Interview with Neal Auch
Please introduce yourself.
I’m an artist and photographer living in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My work is somewhat death haunted, focusing exclusively on dark and macabre imagery. I have a particular interest in the ethics of eating animals and the commodification of suffering. I have explored these themes in my studio work though still life and portraiture work featuring arrangements of dead animals, in addition to close-up abstract work featuring organ meats. More recently I have also been photographing human skeletal remains, which I consider to be portraiture of the dead.
How did you get interested in photography?
I took a somewhat circuitous path to get to where I am, beginning with a background in academic mathematics, moving into consulting work, and experimenting with self-expression through music and writing before I stumbled into photography. I found that the photography work I did brought me a great deal of satisfaction, and this has been my main creative outlet ever since I began shooting seriously some years ago.
Which artists/photographers inspired your art?
My favourite photographer is probably Diane Arbus, although I also greatly admire have been influenced by the work of Joel Peter Witkin, Anders Petersen, and Jan Saudek. In terms of visual aesthetic I probably get more from studying paintings than photographs and I’m deeply drawn to the works of Bosh, Cezanne, Caravaggio, and a lot of Dutch still life paintings from the 17th century.
How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph?
My studio work requires a significant amount of forethought and planning. In preparation for a shoot I spend a long time getting my props and organ meats in order, and sketching the planned arrangements with a pen and paper. Some of the props (for example the lamp shades that I have hand-sewn from rotting goat stomachs) require a fair amount of time to construct. Since much of my work is still life (or similar) I end up making most of my compositional choices even before I have taken the camera out of the bag. For me the vast majority of the work that makes a good image happens well before my camera ever comes out of the bag.
Could you please tell us something about your technique and creating process.
I work exclusively in digital. All of my portfolio work is shot on a Nikon with either a 50mm F1.8 or a 35mm F1.8 lens. I do the majority of my post-processing work in Lightroom, except for minor spot removal (etc) which I handle in Photoshop. I have experimented with a variety of papers for printing, although these days I tend to lend towards lustre papers, since this seems to me a good compromise for getting a lot of fine details and deep rich blacks without too much glare.
What do you do in your life besides photography?
I’m very passionate about art. I love horror films; the influence of horror movie imagery is probably quite evident from my work. I’m also a musician and I have a great love experimental / avant garde music. I read a great deal and have a particular love of works that are experimental or transgressive in some way.
What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
I have a number of projects in the pipeline. I’m very interested in the subversion and sexualization of religious iconography, and am currently casting and planning for a rather complex shoot of this nature. I also have a long-standing interest in women’s reproductive rights and am working on a couple of projects that will explore these themes from a feminist perspective.