Photographer Blake Tucker is moved most by personal stories. Having worked with film since he was 10, he has maintained an awareness of how visual society is, and ties his love of connecting with people with photography.
“Nothing makes us care for each other as much as getting to know each other,” he said.
In his artistic and personal growth, he continually delves into further development, constantly questioning what is and what could be.
“I have always felt like an outsider, even in the LGBT community,” Tucker told 429Magazine.
“I’m sure that’s part of growing up in fear of HIV and moving to San Francisco during the height of it, but I know that it’s also about my own slow maturity about being gay myself. I’ve held social groups at a distance. But I think it’s that perspective that makes a good photographer, no?”
What he strives to do through his art is bring together this sense of community: “I want us bound together so that we work for each other instead of against.”
“When stories are so important, the challenge of telling a story with a single image is exciting and difficult. With my art I try to challenge myself and challenge the viewer to do more of that work. Now that we see photos so often, how do we look more deeply at them? How do we stop being superficial and start engaging again?”
This idea is something he has considered since he started The Show Yourself Project in 2009, when he asked ten models to bring their identities with them to the studio. They were asked to prepare for their shoots with objects, clothing, props and other gear that was representative of who they are and share with Tucker the significance of each aspect.
“With the advent of digital photography, images have become ubiquitous. So how does a photographer distinguish himself? How do you make a portrait sing? And where is the line between photography and art?”
Tucker explained that as he got to know the models, he secretly collected a parallel set of “contrasting or comparative objects” which he revealed at the time of the shoot. They then collaborated together in order to achieve poses and combinations that both wanted to see. This process inspired him to do more. He described the course as his models expressing their inner lives in the photography while he attempts to enhance their collaboration in the presentation.
“This installation is about that line between photography and art—is capturing a portrait the photographer’s only duty? Or is there more he can contribute? How could each of these images be further enhanced?”
His “aha” moment stemmed from his frustration with photographs being “imprisoned behind matte, frame, and glass.” He realized that through altering and toying with installation, he and his models found liberation.
“I could finally say to my models, ‘Show yourself.’ And I could do the same.”
Tucker’s favorite piece currently is “Freedom Angel (Trever)” in part due to the space and exact location where it resides. He explained the diffusion of light through the atrium as “heavenly” at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, where his collection is being housed at the moment.
“But Trever’s story in this piece moves and angers me. It’s about being stuck in a place that you are put into and being unable to get out. Having to spend time alone until it drives you crazy. Then escaping. Finding your own wings. That story is what this exhibit is about.”
The challenge, as mentioned, is what draws Tucker the most—being able to capture the story in a single frame, “when a movie uses 130,000 frames.” He defines the goal for photographers as creating something that is more, ”something that stirs you in some way or makes you think” and considers composition, color, and depth, paired with preparation, patience, and thought.
“In my photographic subjects, I want to explore the juxtaposition of balance and point of view. I strive to find a new perspective on an old subject or a new dimension to a familiar story. This can often mean I’m shooting flowers by getting deep into the mud or speaking with a subject at length before engaging in the studio. Compositionally, the cinematic influence hasn’t left me, and so I always try to engage the line, the third, and the deliberate.”
Growing up in New England, Tucker spent his days making films with his sister. After finishing school at Stanford, he worked in the Art Department at Lucasfilm on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1998.
“Becoming a digital effects technician, an animator, and a digital storyboard artist allowed me to continue discovering my eye.
Then, after working for Pixar on Finding Nemo for 5 years, he broke out with his own photography and has since had pieces in over 50 shows, including the San Francisco Airport Museum Gallery.
“As a photographer, my mission is twofold: to tell stories and to break boundaries. Stories are the measure of memory for us as humans. Good stories are the only things that last through time and bind us together. And I feel that breaking boundaries as a photographer is the only direction the art form can go.”
Tucker divulged that he has learned a handful of things from this show, with the highlight being that people will help you to see a constructive vision and purpose realized.
As he said while finishing hanging the show, “I set out to change photography, and I am changed.”
For others trying to make it, he offers a zen tale about choices:
How can I be happy, oh wise zen master?
Happiness comes from good choices, good choices come from experience, experience comes from bad choices.
“Don’t be afraid to make choices that might be bad,” Tucker said.
He hopes that this exhibit inspires people to look more deeply at one another.
“To engage. To see. And more importantly, to show.”
1. Exploding Pop (Adrian); metal print, armature wire, plastic tubing
2. Artist’s Interpretation (Kevin); digital print, sintra, mounted canvas print, wood frame
3. Freedom Angel (Trever); frame, matte, glass, digital print, deconstruction
4. Perspective (Chris); digital print, sintra, plexiglass, matte, frame, metal siding, fasteners, fishing line, wire, wood
5. Inner Piece (Micaya); frame, button light, silk print
6. No Exit (Blake); frame, plexiglass, mounted prints, acrylic box, locks
7. Substitute (Kevin); frame; nine wood mounted mat & glass prints
8. Host First (Emory); digital print, sintra, nailed frame
9. Tribute to Tom of Finland (Teej); shadowbox, matboard, paperprint, nails
10. Center (Patrick); matte, frame, glass