ahorn.
   
 

 

Part 1: Ed asks Ron some questions about emmett

 
 

© Ron Jude

emmett by Ron Jude
The Ice Plant / October 2010
80 pages / 6.75 x 9.5 in.
40 color photographs / 9 b&w
Paperback w / dustjacket

My head was feeling scared but my heart was feeling free.
—Black Francis

 

 
 

 

Ed Panar: Pretend I don’t know anything about you, your work, or photography in general. How would you introduce emmett to me?

Ron Jude: emmett is a book that brings form to a selection of my old, random photographs. It’s meant to have multiple layers of meaning–everything from sociological and cultural, to aesthetic and philosophical–but the heart of the project has to do with ideas about existence and the past. It’s structured to echo how we try to piece together coherent narratives through fragments of memory. The fact that these photographs were taken over 25 years ago is inseparable from the intent of the project. The nostalgia that’s conjured up through the dated look of the pictures—as well as the subjects themselves—brings the idea of “the past” into play.

Among other things, it’s also about drag racing, a forest, watching TV, and photographing rainbows and lightning. In other words, it’s about the amalgam of cultural moments that defined my existence at that point in my life (or a fictionalized version of me). There’s also a thin veneer of testosterone-laced posturing present in emmett. It reveals itself as a flimsy construct, however, and yields pretty easily to moments of insecurity, boredom, and tenderness. It’s more about being on the threshold of adulthood and feeling invincible, while simultaneously being scared shitless.

 
 

© Ron Jude

 
 

EP: You mention the forest as part of the story, and I’m particularly struck by the recurrence of forest scenes in different seasons throughout the book. Can you tell me more about the forest as it relates to this work? Are we going back to the same place in these recurring scenes?

RJ: I think I was drawn to those forest pictures in the editing process because I’d just finished an eight-year landscape project called Other Nature when I started putting emmett together.  I saw all the existential themes I was trying to flesh out in Other Nature in this repeating landscape I photographed when I was in my late-teens. Most of the landscapes in emmett are the exact same location, which was adjacent to the house I grew up in. Some of them, like the lightning picture, were taken through my family’s living room window.

I wanted a device in the book that would periodically reboot the narrative flow of the other pictures. This forest, which was a backdrop to my youth, keeps bringing you back to the same place, regardless of the season, and despite things that are happening externally, like lightning, or the smoke from a forest fire. It denies narrative through its refusal to evolve out of itself.

 
 

© Ron Jude

 
 

EP: What was the world like when you first made these photographs? What stands out now when you look back, in terms of importance and inspiration? Were there any particularly influential films or events that may have helped define that moment for you?

RJ: I’m not sure what the world was like when I made these photographs. There was the world, and there was my world, which were pretty distinct things, I think. In terms of knowing about the world, there was no internet, my town had just gotten cable TV (the cable didn’t reach my house), and the nearest movie theater was 30 miles away, so there weren’t many access points to the world. Everybody’s world was much smaller 25 years ago, but mine was particularly small. Antenna TV and radio were pretty important to having at least a minimal sense of what else was out there, which is why images of (and pulled from) televisions play a prominent role in emmett. What I knew about the broader cultural world came in large-part from basic network television—sit-coms, detective shows, and late-night horror movies. That was my visual culture.

Ultimately, the important reference points were fairly local. Some of it was typical small-town youth culture stuff like cars, pop music, TV, drinking, smoking pot… But some of it was very specific to central Idaho, particularly the landscape and its inseparability from what we would call our “culture.” We didn’t go into nature—we were already there. Our collective sense of isolation was also very defining. Revisiting those reference points in their entirety seems impossible. I have sketchy memories and pictures, but it all seems like fiction to me now, part autobiographical, part David Lynch fantasy. In emmett I’ve pieced something together that’s simultaneously a complete fabrication, and a hint at what life for a 19 year-old might have actually been like in that place at that time.

EP: Music in particular seems to have played an interesting role in emmett. Can you talk a little about the importance of music for this project?

