Interview – In Conversation: Peter Sutherland and David Brandon Geeting

Peter Sutherland
David Brandon Geeting

Peter Sutherland: Um… we are here, so… what’s your favourite slang that pops up on the internet or pops up on social media?

David Brandon Geeting: Oh yeah! I just like saying tho after things, I think that’s the best recent one

PS: Give an example

DBG: Um…

PS: Those chicken wings tho

DBG: Yeah yeah… yeah, exactly like on Instagram, I take a picture of some fries on the street or something and I’ll be just like, fries tho

PS: Yup

DBG: See how far I go

PS: It makes sense

DBG:  It makes sense. Do you have any you like?

PS: Um I mean I like one, but its kinda specific to…ahh

DBG:  What is it?

PS: It’s Atiba Jefferson, he’s like a skate photographer

DBG: Yeah I know that guy

PS: He also writes, so it’ll be a picture of him and his friends with beers and it’ll say ‘sorry for partying’ and then it’s him again with his friends, they’re eating burgers and it says ‘sorry for in and outing’.. like an In and Out burger, so its kinda this whole thing that works with sorry in front of it (laughing)

DBG: That’s pretty good, I haven’t seen it, but I like it

PS: Yeah…It’s similar to tho

DBG: Yeah yeah, somehow… it makes you wish you were there or something, coz he’s saying sorry, it’s like you feel left out. Before Instagram and social media in general, you wouldn’t really know what your homies were doing so you’d just stay in, you’d feel fine about it. But now it’s like, I’m tired, and then you’re cruising around on your phone and you see that everybody’s having a blast

DBG and PS: (laughter)

PS: I dunno, in some ways yes… if I’m really in that mood of staying at home, all of that just seems like digital pollution sometimes. I think it’s because I’m getting older, I’m more relaxed about it

DBG: Be like… I’m really glad I’m not doing that shit

PS: Yeah, in a way. So what’s up with Priscilla?

DBG: Yeah, Priscilla is my girlfriend, she went to visit her parents in Korea for the holidays but she just text me 5 minutes ago saying that her passport expired… umm… I dunno… I guess she forgot to check before she left, but its kind of a huge boner because I feel like that sort of thing should be an easy fix in 2014, but it seems like…

PS: Someone’s going to have to jump through some hoops

DBG: Yeah, totally. Some things like that are seriously outdated; it’s crazy how fast you can do pretty much anything nowadays

PS: Yeah… Oh yeah, you can like ordering anything, customizing anything from anywhere

DBG: Yeah exactly

PS: It shows up like 2 days later

DBG: Yeah, over the summer I ordered these customised Nike’s with a flower print all over ‘em, it only took like 2 weeks or something. You can really have anything your way, right now. Even with 3D printing, you don’t even have to know how to be a sculptor or whatever…

PS: You can fabricate

DBG: Yeah, you just print it out

PS: Yeah, that’s something I’ve actually been impressed with through all the digital innovations, all these technologies almost seems unregulated, it’s kind of inspiring, you have an app or an idea and make it and then people either jump on it or they don’t

DBG: In a way, it’s almost like competition or something, as an artist or just like a creative person in general. As someone who’s outputted stuff, it makes you wanna make more shit faster, coz you can

PS: Yeah, I would agree. Do you feel like you’re aware of, or part of, or on the periphery of some kind of artistic or photographic movement?

DBG: …I feel like it’s hard to say yes, ‘coz I feel like I’m gonna sound conceited or something, but I guess, in a way…

PS: What’s a photographic or artistic movement you’re aware of that you see happening right now?

DBG: I guess the main vehicle, for contemporary photography at least, is Tumblr. I hate to say that Tumblr has a certain aesthetic, ‘coz it’s soo huge and there’s a lot of really bad stuff on there, but I think whatever I’m making, it certainly has to do with Tumblr in general. I feel like people will make things, put it on Tumblr, be influenced by other things they see on there and make other things. It’s almost like there’s ongoing common carriers, this full circle, the whole thing is just influenced by itself. But I don’t even think it’s posting off of each other because a lot of people are making similar work. I think it’s more like a huge conversation. Just a group of people constantly influencing each other…

PS: So who are some artists that you look up to in your vain, I mean, there’s like the Toilet Paper guys, The Jogging

DBG: Yeah, sure, Toilet Paper is awesome, that stuff is super. It’s super creative and I’m not sure if this is correct but I heard the way they do it is they just get in a studio, or a space for like a day or two and churn out all these ideas and when you look at the book every time it comes out, it’s soo varied, that it’s kinda nuts it would all come from one session or something. So I think things like that in general are inspiring. I’ve read some of Brad Troemel‘s essays where he refers to Athletic Aesthetics, where it’s this fast pace thing, how many images can I make in a certain time period. The thing is with stuff that’s almost always interesting, it’s something that’s hard to do; that’s a huge part of Tumblr culture, not just making stuff but also having the interesting, captivating stuff.

