Fox Harvard is back! We took a look inside the dreamland of his photography in our last short interview between him and quinn cornchip. This time around Fox and Mr. Glass talk more about staying motivated, inspired and how to make a dreamland a reality.
Mr. Glass: In the past, you mentioned that you took a rather long hiatus from creating art all together; do you ever feel tempted to do that now?
Fox Harvard: Possibly the worst fucking mistake I’ve ever made; not one I hope to ever repeat, given the choice.
But thinking about it…I don’t know if I’d necessarily label it “temptation” because that implies the idea of doing something you know is wrong. Looking back on it, my reasons for doing in the first place were certainly delusional (in hindsight), but the reasons I did it at all was because I felt it was the correct thing to do at the time. I feel contemptuous toward my own stupidity for having that as a self-inflicted and permanent wound.
It’s a tortuous back & forth though. It’s often hard going from analyzing the elements and qualities that you love in the work of other people you admire, and not feeling some sort of inadequacy or fault for not being able to see the same in your own when you’re struggling to constantly improve. Especially when you consistently feel the need to live up to the contingencies of what successful people in the same field have done before you. I think everyone feels the desire to quit occasionally; maybe overcoming that’s one of the most useful barriers to succeeding. I’ve never been one for blatant emulation (and rarely even one for homage) but I attempt to eliminate as much external influence as possible in order to avoid any risk of copycatting. Of course, there’s a fine line there where one has to be able to identify one’s shortcomings in order to know where they have room for improvement, in order to not become stagnant, or worse, overconfident on their own abilities (certainly self-deprecation doesn’t solve anything either). On one hand, I don’t want to fall into the trap of winding up liking my own work more only because it’s becoming more visually representative of someone else’s whom I genuinely love. On the other hand, the hardest part is to realize that I’m incapable of seeing myself as others do, and in order to keep my work as original to me as it can be, I have to resolve myself to the fact that I will never like my own work as much as I do that of the artists whose works make heart pound. To be certain, this was not a reason I took “hiatus” in the first place; it’s merely a reason I recognize—only upon introspection—not to make the same mistake more than once.
As with anyone who creates something, the act of posting, or exhibiting, or publishing a work is arguably an act of either constantly seeking the approval/attention of others, or at the very least relentlessly being willing to subject yourself to the judgment of others. After all, if you’re only creating for yourself, I fear you may be doing it for the wrong reasons. But the flip side to that coin is the release that creativity or expression in any form can provide for its creator—regardless of whether you’re making work for personal use, or for some intellectually or emotionally higher purpose, or just shooting observationally for fun or money. Whether I look at the process as some sort of continual cathartic or therapeutic release for myself, or whether I look at it in the light of furthering a profession, to repeat that mistake would be of a consequence I don’t think I could ever handle again. From devaluing myself, to relationships that it caused me to ultimately destroy, to stunting my progress as an individual or an artist, my life would be entirely different right now had I not; for whatever that’s worth.
Mr. Glass: So much of the “art” we see in the commons of online viewing, lifestyle publications, and even galleries, clearly comes across as a younger version of previous works, minus the life experience that adds the depth, and acts as a finishing touch to the works. How do you feel that your work and what you aspire it to be fits in with the surrounding noise?
Fox Harvard: If your first question was chamber music, this one has to be Rachmaninoff… That’s almost overwhelming taken all at once. If I understand it correctly, what you’re essentially questioning is the theory that if everything’s been done before, what could possibly make current work (including that of my own) equally as important or influential or any less superficial than that which came before it?
The more you can create with the less you have, the greater it will always be. This is universal law to me, you must understand. We simply have too much of everything now.
The best we can hope for is to accurately represent whatever it is that’s in front of us, in the moment—the same as our mentors or teachers or forbearers did—and the irony is that almost everything we know is inherently linked to something in the past. We choose to condition ourselves into perpetuating this lie that we can still do anything original. Short of scientific discovery, nothing is left to be invented—all we can pray to do is to add a bit of ourselves to something we knew from before. It’s unashamedly egotistical and absolutely fucking ignorant to think otherwise at this point. At the very least (whether we recognize and are willing to admit to that fact or not) we simply try to express a concept or principle that’s been done a thousand times over, but do it in a manner that’s just different enough to disguise it as “original”.