RJ: The music I was listening to was important to the process of making the work, but I don’t think it plays an important role in accessing the book. Mike Slack sent me an “emmett soundtrack” when we first started putting the book together, and we got pretty serious about honing the soundtrack into the perfect mix. What we ended up with was a somewhat predictable classic rock mix, with a few nice surprises. (If I had to boil it down to one representative song, it would be the opener, which was one of Mike’s contributions: Rose in the Heather, by Nazareth. What a great song!) I had the soundtrack on endless rotation in my car and in my studio while I worked on the book, and I think it helped me get into the space between melancholy and reverie, which is the tone I wanted to strike with the edit and sequence. I worry, however, that if the soundtrack gets too mixed up with the book as a final product, a shift from Nostalgia as an idea, to nostalgia as a sentimental longing, might occur. I think that would be detrimental to the potential for depth in this work. The book, to a large degree, is about nostalgia, but it’s not meant to be a nostalgia trip. There’s a lot of fun, pop-cultural stuff surrounding this work, and I like that, but ultimately I want the book to offer more than a nod to those reference points.

I should mention here that there is one important song that never made it onto the soundtrack (wrong era, wrong type of music). It’s called Ohio Air Show Plane Crash, by a great songwriter named Joe Henry. The song plays as an endless loop in which a disaster occurs in the background of the character’s longing and desire for a person in the foreground. He replays, over and over again, the exact moment that his private world gives way to a collective emotional space. It’s an amazing song that’s always been in the back of my mind, and I think it had at least a small role in how I was thinking about and structuring emmett.

 
 

© Ron Jude

 
 

EP: In a way emmett could be seen as you working with vernacular photography, except that you are also the author of these photographs. One could even say you were vernacularly making them at the time. Yet they have been transformed into something quite different and contemporary through the process of building this new body of work. What kind of unique challenges and opportunities did working in this way present? Did you find that you had to make a distinction between old pictures that might not make it out of the personal album and ones that seemed to offer a different kind of potential?  

RJ: I’ve always liked the directness and uninflected quality of vernacular photography, so to a certain degree that’s why I was compelled to look back at these photographs. I made them before I had any awareness of photography as an art medium. They truly were vernacular images (with hints of naïve artistic aspiration). These pictures fascinated me—I couldn’t believe I had taken some of them. I was envious of the freshness and emotional charge they had.

When I started pulling emmett together, I was looking at the photographs as if they weren’t mine. So much time had passed, and I was in such a different place in terms of my thinking about photography, that it really was like they were someone else’s pictures. This was a definite advantage, since I had no deep investment in the individual pictures beyond how they would contribute to the larger piece. I approached emmett much in the same way I worked on Alpine Star, which consisted entirely of photographs authored by other people. Ultimately, emmett is an archive project. It finds its meaning to some degree through the content of the individual images, but I think the real weight of the project depends on fitting the pieces together in just the right way.

EP: You briefly mentioned your previous book Other Nature. This work appears somewhat more enigmatic despite its high resolution, crisp imagery. The interweaving of complex and finely detailed layered landscapes with the occasional tightly cropped, almost claustrophobic interiors builds up a highly charged disconcerting energy and mystery. While there seems to be a clearer connection between emmett and Alpine Star, it seems as if Other Nature extends your approach in a different direction. Could you talk a little about the relationship between emmett and your previous works and how they are connected for you? Does emmett provide any clues on how to approach this work?

RJ: Other Nature is probably my most undiluted group of photographs to date. I think the reason this project seems more enigmatic than emmett or Alpine Star, or some of my other work, is that rather than addressing my broader program through a subject, I was attempting to make photographs that virtually denied any meaning beyond the literal stuff in the frame. There were no reference points other than very nuanced suggestions of narrative within a closed-off landscape or interior. I also tried to make the individual photographs in Other Nature as conceptually self-contained as possible. The occasional image in Alpine Star and emmett functions well on its own, but generally speaking, those two projects rely much more on the whole piece to find their meaning.

