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Interview: Ross Gerhold's American South

Interview: Ross Gerhold's American South

Lives and works in Richmond, Virginia

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

Ever since I can remember I had a little camera of some kind. When digital cameras were first coming out, I remember my cousin having one. The first time I held it, I couldn't stop walking around and looking at everything through the tiny LCD screen. Also my Grandfather was a painter, so I was often around art, and eventually thought I wanted to be a painter as well. I realized after High School that I preferred to find compositions through a lens, than to create them on a canvas. I think I was always just focused on what things around me 'looked like.' I found plenty of entertainment staring out of a moving car window so it felt only natural to apply that focus to some sort of profession.

La Valencia, 2019

What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?

I really spent a lot of my life living in a small town in Virginia before moving to Richmond. When I started consciously shooting for projects, my work was deeply rooted in the American South. The fraught past of the South that still remains in the form of roadside political views today was something that fascinated me. At the same time I was interested in a more contemporary approach to street photography which evolved from my anxieties of photographing strangers, or changing what exists for the shot. I now have combined those two themes and embraced both the documentary approach, or just the simplicity of the shape and form of the streets.

Richmond VA, 2020

What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?

I really had a drastic transition from shooting nice pretty photos, to shooting trash cans on the side of the street and then began to refine and edit that. It seemed like that shift in mentality happened overnight, then it took a couple years to find a good in between.

Route 11 'Tribunal of Penance'

Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?

When I was younger I was big into Stanley Kubrick, who kind of shifted the way I thought about visuals. Today I really enjoy photographers like Alec Soth and Joel Sternfeld and directors like David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson.

The Flying Circus, 2021

Where do you find inspiration?

I really am the type of photographer that just brings a camera everywhere. When you do that, inspiration comes from everywhere, it'll just jump out at you as you are going about your day, and if it gets your attention, it's meant for you. I also really enjoy playing music. I think it helps flex those good muscles.

Orlando Airport 'Tribunal of Penance'

Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?

That is still to be determined. I am currently working on two projects, both of which I don't really foresee being finished for another couple of years.

In Pieces 'Untitled'

How did it begin? and how did it evolve?

My first project 'Tribunal of Penance' began by documenting COVID - 19 in the US, but quickly transformed into something much different as 2020 unfolded. My second project which is currently untitled only recently began, and I intend to be very patient with both and allow them to change with me throughout the years.

Oklahoma Antique Store, 2021

What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?

What works for me is to look at the world as if I'm a visitor. Either to this era, or this world. I think a lot of people look for something timeless, or something that stands out, but if you treat the world like the odd dystopia that it is, everything will hold interest.

MDP Circle 'Tribunal of Penance'

What are you working on now?

Currently just those two projects as well as my Cinematography work for my job.

Untitled, 2021

If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?

Photograph everything that makes you do a double take.

Post Inaguration. Washington, DC 2021

About the Artist

Based in Richmond, Virginia

I was born into a railroad family in Scottsbluff, Nebraska in 1993. From there we moved to Wyoming for a while, then following the divorce of my parents when I was seven, my Mom brought me to Virginia where she had grown up. A year or so later, she remarried which started a rough chapter of our lives. I definitely became a misfit. Following that divorce and High School, I went to two semesters of community college and dropped out to work part time, and pursue a career with a camera. After a couple years I joined up with a Photo / Video team, and moved to Richmond, Virginia to which I still live and work today.

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