Interview by Angela Cappetta
Brooklyn artist Brad Farwell’s work has been shown at Arthouse at the Jones Center in Austin, the American Academy in Rome, Rick Wester Fine Art in NYC, and the Noorderlicht Photo Festival in the Netherlands. He was recently featured on NY Times Lens portfolio Check Me Out.
Brad says about the NY Times commission:
“Working behind a two-way mirror in various locations around Manhattan, I photographed that instant on the street when we glance and check out our reflection. The images capture a gaze which is unguarded and unsettlingly direct.”
“It was unusual for me; the (NY Times) magazine had been interested in this phenomenon, and they were familiar with my projects in Times Square and in the Pantheon, work which was also about distilling down this fraction of a second where people are concentrating their gaze on an image (those projects both looked at tourists and how they ‘performed’ the act of memory creation with cameras.) Siobhán Bohnacker, one of the editors, contacted me out of the blue, and after some initial brainstorming, I sketched out the design with the mirror, bought some weird supplies, sewed together the opaque black ‘booth’ that I stand in behind the mirror, packed it all into a cab with my assistant, and went shooting.”
1) What is involved in setting up a 2 way mirror on a NYC street? Permits?
I was shooting from inside private spaces (storefronts, museums, etc.) so there weren’t any permits involved. It was important that the mirror seem like part of the streetscape, perhaps covering some construction or a broken pane of glass, so that the people walking by would react to their reflection, rather than wondering what was going on behind it. The hardest part was standing behind it in a ski mask, gloves, and a black suit for hours at a time staring through the camera and hoping that a) I would have my camera pointed at the right person, and that b) I could react fast enough to get the shot.
2) Do you shoot a lot?
We have two small kids, and I teach during the school year, so I work at breakneck speed for short periods of time, traveling to a location and shooting all day every day. Even if my schedule weren’t so packed, I would probably still work this way – there’s something about the total immersion of shooting that allows me to start to see repeated patterns or connections. Returning to a place several days in a row helps you understand how it works, how people function in a particular space.
3) Is this your first time using a two way mirror?
Yes. I’ve used regular mirrors in other projects but never shot through one.
4) Why are you interested in this subject matter?
I am interested in the frankness, intensity, and unguarded nature of peoples’ expressions; This offers a type of portraiture that gives a unique connection to the subject. The act of viewing and its relationship to perception are fascinating.
5) What do you see yourself photographing next?
I’m working on two longer-term projects. One uses 35mm slides shot without a lens, generating tiny color-field images, which are resolutely non-representational. The other project looks at memory and impermanence which is being made with large-scale panoramas and long exposures.
6) If someone wants to acquire your work whom should they contact?
They can contact me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org