Alpine Star and emmett are meant to be companion pieces, and part of a trilogy of works (along with Lick Creek Line, which is a work-in-progress), both in terms of how they function as books, and because their subjects all come from the same small town where I grew up in Idaho. Otherwise, even though they look different from Other Nature stylistically, and they fulfill the traditional notion of photographic “subject,” I think they’re quite similar to Other Nature in terms of where they lead you. All of these projects exploit stunted narratives to question our desire to find meaning where there is none. Each body of work represents a different way of getting to the same idea. The great thing about photography is its multitude of uses, and how unreasonable our expectations are for what it should deliver, regardless of whether it’s a newspaper photo, a vernacular image, or a fine-art photograph.  I’m pretty fascinated by the entire enterprise of photography, and how, as a medium we expect so much from, it serves as a natural conduit for a critique of rational thought.

I hope each new project builds on the last, filling in some of the gaps, without being redundant. So, yes, although there are basic differences between emmett and Other Nature, I’d like to think each one provides clues to looking at and decoding the other.

 
 

© Ron Jude

 
 

EP: emmett seems to pull us into a strangely familiar space, like the feeling of watching an old movie, or listening to a classic song that had significance at another point in life. A space in which remembering ourselves is like remembering some other person we used to know. The most important ones seem to keep a door open for us that enables one to slide back into that space, or at least tease us with the tantalizing possibility. Something similar seems to be happening here. These photographs haven’t changed since the moment you made the exposures years ago, yet so much else surrounding the image has fallen away, like a tree losing its leaves in the fall. What do you make of this seemingly mystical quality of photographs?  How can pictures be new and old at the same time?

RJ: The tangibility of photography gives us a false sense of the past, like you can somehow hold it in your hand. There’s the everyday, common sense notion of the past that photographs serve well, and then there’s the more complicated, philosophical idea of The Past that leaves one at an existential dead end. Ultimately, I’m more invested in the latter than the former, but what’s really interesting is what happens when the two collide, just as you’ve described. The conflict and tension between our sentimental engagement with photographs, and the nagging undercurrent that it’s all just an illusion, is pretty rich territory. In emmett I tried to flesh out and finesse that tension into something palpable.

Two quotes appear on the colophon page in the back of the book, one from a Pink Floyd song, and the other from Sartre’s Nausea. It’s clear that they’re meant to contradict each other, but my intention for this contradiction runs deeper than simple irony with a wink. It’s meant to echo the entire thesis of the book. We build narratives about our lives, our relationships—our entire sense of ourselves—out of incomplete fragments. Photographs not only give us a false sense of the past, but they get in the way of deeper reflection. They act as verifiable, sentimentalized proof of something that doesn’t exist.

EP: When you started working on this project, did it feel like you were uncovering something new, or was it more like something you may have forgotten about but was always there, maybe in the back of your mind, lying in wait for the right moment to become what you now call emmett?

RJ: I saw this work as something new, definitely. I’d completely forgotten about most of these photographs. In fact, I hadn’t even made contact sheets of quite a few of them, so I’d never seen them as photographs. The photographs that make up emmett were rambling and incoherent, nothing more than raw material (although I do like quite a few of them strictly as images). This is a brand new body of work that consists of pictures made by some kid who didn't know enough when he took them to understand what sort of potential they had. Several people have asked me why I waited so long to do something with this body of work. My answer to that is that it was never a "body of work," it was just a bunch of pictures in a shoebox. Now it's a project about the nature of the past (does it exist?), our desire to give structure and meaning to our memories, and our inability to ever fully know or understand ourselves through self-reflection. These pictures couldn't have been about those things 26 years ago.

 
 

© Ron Jude

 
 

EP: After spending so much time looking back at your early photographs, can you recall what some of your initial interests or intention for making these photographs came from? What do you think it was about photography that inspired you to make pictures in the beginning?

RJ: I think my interest in taking pictures back then, although pretty basic and direct, was fundamentally similar to what it is today. To be really reductive, I’ve always liked what happens when you transcribe the three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional image that’s fixed in time, and utterly mute. Photographs refuse to say anything. I hear people constantly lament the limitations of photography, but the limitations are what originally sparked my interest, and what keep me tinkering around with it. It’s a beautifully unsolvable puzzle.

