David Brandon Geeting is a New York-based photographer who is looming in the photography panorama thanks to his bold and edgy images. As many contemporary photographers and artists, he went to art school, but he found his own path through image making and creativity. Getting’s repertoire goes from portrait to still life and his signature style is defined by a solid use of lights and colours, which creates pictures that are glossy and rough at the same time.
What drew you to photography and how was the process of finding your own visual style and imagery?
Initially I think peer pressure drew me to photography. At my high school, everyone I admired seemed to be taking photo classes. There were weird parallels between other subcultures and photography – you played in a band and you took photos, or you skateboarded and you took photos, or you smoked weed and you took photos. Sometimes all three. The darkroom was cool because it was dark. That sounds corny but I think every highschooler knows it’s true. My photos were trash, and so were all my friends’ photos. But it was the only class I enjoyed, so I decided to go to college for it.
It wasn’t till my sophomore year in college that I really started to think about how I was using photography to communicate. Fia Backström, one of my teachers at the time, made us read this essay on seriality and how the meaning of images seems to alter when they are placed next to other images. That was the first time I was excited about photography. It was the first time I felt like I started to make images for myself and not for other people. I would spend hours rearranging my work to say different things. That’s still one of my favourite things to do.
You studied at New York’s School of Visual Arts. Do you think that artistic education helps aspiring artists to find their way through creativity, or does it clip student’s wings?
If you are the type of person whose wings are easily clipped, don’t go to school for what you love. I don’t think school changes you much. I don’t think people change much at their core. I’ve always been a sceptic and I’ve always loved schemes. You have to plot out your own education. You have to use the facilities for exactly what you want. And you have to experiment on your own terms. Essentially, I went to art school to meet people and get a prestigious piece of paper. Don’t get me wrong, I had some amazing teachers – but it was the arguments I had with them that made me grow stronger as an artist. Blind acceptance, wing-clipping, whatever you want to call it – that’s not unhealthy, that’s how most of society operates. If you’re suspicious of that, you’ll find your own unique path no matter what you do in life.
What inspires you and what kills your creativity?
I am easily inspired. Sometimes all I have to do is take a walk or take a shower. As long as I ride the wave of inspiration that follows, I’ll be good. For me, it has to be personal. It has to be a realization I came to on my own terms. The second I start browsing Instagram is the second my creativity dies; I have to put the blinders on. It might seem selfish, but I make my best work with no advice.
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How would you describe your aesthetic and what ingredients is your visual language made of?
I can’t seem to shake the haphazardness and the tactility from everything I do. I think my work survives best in the world without being accompanied by clunky words trying to describe it.
On the one hand, your pictures communicate a sense of attraction thanks to the hard lights, details, and colours. But on the other hand, there is a sense of repulsion as well, due to the uncanny situations and feelings suggested by the images. Is this a result that you want to obtain through your photography? How do you want to engage with the viewers and what reactions do you want to stimulate?
While I agree with you, this is not something heavily calculated so I’m not sure what to say. Life is attractive and repulsive. I photograph whatever I am surprised by. I hope the viewers can experience a similar element of surprise.
Your still lives are a kind of photographed assemblages, where things are juxtaposed and reinterpreted by your eye, but also by the viewer. What is the process behind these images and what do you want to show through them?
As a person, I would say I’m equal parts daydreamer and OCD-freak. I’m constantly trying to organize my life but more than half of it gets slumped in a box labelled ‘Miscellaneous’, which I always mull over too long for answers. The stuff in that hypothetical box is what my work is made of. When everything’s been categorized, what do the leftovers mean? And if they’re forced to be a family together, then isn’t ‘Misc’ just as important as ‘Sports’ or ‘Tech’ or ‘Lifestyle’ or ‘Cooking’?
“I think my work survives best in the world without being accompanied by clunky words trying to describe it.”
On 2015 your works have been published in the monograph Infinite Power, which you described as a collection of nothing. Why?
It just seemed edgy to say that at the time (laughs). It’s cringey, but it’s fine because being a hypocrite is the purest form of human you can be. For a more accurate description of Infinite Power, read my answer to the previous question.
You have produced also another photographic collection, called South Korean Nature Photography, where you mix natural and urban environments, combining them with advertising affiches, trucks or street food stalls. What were you looking for while working on this project?
I went to South Korea to visit my girlfriend’s parents, and I brought my camera – not as an artist, but as a tourist. I thought I’d take a few documentary photos and be done with it. But I was responding to everything in a way that felt more akin to the feeling I get in my studio than the feeling I get while sightseeing. In a way, I wasn’t looking for anything specific – everything seemed like fair game because everything was part of the environment. The editing process was the most important part of the project – taking mismatched thoughts and trying to form complete sentences.
Last May you launched an Instagram call, asking people to send you a direct message with an idea for an image, and if you liked it you would create it and all the images would be published in a book called Stolen Ideas. How did the idea come up to you and how many messages did you receive?
When it comes to making work, I’ve always prioritized the way something looks over what it means. I remember earlier that month I was taking a walk with my girlfriend and she suggested an idea for a photo. Part of me felt guilty taking it, but part of me was stoked that the hard part was already figured out. Ideas are difficult, but composition has always been second nature for me. Most things can be photographed in an interesting way – it’s just a matter of figuring out what to photograph. I thought I’d take a brain vacation and crowdsource ideas. I kept feeling like all the photography I liked on Instagram was authorless to an extent. I couldn’t tell you who made what, even if it looked cool. This project is playing with the idea of authoring but being authorless, mixed with the appeal of modern utilitarian tools like Kickstarter, Uber, Airbnb, etc. I received roughly one hundred messages from people, all ready and willing to give up their wildest thoughts.
What are the best, the funniest, and the weirdest ideas you received? Is there any image you’ve already created that can share with us?
It went well – I’ accepted about seventy ideas but slowly churned them out. Here are a few examples that are pretty telling of the spectrum:
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And here’s my interpretation of “Cigarette Stonehenge”:
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What does the destiny has in store for you, or vice versa, what do you have in store for it?
I don’t like to think too far ahead.
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