Monday, February 11, 2013

Antone Dolezal

Antone Dolezal is a New Mexico based photographer and writer. He is a member of the new media collective Finite Foto, and his writing has appeared in various photographic publications including photo-eye Magazine and Fraction. Antone received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Santa Fe in 2006.

View more of Antone's work here

Ashley Kauschinger: I feel your work holds a close relationship to the FSA and that generation of photographers. Do you feel linked to that time in photography? 

Antone Dolezal: My personal connection to the FSA generation doesn’t go very far. When I first started Ghost Town back in 2009 I looked through a good deal of FSA photographs that documented the Dust Bowl as a reference and jumping off point. James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was an influential book in that it helped get the wheels turning with how I would approach telling a story about the Panhandle of Oklahoma, a place once devastated by the Dust Bowl and geographically referred to as No Man’s Land.

With that said, this project isn’t really a documentation, but a fictitious exploration into the myth of No Man’s Land. Within the last few hundred years it is a place that has violently changed hands numerous times between Mexican and American Cowboys, Native Americans and Eastern European Immigrants. The communities have witnessed severe drought and rebirth, poverty and prosperity. I wanted to incorporate this history, while also creating a place that came from my own imagination -- inspired from old stories and songs written about this land. It’s a lonely and spooky expanse and if you stay out there long enough that past reminisce has a definite way of presenting itself… so for me it became a perfect place for creation.

AK: Do you have a personal connection to the panhandle of Oklahoma?

AD: I feel a strong connection to The Great Plains in general. I grew up in North Eastern Oklahoma, just before you get into the Ozark Hills and I still love going back and exploring the old run-down towns and landscapes of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. There is a strong tradition of oral storytelling, folklore and bawdy humor in that part of the country, and it’s been a powerful influence on how I express the places I photograph.

AK: Your images seem to create a conversation with the land-- what it has seen, created, destroyed, lived through. What does this land experience presently? Does anyone live or work in the places you photograph? 

AD: Yeah, I’m really glad you pointed that out. Even though I chose to leave out any portraiture in this series, Ghost Town is very much about the interaction of people within the landscape and the relics and memories that are left behind. There is mixture of decay and rebirth throughout the whole project and my hope is that while some of the images display a certain sense of loneliness and despair, there is also the notion of a definite resilience within the landscape.

Other than a few communities, most of No Man’s Land is pretty desolate today. Even with all of the open space between towns, I’m still mesmerized by what I find out there. I was driving through about a month ago – in the middle of nowhere -- and watched two huge Dromedary Camels barreling across the plain. I have never seen anything like it and was blown away! The light was perfect, and was beautiful in a very post-apocalyptic sort of way.

AK: What myths, tall tales, movies, books, songs, artists have influenced you? 

AD: Looking at a lot of photography has been the biggest influence with regards to informing my own work. I worked at Photo-eye Books for three years and literally buried myself in images. I left that job with a completely different understanding and appreciation for the history of photography. One of my good friends in Santa Fe, Melanie McWhorter, shared a working space with me and she taught me more about the medium than I would have ever learned by going to graduate school. My work and knowledge really developed during my time there.

Outside of Ghost Town, I am working on a collaborative project with Arizona based photographer Lara Shipley titled The Devil’s Promenade. It’s a project that explores a specific folklore legend in the Ozarks. What drew Lara and I there were tales of a mysterious light that appears on chance nights far outside of the small town of Hornet, MS. Locals call it the Spooklight and it has become this tall-tale that for many symbolizes the local community’s desire for redemption and fear of slipping into darkness. It’s a wild story and we have taken on the task of photographing and interviewing people who have first hand accounts of interactions with the light and the myths that surround it. While universal and familiar, we found that this story has played a significant role in shaping the identity of this place.

Working so closely with Lara on this project has really challenged my own notions of how to approach a story as complicated as the one we are attempting to tell. I think it is a project neither of us could do on our own, and speaking for myself, this project has taken me way out of my comfort zone and I am a much stronger artist after partaking in this collaboration. It’s influenced my other work tremendously.

AK: What is your process of self-promotion? How do you create a balance of making work and promoting it? 

AD: It’s funny, for the most part I just try to keep close friends and let Karma and hard work run its course. The photo community in Santa Fe has really pushed me to develop my work and ideas and has supported me in countless ways. My friend David Bram of Fraction Magazine saw the Ghost Town work a few years ago and invited me to show it through Fraction. It really wasn’t ready and I was a little self-conscious of it at the time, but the response was fantastic and it gave me a strong self-confidence to continue with this project.  Since then I’ve been quietly working on shooting, editing and asking advice from people whose opinions I respect, which has eventually led to being invited to have a solo exhibition and public lecture of Ghost Town at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Seeing the work up on the wall helped me to realize it was time to start promoting it, so I have submitted to a few online sources and galleries that I really like and think the work fits into and next fall I hope to attend the photoNOLA portfolio reviews, which will be the first time presenting my work in the review setting. Other than that I’ll be out on the road for most of the spring and summer to work on my other projects! 

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