An Interview with: Dan Commons
First year Leeds Arts University student Dan Commons' project Mirror Myths, recently exhibited at Left Bank (Beyond Photography, 24/03) explores a variety of themes ranging from the male identity and its' 'bruised ego' to the degradation of digital imaging. Using a broken digital compact camera to create his compositions, Dan describes this process as a mutation - one that references yet transcends classic representation of the male form. Influenced by the writings of Grayson Perry and Hito Streyl, and the photography of Mapplethorpe and Moriyama, Commons' work takes a look at how men have been depicted over time and offers a changing current to the rising tide. We spoke to the photographer about his practice and inspirations.
How would you best describe your practice in a sentence?
I’m fumbling in the dark to be honest, but that’s how I like it.
Tell us a little about Mirror Myths. What is the main driving force behind the project?
I guess the driving force was seeing how traditional representations of the male figure could be distorted through the use of corrupted imagery via a broken digital camera. I also felt these images acted as a metaphor for our dependency on technology and its (possible) negative effects on us as a species.
What influenced your project from both a personal and visual standpoint?
As a child I felt quite threatened by the male body so as an adult equipped with a camera I feel it’s a way of confronting that intimidation. Using a broken camera and its resulting imagery (completely unedited or manipulated) seemed to unmask one reality of masculinity whilst revealing another one. Like the glasses in John Carpenters’ ‘They Live’.
What kind of obstacles have you had to overcome during the course of your project?
The project seemed to come together quite easily. I guess it was one of those projects where your mind’s antennae successfully pick up the most relevant or complimentary ideas around you to influence your visual output. I like the idea of the artist being beholden to external and invisible forces even if that does sound a bit naff or cliched.
You told us your work is influenced by the writings of Perry and Streyl – what are your favourite works by each author?
Hito Streyl’s essay ‘In defence of the Poor Image’ is a huge influence on this body of work. In the essay she dissects how we “rank and value images according to their resolution”.
Grayson Perry’s ‘The Descent of Man’ is pretty much a manifesto for men to rethink or realign themselves with the demands of the modern world.
Do you have plans to see any exhibitions soon?
I’d like to try and catch the Mario Klingermann exhibition at the Photographers Gallery before it finishes, and Amelia Lonsdale has a solo show at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery from March 10th – April 22nd.
Tell us your most coveted photo book.
I have Stephen Gill’s ‘Best Before End’ and ‘Talking to Ants’ on my bedside table.
Let us know what you’re up to next and where we can keep up.
I’m currently exploring the legacy of the asbestos disaster in Armley, Leeds … cheery stuff!
I’m on Instagram under @dan.commons