For the past five weeks, Brooklyn-based photographer David Brandon Geeting has been confined to his cramped railroad apartment, self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic. Geeting is known for his quirky still life compositions, whimsical images that combine disparate textures with everyday objects. Back in 2017, Geeting’s distinctive look showed up in WIRED’s Gadget Lab section. These days though, with New York City under lockdown as one of the world’s hardest-hit Covid-19 hotspots, he’s freeing himself from the directives of art departments and making work for what he calls a “self-quarantine residency.” The cabin fever-induced result, made in collaboration with prop-stylist-slash-girlfriend Lina Sun Park, is a playful series of images that Geeting hopes can offer some coronavirus counterprogramming.
This is the second installment in a continuing project in which WIRED photo editors speak with photographers about their experiences during Covid-19 self-isolation. The following interview has been edited for clarity.
Beth Holzer: Are you doing this series from your home, or do you have a studio that you’re going to?
David Brandon Geeting: I do have a studio, but I didn’t go there to make this work. I’m just working from home with what I have. I’ve been working with a really minimal kit during this pandemic: three flashes, a couple of lenses, and that’s basically it. Instead of walking around outside looking for inspiration like I normally do, I walk around looking at my apartment and coming to terms with what I have. I think to myself, “Is there potential in any of this stuff?”
How do you decide what goes into a composition?
I think my approach toward everyday objects and how I pair them together is a bit irreverent. I’m not really focused on conveying any sort of meaning. Rather, I think about how different things mesh with each other, or if an idea has been done before. I try to focus on their potential as art, rather than what they are normally used for. I aim to look at objects almost like a child would, without any preconceived notions.
Do you feel your photos have changed because of the pandemic?
You know, it’s funny. I’ve always struggled with making work that feels really personal, and I think it’s because I’ve never been one to photograph my family or anything like that. But now that I’m stuck in my apartment—stuck with stuff that is personal to me—it’s almost like this work ends up being intimate just by default. Just because this is all I have to work with.
We have all this insane shit just laying around. Sure, you can shoot at home but a lot of people don’t have all this. It reminds me why I kept it all. This stuff just has great energy.
How has it been collaborating with your Lina, your girlfriend?
She has a master’s in fashion from Parsons, and she sees me making wacky little still lifes all the time, but I mean, we’ve never worked together. Now, though, because we’re self-isolated together, it’s become this thing. It’s been great for me to step out of my comfort zone and use some of her ideas; as well as for her to step into my world a little bit. I feel like my weaknesses are things that she’s actually strong at. Like, I don’t know, she’s daintier when it comes to arrangements or hanging things on fishing line. Whereas I’m fast-paced and tend to overlook a lot of stuff, which I actually think contributes to the slapdash nature of my work that sets it apart. During this time when we’re all slowing down, it’s been great to collaborate with her because she is making me look at every detail in the image instead of just rushing through things.
It’s really awesome that your girlfriend has also become your stylist! Generally, though, I’ve heard photographers say they can’t make images currently because of social-distancing measures. But nobody can operate like that right now. Have you had any success collaborating with people using digital platforms?
It’s a bummer to hear that some photographers can’t do what they do because it requires other people. But, really, I’m used to a more-DIY way of working. Initially, I had intended on being a fine art photographer—I started my career making still lifes of forks and knives, garbage, and dollar-store stuff. As I gained the attention of photo editors, people then wanted me to make those same quirky images, but with a Chanel bag thrown in the mix. As someone who does a lot of commercial work, it’s been refreshing to get back to not having to rely on so many people who might have differing opinions. It’s nice to go back to what got me started in the first place.
Are you getting less work because of the pandemic?
Totally. I will say that this project has been generating interest, and there have been some inquiries. Which is funny because I’m doing this solely for myself, not because I’m trying to get jobs during this dark time or anything. I just think that everyone is staring at their screens right now and could use something refreshing to look at instead of just coronavirus news 24/7.
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