Photographs as Experiences about Looking: An Interview with Amir Zaki
October 7, 2019 - koozarch
Zaki has an ongoing interest in the rhetoric of authenticity, as it is associated with photography as an indexical media. Simultaneously, he is deeply invested in exploring digital technology’s transformative potential to disrupt that assumed authenticity. However, his interest is not in utilizing digital trickery as illustration to undermine a photograph’s veracity. In fact, Zaki often creates hybridized photographs that carefully use the vocabulary of the documentary style so that the viewer’s belief in its veracity remains intact, at least initially. He constructs scenes that are somewhat off-register, ‘out of key’, and ever so slightly faux. He often uses the architectural and organic landscape of California as a subject, as it seems particularly appropriate to his process. This is largely because, either through media myth, reality or a combination of the two, the architecture and surrounding landscape in California is itself an evolving bastardization of styles and forms, in other words a pastiche. California is home to a collision of high modernist ideals, suburban McMansions, high-rise density, endless asphalt grids, deserts, mountains, beaches, Los Angeles urbanism, Inland Empire sprawl, Orange Curtain conservatism, the Crystal Cathedral, and the Integratron. It should be made clear that although Zaki is fascinated and inspired by this architectural and cultural entropy, his intention is not to record, replicate or simply document a preexisting postmodern pastiche. More precisely, his work begins with the familiar, by looking at objects, structures and locations that are often pedestrian and banal. And by capitalizing on the presumed veracity that photographs continue to command, along with the transformative, yet invisible digital alterations he employs, his images depict structures that that aspire to be added to the list of the hodge-podge built landscape that creates the California mythology.