德鲁·尼克诺维奇（Drew Nikonowicz）是去年光圈社作品集大奖的获得者，他在美国的密苏里州出生并长大，现于密苏里大学艺术系就读，是一个忙忙碌碌但极有条理的大四学生。与传统意义上的四处奔走的摄影师不同，德鲁的大部分创作时间都在学校的摄影工作室中度过。他的作品《This World and Others Like It》乍看上去是十分传统的黑白地景摄影，期间穿插着一些奇怪的静物照片，但细心的人会不难发现，其中的许多照片都是由电脑生成，并带有三维建模中常见的不真实感。不仅如此，对书本，电脑屏幕，甚至底片本身的翻拍也零散地安插于其中。这种有意的混杂使观者开始对眼前所见的真实性，甚至对摄影本身产生怀疑，并于费解中开始建构起自己对这一系列的各种解读。
Z：地景，不论是存在于现实世界中，还是各种屏幕上，似乎都在你的项目《This World and Others Like It》中占据重要的部分。地景的含义随着科技的发展变得愈发广泛，我很好奇你对地景，以及地景摄影的观点和体验是什么样的？
D：在屏幕前拍摄那张阿波罗11号的宇航员Buzz Aldrin在月球上的照片时，与从窗户中向外拍摄的感觉很相似。如果我将屏幕的边框摄入，那么观者就像是在观看窗户的内部，这与我的体验则正好相反。因此，在重新拍摄这张由Neil Armstrong所摄的著名照片时，我将观者置于一个特定的地点——我的电脑跟前。这是一个你可以对所有事物进行探索的地方，就像我在我的作品简介中写的那样：现如今，想要到达最崇高的风景，只能在科技创造的边界之内实现。
Z：你的项目《This World and Others Like It》仍在进行中吗？除此之外你还有在做其他的作品吗，同时，有哪些东西是你近期的灵感来源？
D：没错，《This World and Others Like It》仍在进行。我觉得还没到开始一个新项目的时候，因为这个项目中的意识流还在不断地流动着呢。我除此之外还有一个新的项目正在进行，不过现在我想暂时保密。
我上个学期在学校选了一个关于印度电影的课，我非常喜欢，所以我在有空的时候会看一些印度电影。目前我最喜欢的两个是《Om Shanti Om》和《Karz》，我不清楚它们是否直接影响了我的创作，但潜移默化的影响肯定存在。
当我不在上课也不在摄影工作室工作时，我的时间大多花在做自己的作品上。正因为如此，我大量的自由时间还是呆在摄影工作室，不论是下班后，还是在轮到别人值班时。那些时间我主要用在了《This World and Others Like It》这个项目的创作，以及一些未发表的作品上。同时，我还用3d打印制作了一台相机，还有很多零散奇怪的项目和想法。那些零散的项目慢慢地聚拢到一起，后来变成了我一个更大项目的一部分。
D：没错我特喜欢看书！真希望我能有更多时间用来看书啊。最近一段时间我最喜欢的书是Rebecca Solnit的《River of Shadows》，强烈推荐。同时还有Philip K. Dick的《Man in the High Castle》。我目前正在看《Infinite Jest》，我很喜欢这本书，但我还剩750页才能把它读完。有一本我一直想要重读的书是Will Steacy的《Photographs Not Taken》。这本书由一系列的文章组成，每篇都讲述了一个摄影师由于各种原因没有拍下的照片。
我同时也想推荐几本在我的私人藏书中最喜欢的几本摄影画册。其中有：Erik Schubert的《How to Win Friends and Influence People》，Taryn Simon的《An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar》，Joan Fontcuberta的《Landscapes Without Memory》，Timothy O’ Sullivan的《The King Survey Photographs》（耶鲁出版社版本），以及George Shiras的《In the Heart of the Dark Night》。
In this ever-changing age, photography is like a living form that is undergoing constant self-renewals. Artists who absorb and produce new ideas in combining photography with other mediums are starting to gain more exposure in the contemporary art world. In this exploratory environment, I have started the “Jungle Interview” series. The inaugural interview of this series is “Deer Hunter Drew Nikonowicz”.
