Julia Sherman: We met at a very unusual dinner party on the Upper East Side and I am not sure you understood at all what I meant when I told you, “I have a salad blog.” What did you think you were getting into when you agreed to participate?
AF: The particulars didn’t matter. I like to not know.
JS: You have made your career as a photographer who doesn’t use a camera. This of course inspires questions about technique and process. Why does it bother you so much when people want to know how you make your images? Is the mystery of the process inherent to the work?
AF: I do use cameras, but there are so many schmucks out there who know more about my own camera than I do, and thus they assume their are better photographers than I. There’s nothing I hate more than talking tech (except when it comes to the garden, I guess).
With the photographic image there seems to be a automatic need for technical information, as if this would help to explain something that is not yet understood. This is where the wires get crossed big time — what is not understood is within the realm of image and visual language. No amount of technical or scientific data will answer these questions, because the real question is not asked or perhaps even imagined; a technical exchange leaves the asker none-the-wiser. I think the prevailing belief that science can answer questions of meaning is one of our prevailing cultural blind spots.
JS: Many moons ago, you worked as a waiter at the Metropolitan Museum’s café. For a young artist, do you think it is better or worse to have a day job within the art world/institution? At that point, did you ever imagine that museum would someday acquire your work?
AF: I never imagined I would have my works at the Met. But, working around so many works, especially ancient ones is a far cry from say, working at an art fair, but I don’t think having just any art world job would have been positive. Perhaps it’s better to be far away from the “business” lest it cloud one’s direction…
JS: You have always made images embedded with highly spiritual iconography — snakes, water, babies, smoke, light. Did having Honey, your daughter, change your practice?
AF: No, she didn’t. I did give her more of my time and that has reduced my studio time, which is ok!
JS: Well, I guess I wonder how that kind of life-changing experience affects someone who is already consumed with existential thought on a day-to-day basis?
AF: I don’t really see how Honey, or being a parent in general, has affected my work. It seems that my work is more about what I don’t have. I know… that sounds unhealthy.
JS: What is your relationship to your plants? What was the name of the ones that look like an elephant feet sprouting a vine? Do you think your love of plants has some relationship to the fact that you have an art practice centered around light?
AF: I think my relationship to my plants is deeper and more intimate than I know. But, since I saw you for our salad, I am just now getting a sense of that. Plants are our source of life and hope. I have a feeling my work will move towards them in the future.
JS: You seem to really enjoy cooking. Do you feel like an artist when you cook? Or better, question, do you always feel like an artist or are you something “off duty?”
AF: I am mostly off duty, I am sad to say, but being “on”, even if it is just 1% of the time, is something valuable.