To get back to your question though, it’s funny you chose to employ the word “noise”, as that’s precisely what most of everything around me has felt like my entire life; I was actually talking with a very good friend about this exact thing today. I’ve had a photographic memory my whole life—it’s like a curse—I can recall what someone was wearing, what it was they said, what they were eating or doing or where they were when they said it… I can literally see words. So everything is like noise; everything plays like a tape on loop in the background; in Technicolor. It’s really hard to stop the wheels from spinning a lot of the time; to the point where it winds up crowding in on other things. It also gets hard to fight certain things off from replaying over & over constantly so my entire life has been spent trying to envision these things that haven’t happened yet and trying to make them come true. If I can’t make them happen, I’ve always tried to paint them or draw them or photograph and even write them. I have whole movies in my head about everything & everyone; even going back to having fantastical adventures with characters from books or cartoons I was watching as a child. I think that’s why so many people comment that my stuff has a cinematic feel to it. And if I’m ever dissatisfied with my work it’s generally because it’s very hard to successfully recreate what I have in my head. And if I sense anyone else ever feels that a certain piece or series falls short, I imagine that’s what they’re feeling as well.
So I guess most of what I create is simply a fantasy that will all eventually link back together. And not to sound pretentious or selfish, but I hope it’s wholly different than the fantasies other people create. I think perhaps that might be one of the only things that winds up separating me from the noise.
Fox Harvard: Hate is an awfully strong word I probably overly abuse. If I declared anything unsatisfactory out of hatred previously it probably did nothing to help anyone. But if I had to sum up now what I “hate” it would have to be cheap gimmicks, exhaustingly tired concepts, pretentiously non-representational titled works, bandwagon style, bandwagon imagery & subject matter, overused, unattractive or uninspiring models with the same bag of tired tricks, but most blatant would be the lifeless garbage (both on fault of not only the photographer but also the model) that is simply unapologetic about the fact that no one involved looks like they even gave a shit; like no one tried—no one was challenged—like not a single fucking thing was imaginative. And I don’t have any specific person or people in mind here—maybe I’m just in an overly introspective mood lately but I’m thinking of a number of my own works that I can add to that pile…and if true, then that trend—at least for me—must end with all due haste.
Mr. Glass: You are a deep well of creativity and passion, do you ever fear that it will run dry? How do you maintain such a high output of images?
Fox Harvard: As far as passion goes, no. I’m afraid that’s simply not going to happen. Whether it’s sexual drive, politics, or the passion to create, it only appears to strengthen with time. It’s like I was saying earlier—I have to keep creating, in order to push the images out of my head. Most fall short of what’s actually in there. My biggest fear isn’t running dry, per se, it’s being able to have my execution of them match their output. The main reason I shoot so much is not only to see what I can create with the faces I find the most interesting but also to also see what I can pull out of the ones that I don’t.
Too many “photographers” (especially the males) tend to view their cameras as intrinsically penile; in the sense that they’re overly selective for purely selfish reasons who & what they shoot. I’m not trying to generalize or denigrate but I honestly want mine to become more conceptually vaginal in the sense that it’s more accepting of things and capable of giving a greater birth to things; within reason.
I’m almost bored shitless of erotica and the nude in general, unless it’s putting something to print I hadn’t noticed or executed successfully before. I also want beautiful and decadent wardrobe and props and locations to work with in order to be able to express—rather it be more directly or indirectly—with someone else’s voice and/or sense of expression. But at this point it’s especially hard to come by without a Milanese or Parisian fashion house’s budget. In the meantime, without the extravagant wardrobe, I’m trying to be able to communicate the same thing through people’s faces as I was through their bodies in the past. Slowly but surely though. Hopefully all will be successful.
Fox Harvard: A bit better off than I was at the start of this, oddly enough. I hope my contempt turns to gratitude. In order to answer this question I feel I must refer back to your first one. Am I happy with where I am? I don’t know. I’m not unhappy though; I mean I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received thus far and any other accomplishments I’ve gotten in regards to publishing & exhibition, but I have leaps and bounds to go before I’m anywhere near where I want to be. And I sincerely fear that that concern will never ebb, regardless of my endeavors. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing though; at least it’s one more form of internal motivation to “maintain my output”. I imagine the first step would be letting go of the feeling that I’ll always be playing catch-up, compared to what would have been, had I not ceased for so many years. But it would be both quite unfair and dishonest of me to ignore the fact that I’ve accomplished quite a bit for only having been shooting seriously for three years now.
I wish I didn’t have to sleep, so the improvement & learning process was continuous and without gaps. I wish I had access to a bit more funds than I have to work with currently. I want to be able to shoot editorials on the scale of the grand masters of oil painting. I wish I were more in love than I am now. I want to cement my reputation as a professional and a gentle man. I want to go forward being able to do well for the things I regrettably cannot reverse. I want to be able to create non-stop and share it with as many people as I can. In the end I want to be able to feel I put some sort of substance back into style and make beauty a noble thing, not just superficial; regardless of what form it comes in. I need all these things. And I think perhaps I will continue to do as I have been, until a better answer makes itself known.