Why did you take a photos of spillages on the floor? "Because you know, life's messy."
Gordon Holden is an American artist who challenges notions of both modern consumerism and modern photography. His photos disturb the ideal aesthetic, provoking us to question the mass perception of beauty.
Take his fictional brand "Consume Cool" – using Coca Cola-esque designs, Holden rebrands the everyday banalities of life. The Consume Cool website "sells" everything from "Cyber Surfing Wax" to a very special "Consume Cool Rock", for $44. Holden shows that you can slap some branding on anything and make that thing "better" – exposing the trap we as consumers fall into daily.
In his new batch of photos, entitled "Keepers", he uses a shit camera to take photos of everyday shit. Naturally, as a rejector of consumerism, he didn't want to pay for film, so he used his iPhone, with comedic and strangely beautiful results.
Holden explains these photos as existing outside of the labels "good" or "bad", and rather as an effort to "exercise underlying objectivity in a world full of critical subjectivity." We spoke to Gordon to find out what he means by that.
VICE: When did you start taking photos?
Gordon Holden: I started taking photos a few years ago recreationally, when camera phones started being a thing. Then I started taking photos more seriously when I got an old Leica film camera from my grandfather, Dominic.
Using film, it was much harder to get the shot with all those extra knobs and buttons, but also made me more determined to figure it out. I got really good at it, but now film is getting more expensive and I don't like paying for things. So I decided to revert back to what I knew when I started capturing images.
So, you're based in the USA, whereabouts did you take all these photos?
Mostly California, some in New England, a few in Miami and New York City – wherever I happened to be at that moment.
Were these pictures from your every day life or did you go to certain places to get them?
They're images from daily life. I think a lot of things are worth taking pictures of if it makes you think. If it's making you think, chances are it's probably new to your eyes and brain.
If you took many of these on the run, how do you choose which photos to show to the world?
I usually show the photo to someone I interact with shortly after taking the image. If they give a good reaction, I put the image into a photo album called "Keepers".
You took a lot of pictures of paint splatters, messes and general shit, even the inside of a bin... how come?
Because they caught my attention and you know, life's messy.
You also had a lot of toy things mimicking the real thing, like with the basketball hoop, the bike and the boat. Why is that?
I think maybe because photos also mimic the real thing, so it's a play on that.
I liked the ones with the two dogs and the one with the cat smoking. Was injecting humour a priority for you?
Pets are fun to take pictures of because they have no idea what's going on. They're so insecure – like the image with the two dogs in a stroller. Don't they know how absurd that looks? Of course not, they're dogs, but these two seem like they get it. Humour is not a priority, but the whole "funny cause it's true" idea runs pretty consistently.
How would you describe your work? And what kind of setting do you think it's best appreciated in?
As art. I think it's best appreciated on the internet and then in a gallery with big white walls and patrons taking pictures of themselves with the photos.
What do you mean by "underlying objectivity in a world of critical subjectivity"?
I think maybe how a majority of people's judgmental feelings get in the way of what they are trying to do. Kind of like driving a car, everyone does it. You're trying to get from point A to point B, but a lot of people get caught up in the details.
What are you up to next?
A couple of photo exhibitions later in the year. I'm working on a Consume Cool closet catalogue with a cool dude called Justin Guthrie who runs Child Zines. I might go to Europe and Hawaii too.
More Like This On VICE: