Bucky Miller's photographs are deceptively simple. Destroyer, Miller's most recent exhibition, is a collection of pieces from the past year that have a quiet but powerful presence.
The show is as much about the sequencing and arrangement of the works as it is about the photos individually. The associations and interactions between images create something beautiful that is best experienced in the space itself (which you can do through December 30th -- so get yourself over to the Night Gallery before the year ends).
We recently caught up with Miller to talk about meaning in his work and to get a feel for his process as a photographer.
Can you talk a little bit about your artistic process? Do you just carry a camera around with you everywhere you go? The photos all seem very spontaneous -- they have this sort of feel that you were just walking around and noticed a certain object or form-- but are they more planned out than that?
I try to always have at least one small camera on me, yes. The actual making of the pictures is usually based out of a direct response to my surroundings. I definitely make better photographs when I'm just out 'doing things' as opposed to being out 'photographing.' Those pictures are never any good. The planning comes later, when I'm faced with a mound of my own prints and I have to figure out what the hell is going on.
Do you have a theme in mind before you start taking photos for a series or does it just grow out of the process itself?
The only thing I try to keep in my mind when making the pictures is the collective weight of my other pictures. The work is built out of associations, so I try hard -- and with frequent futility -- not to repeat myself. The photographs always have some connection to whatever is going on in my life at the time, but this might be incredibly vague or totally nonexistent in the actual picture. What is in the photograph, visually, dictates the meaning. And that thing can be very different than what I photographed or what I was thinking about at the time, which is totally ok. It is usually preferential.
Along those same lines, what was the guiding idea behind this show?
I love Hollis Frampton. I've used him as inspiration before and I probably will again (I'm already planning something). This time I got the title of the show from an essay he wrote on Eadweard Muybridge in which he refers to "entropy, the destroyer." Presented without that context, Destroyer ends up taking on a whole gaggle of connotations that really depend on how the viewer reacts to the work. I've joked that it's a show about the liminal space between creation and destruction.
What kind of camera did you use to shoot these photos, and is it your standard?
The pictures were made with two small Canon cameras - an S95 and the S100 that replaced it when it broke in Palm Springs. They have tiny sensors that render the world in a really different way than a larger digital camera would. I'm incredibly interested in how the supposedly reduced image quality, which is really a very silly term when you think about the implications of an image being of reduced quality, toys with the picture, and pulls everything into this sort of digitized equilibrium. It's also a lot easier to carry than any of my other cameras. It's definitely the one that I use the most.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Are you an Arizona native? What do you think of the art scene here?
I am an Arizona native, and I love it. There is a really interesting movement, photographically at least, that I sense brewing here, where people are getting fed up with the documentary trend that is currently at the front of the discussion. It could be called a partial return to high modernism that is really cognizant of everything that has happened along the way. Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of us are going to have to move away to keep the conversation fresh. I definitely plan on spending a healthy amount of time away from this place next year.
Destroyer will be on show at the Night Gallery through December 30th. You can check out the event page on Facebook for more info on the exhibit or take a look at Bucky Miller's website to learn more about the artist himself.