Drew Nikonowicz is the winner of the 2015 Aperture Portfolio Prize. He grew up in Missouri, and is now a senior photography student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Rather than being a photographer who is always on the go, Drew spends most of his time making work in the photo studio at school. His project “This World and Others Like It” appears to resemble the traditional landscape and still-life photography at first glance, but if you take a closer look, a lot of the photographs employ computer simulations and they carry a sense of uncanny that can usually be found in video games. Besides that, Drew also included photographs of book pages, computer screens, even large format film into the project. This complexity of subject matter opens up different interpretations and encourages viewers to be skeptical about the relationship between photography and reality.
To me, Drew is a young, enthusiastic scholar who grew up in the digital age. He drifts in between reality and simulation, hunts for the deer herd that may only exist in the virtual world, but still carry the same awe and aura as in the real world.
WZ: You are currently a college student at University of Missouri, and you have a lot of projects going on, can you describe a typical week of your life?
DN: At MU I had a busy schedule. I am the kind of person who likes to chip away at projects and work so I didn’t really carry a consistent schedule. But my life did consist of a few key elements. Firstly I was a student; the art department at MU is a liberal arts model, so I was always taking different classes. It’s also a research school, so a good amount of my hours had to be spent taking general education courses. Every semester my schedule had a mix of art courses - primarily photography - art history, and everything else which ranged from 3d modeling to Indian Cinema to Statistics.
For the last 2½ years of my time at MU I was also the photography lab manager 20 hours a week. The most important element about this for me was the constant interaction with my colleagues taking photography courses. I was constantly discussing work, influences, and technical problems/solutions that might come up. I think the constant interaction with people interested in photography had a huge impact on me and my work. On top of that I loved working and being there; it really became my home.
When I wasn’t in class or working in the lab, I spent most of my time working on my own projects. To that effect, I spent a huge chunk of my free time in the lab after hours or during other shifts. The bulk of that time was spent working on what has now become This World and Others Like It, but I also have been working on some other things that I haven’t released yet, developed and 3d printed a working camera, and various odd projects and ideas. The odd projects typically end up wrapping around and becoming part of one of my bigger projects.
So in short I could almost always be found in the photo lab, and when I wasn’t there I was either in class, making photographs, or grabbing lunch.
WZ: In your art practice, the language of imagery you are using is quite open, unlike some artists who contradict analog photography with digital technology, you seem to embrace them in an natural and integrated way. Did it come from your childhood experience?
DN: I was born after the internet was invented. Throughout my entire life I have always had access to a computer and the internet. So my digital existence and my tangible existence have never been separated. They have always been intertwined and are constantly informing each other. I would say the time I was born is important in that way. I don’t think I would see both analog photography and computer generated imagery as perfectly acceptable ways of creation had I been born early enough to have lived a life without these new technologies. I am not interested in ruling something out simply because it is different or new.
WZ: (To continue the question above) In this post-internet era, how do you think the language of photography and image-making will evolve?
DN: I’m not sure I am equipped to answer that question. Being someone who has only seen a post-internet world (and very little of it at that!) I can’t say for certain where we’re headed. I do think there will always be a place for analogue photographic processes. My hope is that new technologies can enter into the photography family and cohabitate with old ones.
WZ: A lot of artists who work with photography define themselves as photo-based artists to distinguish themselves from the traditional notion of “photographer”, but I don’t see this tendency in you. All your images are black and white, including the computer generated ones, which seems like a tribute to photography history, you use large format analog cameras, you have even build a 4x5 mono rail camera using your 3D printer. You have also mentioned in your blog that your relationship towards photography is like a romance. So when did this romance start, and how this romantic relationship has been going?
DN: I didn’t have my own camera until I was in high school. But my relationship to imagery is traceable back to when I first started using the family computer to access everything from MSPaint to online video games. Long before I even had a camera I was tinkering with photographs. Once I had my own camera my love for photography really took off, though.
I would consider myself a photographer primarily. I think artists who consider themselves photo-based artists are simply participating in a particular conversation. In the same way, I call myself a photographer because even my computer generated photographs are made with the history of photography in mind. It is simply a difference in the tone that an artist wants to strike, or the conversation they want to participate in. It’s important for me to call myself a photographer because one of the things I am engaged with is a meta conversation about photography and its relationship to the landscape.
WZ: Landscapes, either the ones from real life or from different kinds of screens, seem to play a crucial part in your project This World and Others Like It. The notion of landscape is so broad and it has been drastically expanding along with technology development. I’m curious about your perspective and experience on landscape, as well as landscape photography.
