Evan Perkins is a Boston-based artist currently receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. His photographs delve into acute explorations of the natural world allowing viewers to be fully immersed in the landscapes he creates. His work is highly influenced by matters of natural history, including botany, meteorology, and astronomy. Whether it be a dark forest or a moon-lit ocean, his photographs aim to abandon geographic specificity, transporting the viewer into a world that seems both familiar and foreign. Primarily shooting at night, he allows the unpredictability of duration to play a role in his image making. Long exposures and artificial light are often times the building blocks of his images, allowing the photographic process to take precedence over what the natural eye may or may not see. He spends his time making work between Boston and Cape Cod.
When Light is Put Away
2017 – 2019
When Light is Put Away evolved from a fascination with how the darkness of night obscures and abstracts our commonly accepted perception of the natural world. The images create a visual language that uncover the potential of what these spaces look like when photographed under the context of darkness. This enables a transportation to an ambiguous time and place, a curious landscape that seems foreign, celestial even, yet somehow rooted in the peculiarly familiar.
In a time of social and political ambivalence towards the need to properly address the deteriorating state of our planet, the images adopt a sense of urgency. Scientists continue to reveal the severity of our climate, with human influence closing in on irreversible. With these new studies, science and popular culture have furthered their fascinations with predictions of the fate of our own planet and the potential of civilizations on others. What was once a premonition of hypothetical means has become a palpable concern.
In this context, the line between present-day Earth and prospective astral terrain is blurred. The images depict an isolated world caught amid a semblance of construction and disfigurement. This new landscape adopts contradictions of a virulent and destructive sense of beauty, revealing traces of natural resilience in spite of an unknown posterity.
Why Massachusetts College of Art and Design?
I actually didn't start my college education at MassArt. Like a lot of students here, I transferred in after a year studying elsewhere. For me it was film/video at the University of Rhode Island. I don't know how I missed MassArt while initially applying to schools, but after a year at URI I realized that I wanted to pursue photography instead of film/video. The most unique aspect of MassArt is that it's the first and only public art college in the country. As a Massachusetts resident, I'm able to obtain a phenomenal education for state school prices. It's pretty incredible.
I don't think that the MassArt photography program receives enough recognition countrywide. The quality of education is top notch, and I believe we have one of the strongest departments in the country. In my four years here I've been taught by Laura Mcphee, Barbara Bosworth, Nick Nixon, Stephen Tourlentes, Matthew Monteith, Matt Connors, Kathya Landeros, and Dana Mueller.
We also have the privilege of hosting a lecture series where every other week we have photographers from around the world come and give a public lecture followed by an individual meeting with the undergrad seniors. During my time here we've had guests such as Stephen Shore, Fazal Sheikh, Zanele Muholi, Gregory Halpern, Sam Contis, Elle Perez, Justine Kurland, and Myra Greene, just to name a few. It's an incredible opportunity to meet with photographers outside of our own faculty.
How has your experience at your school informed or shaped your work?
Coming in to the program, I really didn't understand photography as a fine art and the history that came with it. I only started taking pictures my senior year of high school, and I wasn't aware of the community and contemporary presence of the medium. So from the beginning of my time here, my teachers introduced me to the history and potential of photography. I started off like most people loving Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Emmet Gowin, William Eggleston, etc., the canon members of traditional photography. But as the program continued, I became more influenced by the contemporary artists that I was learning about. A lot of this inspiration came from the visiting artist lectures that I referenced earlier.
Over the last few years I've continually been evolving how I make pictures and learning about how versatile the medium is. My own work leans towards traditional photographic prints, but I've taken alternative/historical process classes as well as courses that expanded my knowledge of photographic theory and practice. The professors that I've had have continually challenged and encouraged me to make strong images while being able to articulate their meaning and how they contribute contemporary photography as a whole. In general, MassArt has taught me how to think critically and creatively in a world that needs aware and progressive citizens.
What kind of exhibition or arts-related job opportunities exist in the area for current students and recent graduates?
Boston isn't the largest city in the states, especially in comparison to near-by contender, New York City, but the MassArt Photography community is thriving in Boston and the U.S. in general. There are alumni and retired faculty that are more than willing to take on MassArt interns and employees. I had the opportunity to intern for Abelardo Morell this past semester. It was amazing to be able to work with an artist who's work I was inspired by in my early days of photography. Morell's pictures were some of the first I was shown, and it was pretty wild to be working on files/images that I would see in my textbooks.
Aviary Gallery, located in Jamaica Plain, a little outside of downtown Boston, has continued to be a place of community for MassArt photography students. It's owned by Lindsay Metivier and currently directed by Amy Fink. I've been working there since June as the Digital Lab Manager and Online Exhibitions Curator. It's a great space where there are shows rotating every other month as well as a lively online exhibitions presence. We have a current show going up that has MassArt alumni, faculty members, as well as current students. It's a space that is known enough where established artists want to exhibit but also allows for artists in the early stages of their careers to get some exposure.
What’s the most memorable piece of advice you've received from a mentor?
I've benefited from the direct relationships I've had with my professors, especially Barbara Bosworth and Kathya Landeros. I've admired their work for so long, and they've both always challenged and supported me throughout my years at MassArt. Barbara has always inspired me to read supplementary material to inform my own work. She's the master of combining science, poetry, and art into her images, and she's encouraged me to do the same. I can always count on her to recommend at least one book to read during my critiques. She also continually reminds me that photographs can be profound thoughts of simple subjects. Nothing is out of the realm of photographic investigation. For example, a photograph of a cloud isn't just that. It can symbolize the passage of time, a fleeting moment not to be seen again. One thing I'll always remember is what Barbara would tell me after every critique. After giving her own input for improvement, she would always say, "At the end of the day, it's your work. You have to decide what you want it to be. I can give you my opinions all day, but the work and inspiration has to be yours. Your work will only succeed if it's your own." That will always stick with me. She has encouraged me and trusted that if I follow my gut and intuitions, I'll be excited by where my work leads me.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking to attend your school?
I would prepare prospective students that this is a fine arts program. We have a lot of students that come looking for a commercial program, and this simply isn't it. While we do have classes that address how to navigate the world after graduation, we don't have classes focusing on weddings, commercial, editorial, etc. The root of the program is based in fine art photography and how you can use this specific visual language to get across a message. I find that a lot of the frustration with the program exists because of this misconception. While I would never discourage someone from joining the program, I would want to inform them that this is the main goal of the photo department at MassArt. I had no idea about what photograph was coming in, and I was pleasantly surprised by what MassArt had to offer. I didn't know about fine art photography, and MassArt was able to introduce that to me. I hope the same is true for all incoming and prospective students.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?
We have a special event every year where the seniors ask artists to donate photobooks to fund the senior catalog. This culminates into an annual event where we auction off 150-200 artist books, and it's one of the most fun nights for the photography department.
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Some amazing people in the program now are Ross Kiah, Meghan Braney, Maxwell Labelle, Emma Ryan, Joni Mcginley, Kevin Williamson, Kevin Bennett, and Bo White. Recent grads I would keep an eye out for are Amy Fink, Alexa Cushing, Gordon Feng, Joseph Ritchie, Alyssa McDonald, and Emily Sheffer.