EP: Who is your favorite character in East Bound & Down?

RJ: Ashley Schaeffer or Stevie, depending on my mood.

 
 

emmett at Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica, CA, January 13th - March 12, 2011

 
 

EP: After having the chance to see this work installed in Los Angeles in January, I found it interesting to encounter the work with more space between the images and a varying sense of scale. In what ways do you feel the show extends the project or changes the way we might think of it? Would you say the book is the keystone piece for this body of work?

RJ: Moving from the book format to an exhibition of the same work is extremely difficult. I think it’s even harder than taking work that was produced for the wall, and turning it into a book. This project was definitely conceived of as a book, but I liked the challenge of making it work in a show. The hardest thing about turning emmett into an exhibition was getting my head out of the narrative flow of the book, which is where I’d been living for the past two years, and into a three-dimensional gallery space. In a book, the narrative function of each image gets tied directly to what comes before, and what comes after, and even what happens in the beginning of the book, vs. what happens in the end. I know this is an obvious point, but we tend to forget how distinct this experience is from walking through an exhibition. Aside from the basic starting point (the photographs), the variables involved in mounting an exhibition are almost completely different from designing and sequencing a book.

Every exhibition space offers its own unique opportunity for the photographs. A gallery with two long walls, a short wall, and an area set off from the rest of the space is going to call for a different selection and configuration of images than a space shaped like a box, with four long walls. A small space doesn’t necessarily present a limitation for the work, just as a large space doesn’t necessarily translate into a show with enormous depth. In either case you have to be incredibly careful about your edit, and how the various elements are balanced, but this is especially true in a smaller space. You have to make your point in a concise and focused way. This is particularly important when you’re attempting to stay true to a body of work that owes its original meaning to the narrative strands of a book. Not only do I think it’s entirely possible to do this with an abbreviated version of the work, I think it’s folly in most cases to try to duplicate how a book works on a gallery wall. Exhibitions and books are two different beasts, each with their own advantages and limitations.

What you saw in L.A. in January was another version of emmett, one that found its meaning through scale, groupings, and wall-to-wall relationships, rather than the tight, linear sequencing of a book. It was a different way of experiencing the work that hopefully embellished your experience of the book, and didn’t just mimic it.

EP: Were there any other observations or discoveries you had while working on emmett that you’d like to share?

RJ: I remember reading an interview with Black Francis back in the early 90s. When asked about music as a tool for social change he said, “in this era of overly earnest neo-folk, we just want to write and play some really cool songs” (or something to that effect). Of course, he could say something like that without sounding like a facile idiot because of the surprising depth of The Pixies’ music. (Visual artists usually have to explain and defend themselves a little better than that.) But I occasionally think about that quote in relation to my work, and I remember that at the end of the day I still want to make really cool pictures—pictures that people actually want to look at, as well as think about. So, in addition to the bigger program, emmett is an assertion of this desire, and a reminder to myself that cool pictures don’t preclude a rigorous agenda.

emmett helped me rediscover my initial enthusiasm for photography. I’ve spent the past twenty-five years tweaking, honing, and emptying my pictures of the non-essentials. I like where this process has led me, but I don’t want my work go so far down that road that it becomes academic and boring. emmett brought a surprisingly beautiful messiness back into my program, and I’m happy about that.

 
 

© Ron Jude

 
 

 

Part II: Ron asks Ed some questions about Same Difference

 
 

© Ed Panar

Same Difference by Ed Panar
Gottlund Verlag / November 2010
96 pages / 10.25 x 8.25 inches
Four-color digitally printed
Letterpress printed hardcover / hand sewn binding
Edition of 100

The Moon is just the Sun at night.
—Ronnie James Dio

 

 
 

Ron Jude: The title of your new book, Same Difference, cleverly sets the tone for the reader in two meaningful ways. It alludes to the levity of your work, as well as your leveling of the visual world. Can you talk a little about the element of subtle (sometimes menacing) humor in your images, as well your non-discriminating approach to subject matter?

