Interview with Photographer Gordon Douglas Ball

Gordon Douglas Ball is a photographer from Montreal.  He’s into ideas not theories.  The man is highly independent and extraordinarily original.  We first met Gordon when Frontrunner Gallery showed the work of his wife, the talented photographer Zyanna O’Connell in A Photo Show in 2011.  Recently, Gordon has abandoned camera photography and produced an exciting series of prints with this new found technique.  His color play with these prints makes us rethink photography, pattern, impressionist philosophy.  Below is the full interview with Gordon.

Tell us a little about being a 3rd generation photographer and where you found your inspiration when you were young and where you find it now?

I never really thought about photography as an art form until recently. I saw it was a trade, always “dads job”. He was a photojournalist in the 70’s and early 80’s. He got up and went to work, so I didn’t really see it differently then any other parent jobs. He had a pretty insane career, hence way I learned photography at such a young age.

Regarding inspiration, I just photographed what I knew growing up: being a dumb kid, skateboarding, hardcore shows, eating pizza, fucking around. That’s what everyone starts out shooting more or less, then once you get sick of that or grow up you take everything you’ve learned and kinda deconstruct it and work on more personal stuff. That’s what I did.

How does the means of technology and exhibition change your work? I see that you have a variety of styles and subjects (nudes, abstract, skate, and lifestyle) and some not as easily defined.

I guess are talking about the internet? Its great. Gives everyone a platform. And you get to pick and choose what you want to see.

I found my current process (abstraction) from being offended of what photography tuned into. I was seeing a lot of bullshit. I know its art and everything is accepted, and there really is no “right and wrong”. My work started out as a “Fuck you”, if you are going to bastardize the medium out of laziness, then I am  going to take photography as far away fromphotography as I can, by using photography. But most of my 20’s can kinda be lumped into that “youth culture” photography scene. No rules or responsibilities, my friends and I just traveled around North America partying. Once I got to my late 20’s I just didn’t care. I moved from Montreal down to New York, and stopped doing photography for a good 6 months. It was really hard to figure out what I wanted to do. I heard this Leonard Cohen line about “you have to be no one to be someone” and that really struck a chord with me. I wanted to be myself, no one else.

Mr. Gordon Douglas Ball hanging out (above)

What is your process for making a self-published photo book?  Any suggestions/tips on the process?

That’s hard. Editing yourself is really hard. I actually have a weekly meet up with 3 other photographers where we talk about our work; Chad Crews – who is the true OG’ist of the group. He’s into the medium / larger format photography, Francisco Garcia – shoots fashion editorials and campaigns, really high class stuff, and Marc Lemoine – who works with music and a lot of street culture brands. We have a photo club called “Photo Club” where we get together and talk about each other’s works. It’s incredible. Since none of us really know anything about each other’s process or work, our suggestions / critiques are from left field and usually improve the work.

Getting away from the camera in your pictures.  How did you develop the idea and process of your most recent camera-less prints?

Frustration is where it initially came from. New guy in a new city, not knowing anyone. Alienation. Loneliness. All of those things all influenced my new work. I started reading about Kandinsky, De Kooning, Pollock, Joan Mitchell, the modernist painting scene from the turn of the 20th century to the 60’s. I lost interests in photography and turned to painting. I then started to make all this work, and I was really worried to show anyone because it was so radical. I kept screen shots from film scans on my phone and I’d walk around the city looking at these images.

Then Chad had passed on some of my images to a friend of his at Phillips De Pury and I randomly had a chat with them about my work. It was only a few months old and really excited them. It was real nice to hear from someone who works in that field, encouraging me to keep it going.

What inspires your polyptych works?  It that developed in the shooting, the editing, or the printing?

I started seeing it originally with my childhood friend Ben Pobjoy. He was going a lot of diptych’s. I got that from him. But then I saw Joan Mitchell was going it with her paintings, and that was the thumbs up to keep doing it. Art to me is a story, communication of what the artist is living, and you can either see truth or call the bullshit. Combining 2 or more photographs together to make one large piece was like telling a story, with continuation. Not just one word, but a combination.

I’m not sure where it comes from. If I did then I probably wouldn’t care to do it. Sometimes it comes and hits you, most of the time it doesn’t. But that’s they whole journey to making art. If you knew the equation on how it works, then what’s the point of doing it? 1 + 1 = 2? I’ll always be more attractive to the 1+1=3 kinda artist.

Is there a friend or collaborator you be interested in having featured on Frontrunner?

Yeah, Chad Crews.

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