Adam Fuss


1er entretien le 18 novembre 2010, déjeuner à Paris

Influences ?

John Cosmer: no, he just made dark pictures, he never showed his work.

Guillaume Gallozzi (<>), now dead; mentor more than influencer. Did the show Metamorphosis on postwar British Art; interested in British Landscape, as rebirth, holiness; interest in painter Steven Sykes. He showed me the way.

 My work (also Susan and Garry) is to be seen in light of the sketchbooks of Samuel Palmer.

Peter Schuyff (<>): first painter I met in NYC, encouraged me in the direction of pinholes and photograms.

Ellen Carey: I saw a photo of her at Frogg Museum in Boston (with a van Gogh self-portrait): urban scene on which she had painted spirals: big influence on him.

I don’t have much art history background; learning history of photography as I go along.

Bill Brandt (wide angles), Atget (Atget was not self-conscious, catching beauty where he found it, not constructing images, ‘making art’).

At the Met, show of Victorian era photos of specters.

I did very little teaching (six weeks), I had Vera Lutter as student.


On his work:

“Am I experimental? Not sure”.

Tremendous importance of British landscape, distilled in NYC.

Just shown (at Tim Taylor) biggest daguerreotype ever, 38 inches, snakes; also daguerreotype of vagina.

Pinhole photography animates sculptures, but it removes life from real people.

Availability of paper (B&W already, Cibachrome soon) a worry (I’ll worry tomorrow); I have bought big quantities of B&W and frozen it, but some has gone bad; now doing same with Cibachrome.

With daguerreotypes, it is not an issue. But it is also part of photography, the built-in obsolescence.

I have done a series of 150 photos of me as a child, mounted on ceramics for gravestones

Multiples: redoes same photo, e.g. putting new paper under a dress. Not exactly the same? Nothing is ever exactly the same, even each print from a negative is different.

Remove the gap, show what is not readily visible.


Other artists worth looking at:

  • Roger Newton, makes his own emulsions, his own lenses; now old, sick (HIV); master of abstract photography. Book ‘Op Tics’ about him. First name coming to mind when talking about experimental photography.
  • A woman doing scanning and moving, shown at the Met when they opened their contemporary photography gallery. Trisha Donnelly <>
  • Dario Montan, UK, buries film in the ground, then develops it.
  • Is Welling experimental?
  • My assistant Motohiro Takeda: pinhole in his house, with him visible.
  • Gioli : pinhole with mouth [no, in his fist]
  • Pinhole Journal; Pinhole resources.
  • Founder of Pinhole journal : Eric Renner; photo of his grandma on film in pinhole
  • Bielefeld big exhibition [Abstrakte Fotographie?]
  • French woman, pinholes in Egypt, the desert.




2nd entretien le 1er décembre 2010, via Skype


From pinhole to photogram; revelation, role of chance

Before, mixing camera movements with flashlight (freezing motion) with daylight (long exposure): also chance.

Getting away from “normal’ photography ? Keeping a distance from documentary aspect?

Was a teenager, just doing things, following my nose, making unusual images (if I got to art school, maybe not done that, but I had no experience). Making your own camera: very empowering, taking control over process, demystifying. Cameras are very mysterious thing; how does it work, how do you capture the outside world; magical art, mysterious process. I tried to explore that.

Idea of control. Photographers as functionaries of the camera apparatus

Creative process, my angle of creativity. Atget, Cartier very creative, but for me their creativity was less about taking the picture and bringing in the outside world into the camera, the gesture of making. With pinhole, you are making the camera, you are marking the character of the image very strongly, as you take a hammer on your lens, or rubbing vasoline on your lens, a strong marker, an individual input. The photogram even more, no taking, the whole thing is just about making, relying solely on your creative impetus. The camera is no longer any kind of crutch.

Don McCallum photo of man with a white mouse in his mouth. That image is a crutch on creativity; pressing the button.

Photogram: “I don’t need the outside world any more”, and an echo of the outside world

Also echo of the inside world, the creativity. Meeting of the two worlds, inside and outside. Light of world outside, and then darkroom, light space and dark space.

Discovering the unseen, transcending the reality

Rediscover, rather than discover

Daguerreotype, breaking all the rules

Before, it was XIXth century, it does not exist anymore, it does not interest me (like making impressionist painting again). But in my XXIst century aesthetics.

Biggest daguerreotype: big macho, ego gesture.

Push to the extremes?

No, it’s an investigation, not breaking a record for biggest photogram in world; but big daguerreotype: hardest thing I could think about.

Mysterious, alchemist dimension

Creative process, moment, zone. Most important aspect of what I do.

Like magic

A question I find hard to give simple answer. Slightly unknown to me, no formulaic response to that. Like knowing your heart is beating, but not seeing it. It is essential; without that, it would be a sham, an empty box.

Dreaming: I was drowning animals in my bath, did it with a baby, then decided not to do it.

Black pictures; forcing the viewer to spend time in front of it, to decipher it. 
The rest of your work I can look at it with some distance, as works of art. Black pictures, I have to come closer, in my mind, in my tension, attention, in my personal involvement with them.

You have to make a choice. Some people did not see that, just a black picture. Choice to suspend your apathy, your disbelief, and take an adventure in it.

One cannot be passive, you have to look at them.

They are on the border of invisible. One older guy got angry with me, because he couldn’t see them.

They describe visually a meditative state

Aren’t all your pictures to some extent meditative?

These are more literal in describing this state. ’Love’ (the rabbits), ‘My Ghosts’ describe also an emotional state. The black pictures with children, describe a psychological, psychic, mental state rather than emotions, more connected to objectivity, a sense of phenomenological state. If you look at some Munch prints, they describe an emotional state of melancholy or loneliness. The children pictures are not doing that, but they reference a higher awareness, not call it spiritual, rather trying to describe a psychological state coming from a deeper meditative connection in and with yourself.

They are much stronger than a lot of your other work

I regard them as my best work, and also the daguerreotype with one drop of water

Because they are less descriptive, less about showing something

My best work: not destinations, but signposts to destinations. Those two works are very good as signposts, eloquent, simple, pure, direct. Meditative, a lot of essence in them.

One can be distracted by subject, e.g. baby in the water

I have always been attracted to beauty, as a vehicle to allow the viewer to become engaged. If beauty is extreme, the viewer has to take a pause, come out of himself. Similar to the idea of engaging with the black pictures, coming out of yourself.

Taking on beauty as a character of distraction (being interesting, beautiful, so the essence of the art is not front of center, but the beauty, its distraction its romance).

And the feeling, the emotion comes later. 
Relation to concept of intimacy, closeness with subject, partially due to the technique (different from Körper by Neusüss). Part of your approach of photograms?

Intimacy with the paper. Not very interested in Man Ray or Moholy-Nagy’s photograms. I chose water. What happens in the millimeter above the surface. Aesthetic consideration, but also psychological pattern, or index. London pictures: playing in and out of focus, idea of the unconscious, underground, underwater. With photograms, you can create images sharper than with the lens, because of intimacy (e.g. photograms of piece of silk), always better resolution than with a lens. Otherwordly sharpness, uncanny quality.

Physicality, not just an image, the object is there.

Does not know who Flusser is.