Ed Panar: I like to laugh a lot, so bringing humor into my work has always been natural. It’s such a personal and subjective thing though, so I don’t expect it to work all the time. The pictures need to have multiple layers in order to function. You could say humor is an ingredient in the mix, one that you occasionally encounter and hopefully, at times, it surprises you.

I remember when I first started putting together a group of pictures with the title Same Difference. I was living in Pittsburgh at the time and something about that phrase in that moment resonated with me in a peculiar way ever since. I don’t know what it was really; just one of those things that stick with you that you can’t quite shake. As a concept for creating a body of work, it’s more about a feeling or a tone than a literal idea. Eventually it evolved into a loose framework for me to pull together pictures from different times, places, and projects and a way for me to deal with some of the apparent contradictions of photography.

To me Same Difference is sort of an anti-project. I wanted to see what happened if you forgot about the rules, or never knew them in the first place. When you start noticing your own ‘rules’ or, habits of working, things start to become ambiguous pretty quickly. Why do we prefer doing things one way to another? What if we were to discover the basis for our strategies was arbitrary? If these pictures aren’t connected, can that be a point of connection? Photographs are so insanely open anyway. Even in the most constrained situations they will always be about more than the author was aware of in the moment. In my own humble way, this project was an attempt to get at some of those things. It's a very intuitive process.

 
 
© Ed Panar
 
 

RJ: There are a number of photographs in Same Difference that incorporate text, either in the form of official signage, graffiti, or utilitarian and matter-of-fact (POWER). Your inclusion of these images in the sequence is incredibly poignant and important to the flow and meaning of the book. I find myself avoiding the inclusion of text in my pictures because it has a tendency to tether images to literal and absolute readings. Do you struggle with this, or do these pictures present themselves as naturally as everything else you photograph?

EP: I find myself drawn to making these types of pictures, but it is only every now and then that they actually seem to work well enough to make it into an edit, probably for the reasons that you mention. I find that the images with text work best when there is a certain amount of ambiguity or possibilities for multiple readings. This might happen when the text as a word or phrase seems to harmonize with the visual tone of the picture in a curious way. Finding the right balance of images with ‘messages’ was something we were very conscious of when editing the book. It’s a fine line to have text included that seems to add to the flow and tone without closing things down too tightly.

I’ve always been interested in these anonymous messages that surround us, that seem to pop into your mind while walking around the city. They always seem to be in the background, but of course as soon as you start looking for them they tend to disappear. Every once in a while I stumble upon one that works though. Putting them in the right place in a group of images is another way I play around with the possible readings as well as a means to let humor in.

 
 
© Ed Panar
 
 

RJ: When you’re out in the world making pictures, do you ever think in terms of discreet projects (such as Golden Palms), or does that all happen in the editing process?

EP: It’s complicated. During different stages of a project I may be thinking or looking more specifically, so I’d be fibbing if I said I never think about projects at all while shooting. But I try to keep my shooting process as open as possible, so most of the time I’m just taking pictures without thinking too much about other things. Lately, I’ve felt that thinking about projects too specifically while shooting comes down to asking yourself why this instead of that, or if you should take this or that picture, and I try not to ask too many of those kinds of questions while I’m out shooting. It’s important for me to feel like I’m as direct and responsive to the world as possible first and foremost, and these types of questions seem to get in the way of that. Most of the time I find that my work grows into projects as the result of a separate editing process that often takes place long after the act of shooting.

Golden Palms actually came about in this way.  When I was living and shooting in LA, imaging a future project was more like an abstract hope that something might emerge from what I was working on at a later date. I rarely processed film when I lived there, so most of the time I had no clue what I was even shooting. But I think this freed me up to shoot in a more open way, and it ended up making the evolution of the final project more open to discovery and surprise. At the moment, this is how I prefer to work. A lot of my projects start with me recognizing something that I was already doing without realizing it.

