Tyler Clarkin conversation with June T Sanders
June T Sanders: What led you to your current body of work? Or — way of shooting?
Tyler Clarke: Early last year I was into mimicking evidence photography, which led me to make photographs that worked best in conversation as a group. Thinking of each photograph as a part of a dialogue rather than a single, resolved image helped me move forward. From there I just began to read more. Currently I'm in the process of reading a few books, and I'm finding that this experience of being a reader, and having the voices of multiple authors floating around in my head has informed my way of editing and creating my work. When I find that I'm stuck with photography, it's usually because I've fallen behind on reading. Lately I've been reading Queer Phenomenology by Sara Ahmed and this sci-fi novel Diaspora by Greg Egan.
June: How do you go about making your images? And how does inspiration from what your reading translate into a visual, for you? Especially from people like Sara Ahmed, who sort of focuses on how we orient (or disorient) ourselves and the freedoms and disruptions associated with that, correct?
Tyler: Images that come from walking around my hometown, or from hanging out with friends are what I would consider photographs that have been taken. I am just photographing what is in front of me. With some of the portraits (especially self-portraits), I have an idea beforehand and then have to make the photograph because these moments don’t necessarily exist in the world, but are constructed by me. Reading Sara Ahmed and other queer theorists have made me more conscious of the spaces that I inhabit, what I photograph, and how I render something through a photograph. Having a photograph that can be easily read as the “thing” (not as an abstract of the "thing") but that still leaves both the viewer and myself with questions, excites me. I’m interested in things that sit somewhere in-between orienting and disorienting.
June: I love that idea of making vs taking. And of photographs that sort of sit in that in-between zone of orientation. I feel like those are such poignant ideas in photography right now. And it’s definitely made for some really interesting relationships between your photos. What does your process of sequencing — or pushing photos together — look like? How do you know when 2 photos are working together and when they aren’t?
Tyler: I frequently make pdf’s to send out to friends which I use to play around with the sequence of photos. I try to think of the pdf’s as these little books– what image can introduce both the idea and setting of the following images– how does the next image continue this movement through this setting. When two photographs contain traces of each other while still feeling like two separate images, that's when I know they belong together. I aim for fluidity in a sequence. Everything has to move into each other.
June: Tell me about Long Island. And Lynbrook. What’s it like out there? And how does it affect or influence your photos?
Tyler: Long Island and Lynbrook are pretty typical of the suburban image. Growing up here I remember there always being a very prevalent binary understanding of gender and sexuality which I think is beginning to change as more people are coming out and having conversations around these topics. I think going to school in Manhattan and meeting other queer people, coming across information in classes that I connected with, opened my mind up to new ways of understanding myself and my own queerness. I've been thinking about my daily routine of commuting to and from school, and how being in these two spaces has felt so distinctly different at times. The process of being "out" to friends and others back home, and this weight of performing "passing" that has become too restricting and tiresome to continue, has influenced my work over the last year or so.
June: What does photography do for you? Emotionally, socially, mentally?
Tyler: Photography is my way of working through questions that I have. I'm not really looking to answer my own questions through seeing a photograph; instead I prefer that images become the catalyst for more questions. Right now I think of when they err as a sort of mental exercise, but I know that when I look through my work it brings me back to the headspace I was in when I made a certain image, and that's always an emotional experience for me.
June: Who are your biggest influences?
Tyler: My friends! Only listening to blink-182 in middle school definitely had an affect on me, David Lynch, Rory Mulligan, Joanna Piotrowska, Jack Halberstam. All of my great professors.
June: What’s next for you?
Tyler: Finish up school, take my road test, read a lot more.
Tyler Clarke is a twenty-one year old photographer based in Lynbrook, Long Island. They are currently working towards a BFA in Photography and Video from the School Of Visual Arts (2019). Tyler’s work deals with the physicality of the body, gender performativity, and questioning the normative structure of suburban life.