Photographing environmental interventions is how Charles describes his work when you meet him. An hour after he will take an awkward photo of you. Charles is severely enthusiastic about sneaking his film camera flash in front of one’s face, in order to catch, mostly an awkward but sometimes decently beautiful expression. To be fair, the developed photographs that he brings to our tables with a smile on his face are definitely honest and vulnerable portraits of all of us.
However, this is not what his artistic practice is all about. In his photographic work, he becomes less spontaneous and gives place to conceptualizing an image beforehand. Here we enter a more silent space; a stillness of a landscape, random forests and bushes covered with pink stripes, abandoned places, and secluded indistinguishable objects collected out of a landfill.
Charles does not record passively, but rather approaches the ‘photographic’ with interventions and deliberate constructions in an environment. This is his way of highlighting camouflaged properties exposing what is hidden before us. His practice aims for revealing and concealing the outside environment, which is what photography itself as a medium does. However, Charles confirms and emphasizes the both exposing and masking as a paradox, mainly in physical interventions he stages for his camera- returning himself, and us for that matter, to the never completely graspable language of photography.
His working process sometimes involves using a metal detector to investigate the hidden in a specific landscape, but also could mean spending a whole night in an abandoned building in Leipzig. In this particular case, he observed the light behavior on the building’s walls and reversed its function into a camera chamber. Here, he took the imperfections of the space and captured the light that beams across on daily basis. The colored designs highlight and help in understanding the layout of the architecture but also the placement of the concrete foundation in relation to the sun.
Heavily influenced by the surrounding landscape of southern California, specifically the severe drought and bush fires, his images reflect the shadows of those of ruins, products of human destructive hand and nature’s inevitable reaction. Photography has always had a strong relationship with geography. In today’s post-photography, when its practice and history is being challenged, it still holds an important role of transferring the invisible in the new geological era we have entered. For the exhibition Unfinished Hase Charles presented himself with a ‘double revealed’ by additionally inverting the colors of the final reproduction of the site intervention, in order to expose what is hidden in the very image itself.
All photos by PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program or courtesy of Charles Park
In Leipzig, what grabs his attention mostly are abandoned buildings, those stripped from their function multiple times. Ruins as ‘imperial debris’ or ‘architecture of oblivion’ to borrow these terms from two book titles, are strongly attached to Germany’s history where architectonic structures have been changing as governments and wars altered them. With new investigations of these places, Charles projects a capsule into the past. Furthermore, inhabiting them means a reunion with the present’s heterogeneity and recognizing its rich texture.
Born in Los Angeles, he has spent countless hours driving through southern California. This perhaps immediately recalls the American photography tradition that has been inspiring a variety of artists still today- the road trip. However, Charles did not take a record of the scenery as his main ambition, but primarily it helped him experience the terrain in a different way- on the move. This frequent driving through has helped him, so he speaks, to understand a diverse Eco climate in only a one day’s work. On the other hand, New York, where he currently lives and obtained his MFA from Parsons the New School for Art and Design, proved that he does not work well in limited space areas.
Knowing all of this, it comes as no surprise that we do not see Charles working in the studio often, but mostly chatting with us. To the greatest extent his work happens outside and on the move while he is appreciating the tranquility of the city. He is strongly determined to overcome the challenges in clearing out his image ideas into our world and focusing on controlling the scene in front of him, with only occasional bad weather standing in his way.
Written by Samra Šabanović
15 Feb – 23 Feb 2019
Alte Handelsschule, Gießerstraße 75, 04229 Leipzig, Germany
Vernissage: 23.03.19, 19h
Open: 24 – 27.03.19 17h-20h
Location: PILOTENKUECHE, 2nd Floor, Franz-Flemming-Str. 9, 04179 Leipzig, Germany