Greg Ponchak used to call himself a designer. At some point he changed that title to typographer, then developer, then photographer, sometimes writer, and eventually artist.
Captivated by his wonderful pictures, and specially by his series “Dèrive”, we decided to make our very first interview. With Pochnak’s marvelous words we want to start a new phase in this zine, by interviewing young talented photographers and artists working with photography. Enjoy!
What do you do for a living? Are you an artist?
I’m actually still a student, although I graduate in May. As of now, I’m doing freelance design/web development to make money, but hopefully I’ll be able to be more economically independent/able to dedicate more time to making art soon after graduation.
When did you start shooting?
It’s probably been five years now — so right towards the end of high school.
Do you work with analogue or digital?
Generally speaking, I work analogue (film), however the entire post-production process is digital (i.e. scanning the film, Photoshop, etc.).
What cameras do you use/have?
Until recently, I was using my Contax T2 more than anything. Sadly, the film advance stopped working and it looks as though it would be pretty expensive to fix. Besides that, I use a Olympus Stylus Epic, Leica CL, and a Fuji GW690ii.
One of your projects, “Dèrive”, is a beautiful reflection on the blindness towards everyday details, specially those spatial or geographical. How did it start and progress?
It actually didn’t start as a project. In most of my work the idea precedes the production, however with this project the process was reversed for quite a while.
I have been obsessed with wandering for quite some time…perhaps even as long as I’ve utilized photography as a medium. Initially this included only the space around where I lived, but soon expanded to encompass a good portion of the world. Looking back on the work I made during these experiences, I began to notice that almost none of it was site specific. For example, the photographs I took in Alaska include elements that would not be too dissimilar from the photographs made in Barcelona or Innsbruck, and vice versa. In other words, I wasn’t interested so much in the things that set the places apart, but the elements that unified them. Furthermore, I began to notice that the work I made when I was at home looked almost exactly like that made while traveling.
With this insight I saw the camera as a tool of activation; something which amplifies banality. The camera makes me wander, explore, search, and experience. In this way, the series progressed from pure documentation of experience, to the cause for experience itself.
Most of your work is in black and white (even few pictures in color invoke a kind of monochrome spirit). Why?
The lack of color is purely for logistical reasons. I like the cohesive nature of dissimilar photographs because of this unifying characteristic, but more than that, it was to maintain an autonomous workflow. Being at school, I had access to labs and scanners and could process my own film (as long as it was black and white).
Back with your series “Dèrive” (and with your collection in general), you are able to show much more humankind in those pictures, rather than any newspaper’s sunday edition’s article. Are you aware of it?
Definitely! The dialectical perspective has become the focus of much of my photographic work. In many instances, I think it is often easier to understand something through an analysis of the space it inhabits than in an analysis of the thing itself.
How do you understand photography? What is it for you?
I kind of touched on this before when I talked about how photography amplifies experience, but that is the general role photography has filled for me. In this way, it is very different from the way I approach other mediums. The series I’m beginning to work on however, will take a very different approach.
When you want to capture something, how do you face that certain moment of “shooting”?
For Dérive, there was a strict set of parameters I forced myself to abide by. For example, if I happened upon a moment I wanted to capture, I could only capture it as I experienced it. It didn’t matter if the photograph was structurally “better” from another perspective, at another time of day, etc. That was how I felt I could make the work authentic.
Are you working in any project right now?
I’m actually working on my largest project to date. I don’t want to say too much, but it is a mixture of writing, photography, sculpture, programming, design, and installation. Photographically however, I’m actually going to be starting two new series upon graduation. The first is more in line with the rest of my work in that the concept was established before the work and that it is sociopolitically motivated. That series will be investigating different manifestations of “distance” in society. The other is an extension of Dérive. With graduation looming, I feel that a segment of my life is coming to a close and another is presenting itself. I think it makes sense for me to cease work on Dérive on the grounds that it is something of an empirical self portrait, and that the self/environment I was documenting may not exist any longer.
Asking about influences is always tough, so there goes an euphemism: Anyone or anything you take into account when and while creating?
Influences are tough. I don’t think it is as simple as mentioning a singular individual or collective as an influence. However, there are definitely individuals which have had more of an influence than others when it comes to my work. Gilles Deleuze, Metahaven, Tiqqun, Daniel Shea, Michele Foucault, Daniel Quinn, David Hume, Ross Farrar, Cody Cobb, DSG, The Imaginary Party, Guy Debord, etc. Perhaps more than anything, friends and teachers have had an influence. Of these, Michael Hemery, Shannon Benine, Matthew Flegle, Matthew Mitcham, Michael Hiltbrunner, Ben Quinn, Jake Holler, Tom Hoying, and Danielle Julian-Norton come to mind. Of course, my family has had an immense influence as well. There are probably a lot of people I’ve forgotten.
Any quote you would like to say to us?
There is an Oscar Wilde quote from The Soul of Man under Socialism that I like a lot: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Anything you would like to add or say?
Thank you for the interview and chance to be included.