Gregg Evans is a photographer working in Brooklyn, NY. He holds an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago and a BFA in Visual Arts from S.U.N.Y Purchase. Working mainly with text based imagery and photography, Evans’ work revolves around issues of ephemerality, memory, time and desire.
Recent exhibitions include the Aperture Gallery, The Griffin Museum of Photography, and The Kinsey Institute for Research in Gender, Sex and Reproduction. He likes milk shakes in almost any weather condition, Dr. Who, and My Bloody Valentine.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: A Setting Sun
I began working on A Setting Sun a few years ago shortly after turning 31, at a residency program in Upstate New York. I remember feeling my age, the oldest among a group who were only a few years out of school, like a chaperone making sure everyone was six inches apart at a high school dance. I started making portraits of everyday objects from my day to day life, focusing on things which were often meant to be thrown away but would never really decay, or items recently bought at the store which somehow already looked dated; items which functioned as contemporary artifacts. Finding my Facebook feed suddenly cluttered with pictures of toddlers and announcements of first houses, I began thinking about my photographs in terms of aging, impermanence, and the passage of time. What do we leave behind? How will we be remembered?
When and where did A Setting Sun begin?
The ideas behind this project really started out about 6 or 7 years ago when I was in grad school. I was working on a body of work that was much more overtly queer than what I’m making now, mainly photographing men I met on the internet in order to talk about ideas of desire, longing and loss. I had all these still lives that I kept trying to sequence into that body of work which somehow never seemed to fit. They were almost always of things I found on the street or things I had thrown away in my apartment - the sort of “aftermath” of an event, and the type of objects which held some kind narrative mystery for me about how they got to the point at which they were photographed. That was right around the time I was turning 30, just as it started to feel real that I was maybe approaching the age my parents were when they had me, when I was just starting to feel this intense pressure to be considered “adult”. I still don’t feel like an adult really.
I became really conscious of this sense of time passing around me, and of the the way objects become really emblematic of the time period that they come out of. I basically became really interested in how so many things that are insignificant, everyday parts of our daily lives quickly become these dated, retro relics of the past. I remember washing dishes in my kitchen, looking down at one of those smiley face scrub daddy sponges that they sell at hardware stores and immediately thinking of how it reminded me of a beany baby - this kind of artifact of the very recent past that’s also something instantly disposable and made to be forgotten. I started thinking about these photographs I had been taking over the years that never really “fit in” as artifacts in the same way, and started making pictures of objects throughout my daily life with that thought in mind. Which has sort of lead me to today, about 4 years after I officially started this new(ish) way of working.
Where do you see this project going?
A Setting Sun has taken on many forms, first and foremost as an ongoing book project (I’ve published three volumes of A Setting Sun to date with my friend and excellent publisher/photographer Kris Graves), but I’ve also branched out to display the imagery as mounted prints on shelves which could be rearranged how the viewer saw fit, as prints on fabric and and on adhesive vinyl. Installation wise I would really like future exhibitions of the work to feel really layered, with images often literally overlapping each other. I’ve been really interested in installing the work in public lately, and I’ve been putting up cheap laserjet posters of the work on the street throughout New York for the past few months. I really like the idea that the images are up for a short time then get taken down or covered over with fliers or advertisements, and that the prints themselves become these impermanent, ephemeral things. So much of this project is about the push and pull between a historical artifact and a disposable or impermanent object, so it sort of makes sense to me that the way the work is displayed also has some element of impermanence to it.
As for the imagery itself, I tend to think of it as always in progress, and I’m very much interested in allowing the ideas I’m working with here to be a little more fluid. I play a lot with the conflict between “important” artifacts and insignificant ones. I’m playing a lot with notions of artifact and archaeology, both in terms of photographing actual historical “artifacts” and photographing things which will eventually be looked at as such. I’m really interested in questioning what it is we leave behind when we’re gone, what evidence of our existence we leave in our wake. What does it all mean? Will we be remembered for monuments and massive architecture? Or will we be remembered for the insignificant things from our day to day lives - the sponges, the soda bottles, the pen caps, the salad container you threw out at the end of your lunch break?
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
So, my day job is in the photography department at the Fashion Institute of Technology here in NY, partially helping professors in their classes and partially repairing broken equipment and that sort of thing. It doesn’t really have a huge creative aspect to it, but it does feel like I’m always learning new equipment, new programs, and am able to almost always be around people who are really passionate about photography - students, teachers and other coworkers alike. It also gives me a lot of access to equipment that I may not otherwise have myself, especially during the summers, which is such an awesome resource to have at your disposal. Otherwise to keep creative I try and always have my camera with me, I go to the movies A LOT and I try not to be too intimidated to try new things. I’m really enjoying making plaster casts of objects right now and am teaching myself mold making again after not really doing much sculptural stuff after undergrad, for example. For a while I was experimenting with printing on fabrics and other materials that I had access to at school, since the service bureau here is so much cheaper than paying to have those kinds of things made outside of an academic environment and really allowed me the chance to play with how I wanted my work to be experienced. It’s really easy to get kind of jaded and start feeling stagnant, especially after finishing grad school and being thrown out into the real world, but I feel like the more actively I make things and put myself out there the less I feel that bitterness creeping in. Doing and surrounding yourself with things that are inspiring and interesting, weather it’s photography or movies or reading comic books or going to galleries is so important in general.
What’s next for you?
I have a few things coming up, exhibition wise, and way more than a few irons in the fire that I’m hoping might turn into something but might not. I am going to be in a group show “This Is Not Here” curated by Efrem Zelony-Mindell at the Pfizer Building in Brooklyn opening in May. Natalie Krick and I are in the beginning stages of a kind of bi-coastal curatorial public art project of sorts, and I’ve been working on a group show of myself and the work of four other artists all dealing with notions of artifact and archive and I’ve been sending out proposals for it to anyone who will read it… so we’ll see where things lead me. Hopefully somewhere good!
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?
I’d be so annoyed at myself if I didn’t use this space to mention some friends - Pacifico Silano’s work is amazing, along with Clark Mizono, who used to work with us here at F.I.T. before moving on to new things. I really love Sara J Winston’s work, who went to grad school with me at Columbia College Chicago, and so is Josh Poehlein’s work, although totally unrelated to Sara’s. I really love my friend Steve Panecassio’s work, which I think has a lot in common with my own at least visually. Of course I also think everyone should pay attention to Natalie Krick and Kris Graves’ work because they are both doing really interesting things in totally different ways… but I think they’re doing fine on their own without my shoutout lol.