led down the path of the current copyright model we would have to believe that those ideas are owned by the originators of the idea AND all derivatives.

I understand that the product of an artist is of vital importance to the survival of artists in a marketplace but the copying and distribution of that product can only be controlled with an army of enforcers or by limiting yourself to obscurity. As I currently practice any copyright it is by controlling the quality of free distribution and the availability of physical products.

Phoenix 20 #7 by Tyson Crosbie

BS: Tell us more about your influences. Are you influenced by any specific artist or art movement?

TC: I hope that I am influenced by as many as I am exposed to. Obviously my work is most heavily influenced by the abstract expressionist movement. Motherwell, Rothko, Johns, and Reinhart even Tapies and those are just the painters. I could go on and on endlessly. When my access to information increases, so in turn does my ability to view, respond, and dissect the elements that are truly my work. These elements that I draw from become increasingly complex and each is a part of the whole of each product.

BS: Do you mind discussing some of the techniques that you use?

TC: I am an observer and a recorder. I take from my immediate environment what most appeals to my current mode of language. I am a purist in that I don't manipulate my environment or my final images, they are presented as straight images just as they were found. I use a digital camera and print on RA-4 paper and adhere to a pretty traditional gallery presentation. I edition my work 1/1 to protect the value of the finished work.

The scary thing about this question is that it implies there is some secret or magic to the process of photography. I certainly do not ascribe to this. All of the techniques of the mechanics of photography can be learned in a matter of a couple months.

Phoenix 20 #11 by Tyson Crosbie

BS: Is there any specific message that you strive to convey within the context of your work? In other words, what do you desire viewers to take from your work upon viewing it?

TC: Honestly I can't even begin to think about it. They do what they do for their own reasons.

BS: What are you working on at this time? Also, will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

TC: I am working on my annual series Phoenix 21 and a new catalog of work from a sister city called Tempe 20. I am hosting soft edits of both projects on Flickr.

I also produce a weekly vlog on my gallery site Lying to Tell the Truth and run a successful commercial studio.

Two shows are currently planned for 2009 and I will be aggressively pursuing other opportunities to show until the work is completely sold. A solo show at the gallery inside Off Madison Ave in Tempe Arizona is planned for the second Quarter. Also working on a collaboration and group show with local artist Kyle Jordre in the month proceeding that solo show at his studio.

Phoenix 20 #3 by Tyson Crosbie

BS: You have obviously taken advantage of the internet as a means of gaining exposure for your work. What are your thoughts on how the internet is opening new doors for artists?

TC: Only a select few will take advantage of what is available and possible online. Because most calling themselves artists are painfully insecure and believe they need assistance to do business, market themselves and succeed. I still see it all the time, there are sites that function as galleries for artists and taking the same roll as the traditional gallery by taking a percent of sales. For what?

These sites are even more dangerous to the artist than the traditional gallery system, in that there is NO critical voice. And at least in a traditional gallery they respected the market and strove to curate work that appealed to their patrons. The online artist communities fail on this very basic need of the market- there is no audience.
The internet will only be a valuable tool for an artist once they get over the fear that they are incapable of controlling the business process as much as they control the creative process.

I guess what I am trying to get at is there isn't a new door opening online. It is the same door that existed before. And beyond that door are all the very real dangers that exist from sharks to snake oil salesman. It still is true that the only way to be successful as an artist is to understand that a projection (the internet) of this world is only as valuable as the reality. It does no good to declare that the gatekeepers are dead if your only solution is to establish new ones.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

TC: I asked on twitter for responses to this question. search.twitter.com search for #MASInt #masint It should trend out in the next couple days.
Thanks again Brian for giving me this opportunity.

