I’ve been a photographer since high school and for the next 25 years it was pretty much a singular pursuit. But a wonderful bit of fate and circumstance about ten years ago set me in a new direction. Collaborations can happen organically and easily. Sometimes it’s a lot of work. For writer Danny Fielder and myself, it is mostly been easy organic play time and never feels like work. The division of labor is clear: Fielder writes copiously and emails me his one liners, sentences and paragraphs. I then filter and edit these words and ultimately find the bits and pieces that click. I superimpose his writing on my photography, my images in turn, back up and support his ideas. Some images are shot specifically for a Fielder statement. I keep an ongoing general catalog for the CP/DF Projects collaboration and then match, or purposefully mis-match them, with Fielder’s ramblings.
But a wonderful bit of fate and circumstance about ten years ago set me in a new direction
This collab gestated over a long series of lunches nearly a decade ago. We used to meet at a cafe every other week with a couple other artist friends in Milwaukee where we all lived at the time to spend a couple hours unwinding from our daily routines and winding up over too much coffee and sandwiches. The conversations quite often veered toward the absurd as well as the creation of art for art’s sake with an ongoing joke of “it’s already been done, man”. These routine meetings spawned CP/DF Projects in 2009 and we began publishing work, first as 3-4’ prints for gallery walls and then as public art for billboards. Through the Billboard Art Project, our work has been featured on digital billboards in places as disparate as rural Pennsylvania, downtown San Diego and next to the Superdome in New Orleans.
We also had our very first collaborative piece, If You Can’t Be Happy, Act Happy, pasted to the side of a gallery in Hobart, Tasmania for a rotating billboard art project in 2011. We’ve given away hundreds of bumper stickers of this piece and occasionally spot them on vehicles, telephone poles and subways throughout the US and abroad.
The original intent of this collaboration was to play off of banal motivational posters and create work that at first blush appeared to be advertisements: subtle subversion mixed with humor to make the random viewer step back and simply wonder “why”. Throughout the course of this collaboration, my photography has grown from the original studio shots of toys to environmental photos. The plethora of statements culled from Fielder’s non-stop mind sometimes lend themselves to abstract and completely blurred imagery. Other parts of this ongoing collaboration have moved me to combine images, sometimes matching mirrored image to mirrored statement; other times more Rorschach-like combinations seem to make the most sense as in the photo montage More Complexity which pairs with the single image of Less Simplicity.
Billboards seem to be an excellent forum for this work, though perhaps the body of work should then be titled “Unsafe at Any Speed”: while the images are often equally instantly digestible, they do require pondering the notion of un-truth in advertising. Our art work is intended to slow time down however briefly and question the nature of things as expressed by context. As Fielder puts it: “One only has to be sure one has gotten it right to be certain it is wrong. Or its more compelling corollary: one has only to be sure it is wrong to be certain it could be right.” Now that we live in different parts of the country and continue to collaborate, we stand by the notion that you can’t fall apart if you were never together in the first place.