PS: And where do you see your work going? You’re into photography, you’re into still life mixed with photo manipulation. If I really broke it down, that’s what you’re doing, right? So it’s a lot of that control stuff

David Brandon Geeting

DBG: Yeah, that’s a good way of describing it for someone that’s never seen anything I’ve made. The main thing is definitely control over every single thing I make. It’s like the opposite of how I started out which was just walking around with a camera, waiting for stuff to happen but the thing about control is, half the time I’m making an image, it still seems to come together super half hazardly. I’m not one of those people that has his million dollar idea and is able to make it happen to a tee; for me it would be having some big idea and then I kinda just get lucky or something you know, or I’ll start out doing something and it’ll turn into something else. I like that because now when I’m in control, I can take advantage of lack of control too and make it work.

PS: The whole idea of control makes sense to me with what you’re saying because the type of shooting that you started off with had no control, you don’t know if you’re going to come back with anything, or you might come back with something amazing and that’s kinda exciting; it’s almost like an exploration involved in all of that. So you think, if I drive this way, I might see this, or if I walk over this hill I might see this, or if I shoot it wider…

DBG: Yeah it’s obviously a gamble.

PS: Then where do you see your work going within 2, 3 years…

DBG: I don’t even have a real plan for right now, it’s not that I don’t think about the future, it’s just that, I still just wake up and don’t know what I’m doing (laughs). So I can’t even imagine 5 years down the road or whatever. I think I just want it to stay weird or maybe get even weirder.

In a time when everybody says everything’s been done before, it’s fun to try to prove that wrong coz I actually don’t think most things have been done; people can get way weirder, so I just want to continue to surprise myself basically. Also, I guess I’m kinda pinned as a still life photographer but I wanna be able to make any kind of work and somehow it’ll look like me. I would rather have a vibe than… a genre. That can be applied to portraiture, whatever. It’d be cool to even get hired to take landscapes just because they like my work. It’d be cool to get hired to do something completely different just because of the work of art you made. Like they trust in you or something.

PS: Right. Yeah they just like your eye, they want your aesthetic

DBG: What about you, I feel like you’ve completely dropped out of photography

PS: I just don’t wanna repeat myself, so I’ve done… I dunno, 12 years of just photos and travelled to a lot of places from jobs. I wouldn’t say I’ve dropped out of photography, I’ve just changed the way I shoot and I’ve really changed my ideas about what I think are relevant photos. For a long time I was able to go places and take a bunch of stuff, come back and be really excited about what I was able to get; I liked the challenge but now it’s not enough. So, you know, I guess if you look at my blog, I think I’ve put up about 6000 pictures. That’s been really cool, I like putting stuff online and the idea of almost having your own magazine, that things are always there. There’s been a lot of gifts that have come from that; they’re not obvious…

DBG: Like jobs?

PS: Jobs, or opportunities, or meeting other people, or the idea of being in a dialogue with other artists; all those things I think have come from putting stuff online. But now I’m at a point where I’ve started to feel my life became more like art than my process of making art because it always involved sitting in front of a computer so much and I wanted to use actual materials and not just use the computer. The work I’ve been making lately is still photo based but it’s not about just photography

DBG: It’s not just about any photo or screen, or on a wall…

PS: Yeah… so that’s been really fun because I feel there’s almost a set of rules within photography that are kinda like, ‘edition of 5, 20”x30” black frame’ whatever, that kind of thing. I don’t know why, I just got really burnt on it; I just like the idea of you know, maybe it’s painted blue, maybe it’s torn in half, whatever it is, I just like the idea that you can really do whatever you want, so…

Peter Sutherland

DBG: Yeah absolutely. It’s weird, that art has rules in general but that goes against what art is supposed to be about. So you’re becoming a real artist, I mean you’ve always been a real artist but now it’s like..