You can learn more about Tyson Crosbie by visiting the following websites--www.tysoncrosbie.com, www.lyingtotellthetruth.com. Tyson is currently a member of the myartspace.com community--www.myartspace.com/tysoncrosbie and a seller on the New York Art Exchange (NYAXE)-- www.nyaxe.com/tysoncrosbie
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


iamchanelle said...

wow this was a very deep and insightful glimpse into the mind of an artist, and i'm glad to have read it!
as an aspiring photographer myself, i look up to artists like tyson and the amazing work he produces. it inspires and pushes me into bigger and better things.
thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this interview very much. Even as someone who has had multiple interactions with Tyson, I still found it very insightful.

Thank you for taking the time to interview this artist. We are proud of the work and the people of our fair city--even if the weather does suck.


Kyle Hildebrant.

Chris Lee said...

I might not do justice to this post as I'm kind of a boring, purely functional person. I have a bit more difficulty with the abstract. I really do like Tyson's Phoenix series. At first I didn't get it so much (because of me) but the more & more that I've looked at them, I really appreciate the beauty.

I also really dig Tyson's approach. While I don't know a zillion photo-artists, I've never met someone who takes such amazing pictures without at least a mild obsession over their equipment. I've never heard him talk about it at all. It seems like he doesn't even care & the real work goes on completely outside the camera. Of course, there is great technical skill & knowledge there otherwise we wouldn't see such images.

For me though, the thing that most impresses me is looking at Tyson's event photos - which I don't even know if he's super into. When you're shooting specific pieces for art, I think you have a bit more time & the ability to stage things & shoot a lot.

Every event, I'm blown away by the images Tyson catches on the fly. His use of lighting & color are ridiculous. I'd kill for just those. Beyond that though, he sees such different things from what I do and it's the angles and subjects of the photos that continue to amaze me.

Huge fan.

Anonymous said...

Insightful interview that now put a personality behind the work you do since I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you personally (yet).

Being a graphic designer I admire you for not touching your imagery digitally since that is so easy to do in today's world of photography.

Catchatori said...

I find it interesting that so many designers and artists have a love of science/engineering. I also started college with the goal of engineering and math, but found design to be the visualization of my studies. Maybe the same with photography, a study of the elements you work with and find beautiful. Cool article, thanks.

Tori Bishop

Michael Barber said...

I've had the opportunity to interact with Tyson at several Phoenix events. This interview captures exactly the same individual I've enjoyed interacting with. Tyson is always insightful and his approach to photography is inspiring, even to the average digital camera joe like myself.

I've enjoyed his work on the Phoenix 21 series and looking forward to seeing the Tempe 20 project as it is my hometown.

Keep up the refreshing perspective Tyson.

Unknown said...

very interesting perspectives, Tyson, and thanks for sharing! copyrights are also something I think about for our own work and in my work relating to other artists. i'm not sure how the concept will evolve but i think it must have to at some point to at least address new media issues.
it's funny how many really talented photogs i know (or know of) who have somewhat tech backgrounds. I'm always learning from you guys!
thx, Diane

Anonymous said...

As an advocate for historic preservation and "authentic" development in downtown Phoenix and other Arizona cities and towns, I'm always impressed by how artists (a) help initiate "real" urban revitalization and (b) "show" a different perspective on the (local) world around us.

Tyson's expressive photographs made (layman) me think, "Hmmmm, what is this? Where is this? And what do I see IN the photo?" It's not a quick "oh that's nice" glance I make, but a really studied one. And in this day and age of freneticism, that says a great deal.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Your work is very inspirational and just read you took photography as an elective course. I'm glad you stuck it out to become such a talent.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this article and delving a bit into Tyson's perspective(s). Tyson is creating at an interesting time; the digital era forces us to think a bit differently about how we create/(re)produce, and distribute/move information and art. Tyson’s view and involvement in this area is bold and inspiring.

I enjoy Tyson’s work on many levels, but have not discussed with him his motivators and views. I now find filled certain previously unknown gaps in my understanding of what motivates Tyson and, to some extent, what informs his decisions and interests. In part, I see Tyson as a truth-seeker who finds truth relative – to a given situation, time, and condition. In this way, photography is an unparalleled place for him, since he can (and does) capture those fleeting moments of conditional truth.

