ETWM INTERVIEW NO. 1 : SPENCER J HARDING
Where in the world are you now?
When I received this email I was in the middle of riding my newest tall-bike through old growth redwood forests on back country fire roads near Santa Cruz, California. A few friends and I had set out for an Easter weekend adventure.
Where would you like to be if cost and logistics weren’t an issue?
I’d probably be in a treehouse built in a Redwood forest, or climbing an alpine peak in Patagonia.
You’re clearly drawn to people as subjects, do you have an approach when it comes to asking someone for a photograph?
I’ve found the best way is to simply ask them, but that involves a little buttering up nonetheless. I have developed a good intuition about people over the years that I can tell how much conversation might be necessary to encourage someone to let me take a photo. I have also found that having my Hasselblad in hand as a form of social collateral usually helps as well. With digital many people feel that importance of a photograph has been depleted but when they see you with a slow and methodical older camera they are more interested.
How did you meet the Los Angelopes?
In January of 2011 my travel partner Emily was visiting LA to do research for her thesis on our generations tendency toward downward social mobility. She had received a contact, Larsen, from a friend on the east coast. Her friend had exclaimed that she had to check out the Casa De Angelopes while she was in LA. So then I get a text at 11 at night from Emily that I had to come check out some warehouse in Inglewood. For those unacquainted with Inglewood or South Central go ahead and listen to some N.W.A. Anywho, I decided against my better judgement to drive up to a sketchy part of town in the middle of the night. When I finally got inside I was instantly captivated and spent the night on one of their couches. I decided that I had to document the space. I started attending their rides and out of town trips and have found an amazing kinship within the group.
Much of your work seems to involve integrating into groups of people and then making photos of them, do you find it easy to do this?
I believe that getting involved and integrated is easy when you are genuinely invested in the groups ideals.
With my series on the squatters in Barcelona it was as easy as walking in and asking how I could help them setup the space, though the Catalan language barrier and the wariness of documentation in the space made it a difficult group to truly integrate with. Since the entire operation was highly illegal most people did not want their faces documented. Nonetheless I shot those that would allow me as I was one of the few people documenting this ephemeral place.
With the Los Angelopes you see the story above is how I gained access to their space, but with them I wanted to be a part of the “Cult.” So I built a tall-bike, jousted, went on trips, etc. In that group I found a kinship to a lifestyle I was living already but didn’t have many peers to associate with. The photographs simply came out of the sheer beauty of people and spaces I have encountered.
How important to you is travelling?
I learned at an early age that a yearly trip to Yosemite Valley is essential for maintaining sanity.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I am currently finishing up a small book version of my series To Everyone Who Ever Hoped It Might Be True. I’ll also be moving into the Casa De Angelopes to finish up my series documenting them. I have some ideas for some still life photos dealing with dumpster diving. Id also like to attempt to make some work relating to all the particle physics I have been reading about.
Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
Santiago Mostyn’s work has been extremely inspiring lately. Though I only got to enjoy the exhibition online; Colby Vincent Edwards, William Franevsky, and Jarrett Scherff’s show The Eighth Day. I also am addicted to meme blogs, you know those stupid photos of cats and such.
What does this year have in store for you?
Im currently planning a few trips with those rowdy Los Angelopes kids. I’m also planning my first proper mountaineering trip and a month long hike along the John Muir Trail. I hope to finally self publish a small run of my book To Everyone Who Ever Hoped It Might Be True. I have a small show planned in October at Pehrspace in LA.
8. Your ultimate survival tool?
I don’t know if this quite qualifies but I always carry my titanium spork with me.