PS: No, no… but no, I haven’t. I mean, I’ve always thought I had and I kinda grew up seeing Ryan McGinley blow up when he was 26 or whatever; I was about the same age and I thought wow, he’s doing it. It was funny because I then met people later on that referred to me as the commercial photographer and I was like, oh man, I can’t believe that’s my title or reputation because all I’d done was really focus my energy on making photography my art, making books, making online stuff but at some point I guess you’re out of control. And there’s no way to control that.

A lot of it has to happen with having a physical studio, getting people to come over and see finished pieces that are impressive and not just them seeing JPEGs and them hoping it’s going to be cool someday you know, so you have to eliminate a lot of steps that people would have to make, you have to actually show them what your art is. So that’s been interesting for the last 2 years.

DBG: I mean clearly your goal is to show art in the physical world but I almost wonder how many kids that are kinda successful on the internet, if they have any ambition to share stuff in a real gallery. I almost feel like half that stuff just stays on there [the internet]. Going back to what you were talking about before, that’s one of the things that made you want to create work that didn’t just exist on a screen. I wonder if it’s even important to artist nowadays to show in a real art space or just online because people get a lot of satisfaction out of making an image that goes viral, or an image that gets a lot of likes, or if somebody famous you look up to likes your photo

PS: That thing is interesting and it’s gratifying but I dunno, there’s this idea of a higher level of art when it’s collected and preserved and stuff. I think there’s some truth to that, the idea of a higher level, about people wanting to make money or people assigning this nobility to the art world that maybe isn’t really there, so it just depends; you kinda pick your poison I guess but I kind of like the challenge of trying to crack the art world.

It’s almost as though, alright what do I do because you know some people are uncomfortable; there’s having a job, then there’s being freelance and then there’s being an artist…each one seems like looser than the next. So like job is ultimate security, freelance is like pretty willy nilly and then there’s being an artist and just hoping to make money from that

DBG: I mean it’s weird, it’s weird to me if someone is an artist and only making work because it will sell and not just making work because they want to. But what you’re saying is true, if that’s your career, you’re just an artist and you don’t have any other way of getting by, then of course you’re gonna make some bullshit work just because people will eat it up.

PS: Yeah, I think there’s different ways of rationalising it to yourself. I mean personally, the only thing that I really have to do to make it you know, sellable, is buy an expensive frame sometimes

DBG: (Laughs)

PS: And that’s, you know what I mean, that’s the compromise I’m willing to make because sometimes the frame is… right, there it is, I spent the money on the frame, it’s big

DBG: Even that is kinda smirky in a way, cause your art has a very raw feel to it, so, it’s almost like the punk kid in high school that wears a tuxedo for 2, 3 days, know what I mean? It’s almost like a fuck you in a way, to me it doesn’t feel like a compromise, you still have a mohawk even though you’re wearing a bowtie or whatever

PS: That’s cool, I like that. I think a lot of artists do their big expensive whatever fancy collectable pieces and then they make t-shirts, they make zines or they make stickers or whatever it is and that can become the thing that’s really free and you’re not worried about that stuff being expensive or…

DBG: Yeah yeah, you have that webstore thing

PS: Yeah..(laughs) and that thing makes no money, so..

DBG: But I mean you didn’t really think it would be your saving grace?

PS: No, I never thought it would really make money but it’s just a thing where I can do whatever I want; I could put bags of fruit on there if I wanted to sell

DBG: Yeah and somebody might buy it

PS: Somebody might just buy it, you never know

David Brandon Geeting
Peter Sutherland

DBG: The idea that anybody can have their own store for free is kinda hilarious. How much of the stuff you do outside of making art has an effect on the art you end up making?

PS: Well it all has an effect on making art because it’s all about having some sort of balance in life because with the art thing – making art, making photos, making books, making films, whatever it is, I’m pretty good at focusing on that stuff and getting it done in some fashion. It doesn’t matter, I’m not even talking about whether or not it’s successful but I’m good at that, so then the other stuff is just about having a life that’s balanced. So I love playing sport, I’m not great at them but I love soccer, I love mountain biking, snowboarding, surfing…

DBG: Surfing?

PS: Surfing’s new, yeah

DBG: That’s cool, because I feel like especially in like high school you’re either a weirdo, the art guy, or you’re a jock or something. But that’s not accurate at all, that’s not how it should be. If that is true, then every artist would be some unhealthy, uninteresting, person. It’s cool to do sports once you step outside of creative stuff, but really, sports are creative too.

