Your project, PTL, is really quite amazing in both the photos, the story behind it and your dedication to the work. How did you come up with the idea?
First of all, thank you. It means a lot to have people respond to this work in a positive way. The easy answer to your question is that it was something that I had access to. I started the project in 2006, when I moved home after graduating from art school. The community is ten minutes from where I grew up and I needed something to bounce my new ideas about photography and the world off of. However, continuing to photograph this place and people was certainly a response to something a little more personal. After talking to many of the residents and repeat visitors to this community, I realized that they were doing something that we all do, which is to project our desires onto the landscape. In this case it was in the form of creating a living environment that centered around Judeo-Christian ideals, with a touch of 1980’s American decadence. At the time(and still now), I identified with the desire for a sense of harmony with place. Of course, I’m also interested in the conflict that naturally arises from this.
How long do you see yourself working PTL? What about the story/environment/people makes you stick with it?
I’m not sure how long I’ll work on this series. At this point, I sometimes grow tired of the subject matter and the way of photographing. This was my first serious work after school and my artistic vision has changed and is changing. So it can be a challenge to continue to photograph in a way that works visually with the pictures that I first made five years ago but does not overtly conflict with an artistic vision that has matured a bit . When this happens, I put it down for a while. But I keep picking it back up and when a picture works, I still get excited. I guess I stick with it because that still happens. I imagine I’ll stop when I don’t see that happening anymore. Having said that, one subject, Nancy Tillet, greeted me with a plate of homemade cupcakes when I made her portrait. So that’s an added incentive.
Your other project, Between Saul and Paul, is another intense religious-themed body of work. What is it like shooting in the midst of all of these people having these ‘experiences’ and the intensity of that environment?
As far as Between Saul and Paul goes, it was, on one hand, like shooting any other event based assignment. There’s this big flurry of activity going on and you can kind of get caught up in that and in making a picture and not focus on the situation. However, it was a pretty big challenge from an emotional and practical standpoint. Unlike PTL, this series was commissioned. I was hired to make stills for a reality series that was following a guy named Ben Cerullo as he launched his career as an international televangelist. At the end of the day I feel an obligation to make honest pictures, in the sense that they honor the subject matter but also any commitments I may have going into the situation. To answer your question plainly, it was hard and I’m a little relieved to be done with it.
What are your goals for the coming year?
My goals for this year are to learn to work “real person” hours, get published a lot more and jump head first into my next big project; a series that’s both a look at how men relate to domestic space and a poem for a dear friend that passed away last year.
(see more of Andy’s work, here.)