DN: A large majority of my life experiences have been heavily influenced by my relationship to technology. In the world we currently live in, technology and the landscape are very similar, and are bound to each other. Our entire planet has been imaged to some extent, and we can see all of it directly from our laptops. Before I’ve physically been to a place, I’ve already seen it depicted in movies or photographs via technology. This completely alters the way I experience the world around me. My mind is influenced by the imagery I have already seen. When I arrive at that place I then contemplate the differences between the images and the thing itself. So to expand on my original thought, landscape, landscape photography, and technology are incredibly bound to each other and have completely altered the way we experience the world around us.
WZ: You use 4x5 to take photos of images and videos from the screens, for example, the photograph of the astronaut, and the one with deer running outside the windows of the car, did you consider yourself photographing the virtual world when taking photos of the screen? And what do you think about the artist’s authorship and copyright in this age?
DN: The photograph from Apollo 11 of Buzz Aldrin on the moon functions similar to making a photograph of something out of a window. If I show you the window frame in the image, the photograph becomes about looking as opposed to the thing itself. By rephotographing that famous image made by Neil Armstrong through my screen, I position the viewer in a specific location - in front of their computer. A place from which most everything can be explored, and as I say in my statement, the sublime landscape is now only accessible within the boundaries of technology.
As for the image of the deer, I see it as functioning similar to how I see the Apollo 11 image functioning. Also though, this is the best way to create the image. I am driving a vehicle in a video game, and computer-loaded deer are running alongside my car. I gave an in-depth explanation of this image during my lecture at 2015 Medium San Diego. I would encourage anyone curious about the image to tune in to around the 26 minute mark.
In my own practice I am not trying to hide anything in regard to authorship or copyright in my imagery. For example, the Apollo 11 image mentioned above I think that photograph works best when it is understood where that image comes from. In general, I think honesty is the big player in my mind. Appropriating imagery and ‘rephotography’ have been around for a long time. I don’t have any quarrels with these things or with artists using them. The problem comes when people try to claim things that aren’t theirs as their own. I actually posted about these ideas on my blog several months back. For those interested, take a look here.
WZ: In your exhibition at Aperture, the installation consists many relatively small, framed images, lined up in a strip of three rows in a very firm and orderly way, what was your intention for the installation? Do you see this as your ideal format of installation?
DN: The installation at Aperture was one that I proposed and Aperture approved. So this was something I came up with after quite a bit of deliberations and several iterations. The sequence is meant to be read just like you might read a book - from top left to bottom right. As you go along the sequence it slowly shifts from mostly real, terrestrial landscapes to computer generated photographs. It begins with a very humble landscape made from paper, and ends with a grandiose computer generated photograph. The sequence at Aperture is mostly the same as the one on my website.
As the work currently stands it is my ideal installation form. Of course, over time I imagine the work will change and progress, so it might not be how I would install it in the future.
WZ: Is This World and Others Like It still in progress? What projects are you working on and what are your recent inspirations?
DN: It is. I haven’t reached a point where I feel it’s time to start a new project. The stream of consciousness my photographs have still seems to be consistent. I am working on another new project alongside This World and Others Like It, but I have not revealed anything about it officially.
In my last semester of college I took an Indian Cinema class and really enjoyed the films, so I have been watching more Indian films in my free time. My top two right now are Om Shanti Om and Karz. I’m not sure they have directly inspired me, but I’m sure the influence will sneak into my work somehow.
WZ: Last but not least, I know you like reading. Can you recommend some books to us?
DN: I really do! I just wish I could find more time to read. Rebecca Solnit’s River of Shadows is probably my favorite book I’ve read recently. I can’t recommend it enough. I also would recommend The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I’m currently reading Infinite Jest and so far I’m enjoying it, but I’ve got about 750 [as of 2/20/2016 I have 360] more pages to go. Another great book I have been meaning to read again is Will Steacy’s Photographs Not Taken. It’s a collection of essays from photographers about photographs they didn’t take for one reason or another.
I also want to recommend a couple photo books that I really love and have in my personal library. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Erik Schubert, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar by Taryn Simon, Landscapes Without Memory by Joan Fontcuberta, The King Survey Photographs by Timothy O’Sullivan (published by Yale Press), and In the Heart of the Dark Nightby George Shiras.