PS: Yeah, there’s things about sports that I enjoy from an artistic point of view; I’ve always loved logos, I’ve always loved gatherings and competitions, as well as groups that motivate themselves to do new things, so I definitely get that out of sports

DBG: Travelling’s good

PS: Travelling is just about seeing new places and I mean that really comes from the photography thing. I feel that people who like to shoot photos also like to travel. As I get older, I’ve realized what works so I know I need to exercise a few times a week or I go insane, I know I need to eat some vegetable or I’m gonna get pissed off

DBG: (Laughs)

PS: I think a lot of people that are artists, or designers, musicians or whatever it is, there’s this sensitivity of stuff; you’re sensitive to noise, you’re sensitive to stress, whatever it is so you have to do other things to counteract them. What do you do? Other than make art

DBG: I play music too but I guess that falls in the art zone. I mean, it’s definitely different; it’s different because I feel that more people can relate to music than visual art. I dunno why, I think it’s because the radio is always on everywhere you go..

PS: Are you still in the same band you were in?

DBG: Actually no, it just ended; I was in a garage rock band called Slow Warm Death. Over Christmas we randomly recorded a bunch of new songs. We did it in our hometown, which is Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was actually a really good experience, I was thinking about this when you were talking about trying to break rules in the art world; we had a little recording interface that takes mikes, which I taped with duct tape to my drum and they would vibrate as I was hitting the drums. Then we did the same with the guitar and bass amp; we wrote all the songs in an afternoon and we recorded them immediately after we wrote them, we didn’t even really know how to play them that well.

But it sounds soo blown out and kinda fucked up that it works somehow! There’s a million punk bands, but I feel there are rules to punk music which negates the idea of punk, so to me this is a punk thing and I’m not even the punkest dude

PS: What’s that gonna be called, that band?

DBG: That band yeah, it’s called The Beds.

PS: The Beds? (Laughs)

DBG: (Laughs) Yeah, so look out for it. Oh, wait, I wanted to go back, can I go back?

PS: Yeah, yeah

DBG: I wanted to comment on what you were saying before about all the stuff you need to do to, to counteract stress and everything that comes with being an artist or being a creative person; it’s cool, it’s cool to get that insight. You look at an actor for example and think, oh that guy’s an actor, but you don’t really know anything about his life. As a kid I remember anything on TV, like commercials or whatever, there’s this weird idea of perfection or something like that, as though anything on the screen is totally perfect and manicured.

I feel what you’re saying about everything you do, it, it totally is reflected in the art you make, it has this human element which is good, it’s not super manicured and stuff. You can tell a human made it, it doesn’t look like a super polished commercial, like that, you know what I mean. It’s like…

PS: (Laughing)

DBG: I guess this isn’t really a question, just something I think about a lot. It’s good when stuff isn’t totally robotic but there’s room for error and maybe even the error is like glorified

PS: I think that’s like when you first set out to make photos, some people will wanna shoot stuff in a way that’s better than the human eye would see it, they wanna get an 8×10 camera, just make images that…

DBG: Yeah, even like HDR photos or something like that

PS: Yeah or HDR, whatever it is and then it’s almost as though they have more of a commercial sensibility… anyway, I’m not even saying whether I’m critical about it, it’s just people grow up how they’re gonna grow up and maybe the art, maybe the art thing is really telling; I’ve always liked the idea of you know, places where these kind of things can exist, or a spirit of things where they can exist. So I like things to be a little rough; I like it if you look at something and you wonder how it got to be like that

DBG: Yeah yeah, you can relate to that stuff the most, you can almost relate to people screwing up more than you can

PS: Yeah (laughing) …making it perfect

DBG: Yeah, it’s more entertaining or something, you know, like the best parts of skate videos are..

PS: Slams

DBG: Yeah

PS: (laughing) Ok we got to that point where we’ve both started checking our phones

DBG: (laughing)

PS: I hope we covered some stuff that really matters. Did we?

DBG: Yeah, I hope so too. I think we did. (laughing) It’s hard to say what really matters but we should end on a positive note

PS: Yeah, how we do that? I mean, I feel lucky to be in this position, living in New York, having pretty good days; I don’t think it’s like curing cancer but I think it’s pretty cool. It’s been great, so thanks to whoever reads this or has helped, or follows the work or whatever it is.

DBG: Yeah I always forget that, I’m pretty lucky; I’m privileged just to be able to make art and not have a 9 to 5. I’m privileged just to be in a position where I can do things like this which is cool, so yeah!

PS and DBG: (laughing)

DBG: Thanks for this, Bye.

David Brandon Geeting
Peter Sutherland