“As an artist, it’s important for my work to linger and resonate in our minds, even if just for a few seconds,” photographer
and collagist Harold Diaz told us a few weeks ago, and it literally made us jump up and scream (albeit silently): It
does, it so does, and for much longer than that! Achieving what only the best photographers manage to – making
it (whatever we see) new (in the modernist sense) and weird and exciting – Diaz, a full-time nurse about to leave
Brooklyn so he can live closer to squirrels and such, has recently curated an uncannily great book entitled “Looking
Back / Looking Forward” for the Impossible Colour Project and Atem Books. For this issue, he sent us the kind of images
that linger so long it hurts.
Harold, what are you up to these days?
How’s life anyway? Are you still based in Brooklyn?
Life’s been good and busy. Lately I’ve been working on an image-based slideshow video for an electronic arts musician. Plus I’ve been busy with my day job and school plans. I’m still in Brooklyn, however I’m planning a move to upstate NY. I dig being around the deer and squirrels these days.
You’re a clinician by trade – what exactly is your day job?
And how much time do you dedicate to it?
I’m a full time nurse. Plus I’m hoping to get involved in some neuro-cognitive research. By trade I’m also a massage therapist.
Do you also carry a camera with you while at work?
I’ve been resorting to my camera phone these days, which makes it very easy to use at work. The hospital where I’m currently stationed has some sick (pun intended) furniture and lighting, so I definitely need to carry a camera.
Would you describe your approach as a photographer as rather conceptual – or do you often just run with whatever you see and chance upon? How much advance planning is necessary?
There’s certainly not much advanced planning. Usually I’ll run with what comes, however I tend to revisit sites or routes because of their visual qualities (or offerings). Other times I may conceptually approach the subject or object photographed. This could occur as I photograph or post production via a collage or montage. So ultimately there’s not any one method or process. It’s all very dynamic and raw, which for me is essential to produce an image.
You once said you chose your supermarket because of its color palette; do you also shop by color?
I once purchased corn syrup for its strange translucent qualities. Plus I bought some assorted pastel colored candies from Japan to potentially photograph. However I didn’t eat or use them in any meals. So I ultimately choose edible foods by my oral palate, not color palette.
Which are some of your favorite surroundings and settings anyway, with or without camera? And why?
I’m fascinated by industrial settings, whether it’s a power plant, hospital, indoor department store or office. The overhead lighting in some of these areas gives off a very strange and sterile aesthetic. Plus these settings usually hold a variety of metallic, matte, and luminous textures (e.g. computer monitors, cables/cords, polished tile floors and so on), which I find beautiful. I’m also drawn to intense natural settings, such as a forest, cave, beach and so on. My early photographs were an anthropomorphic take on trees and bushes, which was naturally followed by photographs of industrial objects such as cars, tarps and trucks. I’ve been saturated with industrial objects here in Brooklyn, which is one reason I’m planning a move to upstate NY.
Describe your current practice as a photographer…
what do you look for in your images?
I’m drawn to imagery that not only holds a strange aesthetic, but also invokes an interesting thought. I aspire for my work to possess those qualities, whether they are photographs, collages or curatorial work. To me, art is ultimately a form of communication, and I’m generally interested in an exchange that is insightful and will hopefully blow me away. As an artist, it’s important for my work to linger and resonate in our minds, even if just for a few seconds.
So what about recent collages and your curatorial work?
Have you been busy creating more collages?
For the moment, I’m not working on any new collages. I still collect found imagery for their aesthetic qualities, which I may or may not use for collage work.
You’ve also stated that you’ve been heavily inspired by written words and authors – how so? How does reading Schopenhauer or Thacker translate to creating a new set of images?
I’m fascinated by concepts of the unknown, whether they are fictitious, religious or scientific. Some of the writings of Thacker and Schopenhauer tread this topic (the unknown) as a naturally desirable, yet unattainable goal. For instance, in Thacker’s In the Dust of this Planet, he elaborates our use of the horror genre (in films or books) as a tendency to rationally grasp the unknown. Visually, this takes the form of irregular and dynamic states of matter such as mist or “ooze”, which are of course discussed. Further, transcendent boundaries such as the “inner circle” are also explored. I find these insights absolutely beautiful, and I visually explore it in some of my work.
To which degree are horror flicks an influence as well?
Got an example?
I’m a horror flick buff no doubt, however the film directors who have inspired me have a more surrealist approach. David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman are a few examples. I aesthetically find some of their films as a magically dark and luminous world, which I visually resonate with. I’d hope to produce some of those qualities in my work.
Ever thought of becoming a professional crime scene photographer?
Definitely, albeit briefly. I’ve also dwelled on becoming a neurologist, photojournalist, and even a qualitative researcher on mystical cognitive states. I guess there’s still that element in me that aspires what I’ll be when I grow up. It’s in my bones to not only creatively express myself, but also learn and help my fellow humans in distress, which is why I currently work as a nurse and massage therapist.
What are your goals in photography then? Still not interested in gallery shows?
I was recently part of a group show in Rome where one of my collages sold out, which is nice to know I guess. There’s a couple of photographic projects I wish to pursue, which are definite goals. I’m also looking to eventually self-publish my own work and perhaps curate a separate publication of my own as well.
Nice. What else is on the horizon?
Love, family, good food, and growth.