My Artist’s Statement

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm

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Above: Photographs described in artist’s statement (below)

As many know, I am currently enrolled in Flight School, a brilliant program that trains up-and-coming artists (like me) to be better businesspeople. Since right-brained creative types tend to also be flaky, scattered and overwrought (guilty!), Flight School is training me in business models, budgeting, time-management, and proposal-writing. It’s ridiculously fun, and the effects have been immediate and profound.

One of our guest-speakers, Sherrie Flick, assigned us an “artist’s statement” as homework. I’ve known Sherrie, tangentially, for many years, and I’ve always loved her writing, but her assignment gave me pause. An artist’s statement? I’ve written countless bios, proposals, pitches and queries, but I’m almost never asked to write an actual statement describing “my work.” It’s so rare that I think of the phrase “my work” only in quotation marks, because it seems too epic to contemplate. (It’s this kind of false modesty that Flight School is trying to shatter).

Since I work in a variety of media, I figured it was shrewdest to focus on only one—and because artist’s statements are most commonly found in galleries, photography seemed to fit best. I invented, in my mind, a series of large-format street-photography prints, much like my show at ModernFormations last year. (Granted, I wrote the artist’s statement for that as well, but because it was a dual-show, I was really writing it for both of us).

Here’s what I came up with:

Artist’s Statement

Robert Isenberg specializes in street photography, a blend of improvisational travel and photojournalism, which he dubs his “great collaboration with the world.” His photographs are mostly candid, un-posed, and taken in public places.

As a native of rural Vermont and longtime stage performer, Isenberg approaches subjects with both innocence and brash energy. Taken together, his photo essays illustrate people and places most likely unfamiliar to the viewer. Following in the footsteps of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Charles “Teenie” Harris, Isenberg offers moments that are workaday yet unrepeatable.

In many portraits, such as “Bosnians Are Cute” and “Girl with Bomb,” the scene is both surprising and explicit. His titles are clinically descriptive, allowing the images to speak for themselves. In many photographs, such as “Family, Luxor,” or “Old Woman, Sarajevo,” Isenberg dissolves expectations about a region or culture, documenting instead the mix of traditional lifestyles and globalized influence. Many of his titles tinker with narrative, such as “Secret Agent, Egypt,” giving viewers only a hint of the photograph’s context. Isenberg is magnetized to places that have suffered large-scale trauma, such as war, natural disaster, and economic collapse.


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