Tyson manages to successfully apply his skill and interests in both commercial photography and the more creative artistic outlet. Naturally, there is crossover in these two elements, but the former suggests a more monetary aim, providing a service for a client who has an idea (or not) of what he or she would like. The latter delves more into the artist’s own persona, soul, mind, and intent. Tyson seems to understand this dichotomy, including where the lines are solid and where they can be blurred and crossed. While such an understanding is certainly subjective, Tyson’s observation, perception, and application of this situation is brilliant and representative of his talent. Reviewing his work, I am continuously reminded of how I enjoy seeing tiny factions and fractions of truth through Tyson’s lens.

Jeff Moriarty said...

A great interview, and even though I've heard Tyson talk about his art in many arenas, I learned a few things new. I love hearing about how others view their art, especially when it is a medium I know so little about.

C K said...

I love that Tyson's journey involves so much personal introspection and he articulates it so well.

I especially love the way Tyson has made peace with the great conflicts of awareness. We all struggle with the duality of existence, even those who don't think about things this way, and there is no satisfying solution for duality (perfection vs. truth, science vs. art). Tyson's solution is pragmatic and thoughtful.

I appreciate Tyson's position on copyright. As a writer who supports herself through her writing, I struggle with the concept that information wants to be free in the digital age. If content is free, as a content producer, how do I retain my ability to provide a living under a new paradigm? What has value when money is no longer used to measure value? Big questions with large, open answers.

It was my pleasure to be photographed by Tyson several months ago. Tyson captured things he saw with those images that continue to inform me today. It was truly a life changing experience. And a very different experience than a photo session at my local department store photographer.

Thanks for this thoughtful interview.

Alan Dayley said...

Tyson has approached photography and art with an open mind. This is reflected both in his work and in his interactions with the Phoenix community.

Though abstract, his art photographs are accessible to me. I know they come from a real place, an actual artifact on a street or alley somewhere. I know that I can go see that same thing, if only I had an eye like his. This reality of the photos draws me in even though I tend to eschew the abstract.

When I first met Tyson in person, we had a discussion about copyright and how it relates to the commercial photographer. He is experimenting with pricing and licensing along with the community, to find that sweet spot where he can continue to make a living while respecting the realities of a digital age.

Innovation in the realm of photography does not just take place in the equipment or the photos. Tyson shows that it also takes place at the personal level, where the artist interacts with the audience and clients.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late to the party on this one. My appreciation of Tyson began with the social media soft edit process he invented (says me), and his bravery in producing Phoenix # style pieces drives me to further appreciation.

Seriously, any jerk can take a picture, but not many can capture the feeling, vibe, or energy that transforms a photograph from 'picture' to "MOMENT". Better yet, try capturing that moment in a stolid (yes stolid, that's not a misspelling) object like a wall with some spray paint on it.

I say 'Bravery' because if you are a vapid artist with a dream to be famous, one day exhibiting at the Whitney, or interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning while smoking a clove and sipping chai, a picture of a wall is not going to be high on your "list of photos others will be impressed by".

In fact it won't be on your list at all.

But if your goal is to do what you do best, shoot what you like to shoot, capture the beauty YOU see and let the world be damned, a wall just might be number one on your list.

Because your list is the only one that counts.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the interview Tyson!

I am confused by both of thesese statements, it just seems that they are conflicting statements...

"Copyright is dead..... there is NO difference between the original and the copy, the founding idea of copyright has become obsolete."

Then you say...
I edition my work 1/1 to protect the value of the finished work.

How is a 1/1 edition protecting something if copyright is dead? I do see said you are "still figuring some of it out"... so @ the next meetup, let's chat if you can help enlighten me? ;-)

~Adam N.