The first of our artist interviews on Obscured, this focuses on Gregory Moon who works primarily in photographic images – a large number of which use himself as the model. Currently working in Seattle (USA) he has almost a decade of image-making behind him – much of it in themes which resonate with the themes of ‘Obscured’.
Jon: Thanks for agreeing to be be interviewed for Obscured. I’m hoping that, in addition to the collaborative Facebook group that these blog posts will help others taking part to get more insight into the project’s themes from the input of the other artists who are taking part.
Having looked through your site – and the links – I can see that masks aren’t a new subject for you. What drew you to capturing masked people?
Gregory: I use masks for many reasons in my photos but mainly I use them to erase the subject’s identity. I like to give the sense of a story to my images and obscuring the face of the model makes the photo less of a portrait and more about the situation.
Jon: Interesting concept – that, by hiding more recognisable features – even of someone the audience doesn’t know, they’re better able to apply a narrative.
As an artist are you conscious when making the work as to how much the viewers will see your ‘story’ and how much they apply their own?
Gregory: I try not to think about what the viewer will see too much .
When shooting I always have a very vague story in mind, or at least an idea of what I would think if I were viewing the images and hadn’t shot them myself , but I love it when people bring what they see in the photos to the table.
I deliberately keep the images vague and simple so they won’t necessarily be locked into a specific time period and as a result the viewers are more open to bring what they see to the story and start creating their own.
Jon: The majority of your images are often auto (self) portraits – to what extent are they also auto-biographical (as opposed to simply referencing themes of interest)?
Gregory: I would say less than half of them are auto-biographical.
In most of the photos I use myself in, I am striving to make myself as generic as possible. A basic human figure or “everyman that I feel gives the images a more relatable and timeless feel.
The other 30 to 40% are shot spontaneously because I am inspired by some great lighting or a particular location and need to shoot it right away . These tend to be the more auto-biographical images, because I am shooting so quickly my facial expressions and body positions are dictated by however I am feeling that day.
It can be a bit alarming on a personal level when I view these photos . I always try to inject some of my humour but they usually swing from moody and depressed to highly sexualized images.
Jon: Practically and creatively – what differences do you find between using yourself as the subject and featuring someone else? And are your subjects models or coerced friends and contacts?
Gregory: This is something that comes up often as they both have their good points and drawbacks.
From a practical standpoint, shooting other people is much easier. Taking my own photo can be very challenging. It involves a lot of trial and error and guess work simply because I can’t see what the camera is seeing while it is shooting. Having a model in front of me simplifies a lot of things. I can make adjustments instantly, move two
feet to the left, crouch down, change the lighting, without having to take several shots to realize that these things are needed.
Creatively though, I still find it simpler to just shoot myself. I know exactly what I want to do and just do it, without having to communicate it to anyone else .
Also, there are things I am willing to do in my photos that I am still not comfortable asking someone else to do! I’ve never used an actual model, most of the people I have photographed are friends or acquaintances who have offered to pose for me. A couple of them have been very brave with what they are willing to do , but I still can’t imagine asking any of them to do something like paint themselves white and pose nude in the woods at 8.00am when it’s 38 degrees (Farenheit – close to 0°c) out there. For now, I still do those things myself.
Those in my photos are all friends and contacts that genuinely like my work and want to be a part of it. Most have approached me and offered to pose , some of them have since been shot by other people . I have only had to coerce a couple of them.
Jon: Sounds great – I always think I get a different response and rapport when I know the subject. The first theme for the Obscured collective is ‘Behind the Mask’; what are your thoughts on this and the first editorial.
Gregory: I love this theme and the editorial. Gay men – and their identities and personas – have always been very interesting to me. My own included.
Jon: Ok (And thanks!) So, finally – what’s new with you – what’s upcoming and what should we expect from you in the coming months?
Gregory: Well , I am currently making plans to move from Seattle back home to Michigan . So for the next 2 months I will be taking every opportunity to take photos of everyone and every place here that I can . In the coming months you will be seeing many portraits of other people !
Gallery (contains adult-themed images and nudity).