RJ: Your previous book, Golden Palms, was restricted geographically to Los Angeles. Same Difference, on the other hand, is vast and sprawling, yet feels similar to Golden Palms in its intent and structure. Both books seem to be about stringing together small, personal moments of discovery and epiphany into a broader narrative. Was it important for you to consider a larger pool of photographs for this book? Do you consider Same Difference to be more aggressive than Golden Palms?

EP: In Golden Palms, part of it for me was trying to deal with a place that is essentially unknowable and trying to put something together that made sense of my experience of it. I tend to photograph where I live, but I also travel regularly, so over time I collected pictures from a wide range of places. I have a tendency to group my images together geographically so this was an excuse to free myself from that constraint and work with a larger pool of pictures that I wouldn’t ordinarily consider being together.

Now that you mention it, I can see how there might be an aggressive quality to Same Difference, although I never thought of making it that way. With a project like this, part of the structure is trying to impose as little structure as possible, if that makes any sense. I wanted to see what happens when you imply connections where none might exist, and sever connections that might exist. It’s a strange thing to articulate really. Going through my archive and stringing together connections and relationships between new and old work is an important and endlessly fascinating process for me. With Same Difference I tried to make a book that is open enough to get lost in.

 
 
© Ed Panar
 
 

RJ: When I look at your photographs I’m constantly reminded of our failure as a species, yet there also seems to be a strong element of sympathy for your subjects. Your pictures don’t strike me as mean or cynical. Is this balance something you think about when you’re editing your pictures, or does it come about as a natural by-product of your own world-view?

EP: Hopefully it’s a by-product of the way I’m looking at the world. I tend not to think about things in as rigid categories as I think I’m supposed to. To be honest, not much makes sense to me a lot of the time. When I’m shooting, I feel most free to explore this space. But as I mentioned earlier, the editing process is where I feel a lot of ideas come to fruition. Sometimes what arises from shooting in an open kind of way doesn’t automatically translate when placed into an edit.  You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. While editing, a different type of openness seems necessary.

I don’t really try to achieve any one particular feeling in my work, but while editing I do try to remove anything that seems to steer it too much in any one particular way. Maybe I’m in search of some kind of neutral zone. That was really the goal for Same Difference, and with a lot of help and insight from Nicholas Gottlund, I think we struck a good balance.

RJ: You mentioned the input of Nicholas Gottlund in the editing process of Same Difference. Do you enjoy the collaborative aspect of working with a publisher? Have you ever had a difference of opinion on an edit that you had to defend?

EP: I really enjoy the collaborative aspect of putting together a book. Ideally you end up working with someone who seems to understand what you are doing on a fundamental level, and this certainly was the case with Nicholas Gottlund. I don’t think we had any significant differences of opinion with the development of this project, so it felt like a very organic process. There were times when we both questioned different aspects of the project, but we both seemed to share a common goal of making the best book possible so that dialogue only seemed to make the end result stronger.

 
 
© Ed Panar
 
 

RJ: Could you discuss the possible thematic relationships between Hot Rod and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser? Do you find yourself drawn to stories about half-witted man-children?

EP: I love it when subjects that are often regarded as either non-subjects, silly subjects, or less important subjects are elevated to the status of importance and interest, even if in a comical or absurd sense. Especially when executed well, which is not always the case. When it is, those half-witted man-children become heroes of a sort to me, exceptional in their unexceptionalness, triumphant in failure. One film that really comes to mind for me in this sub-genre is Being There.

RJ: How important have books been for you in terms of finding an audience for your work? Do you tend to think mostly in terms of books as a final form for your photographs, or are you equally ambitious about mounting exhibitions?

EP: When it comes to imagining my work in some type of ‘final’ form, the book is definitely first and foremost on my mind. Although my website is probably the primary way people encounter my work, so it might actually be more important in terms of finding an audience. Putting up shows and seeing my work on a wall is something I have done on occasion, but it is typically lower on the list of possible outlets for my work and not something I think about very much.

It’s not often that I am making physical prints of anything these days. I have a pretty modest operating budget so I have to choose what I invest in carefully. Most of my work is shot on film, which I have processed and then scan every frame. After varying degrees of editing or sifting, the next stop is usually a print-on-demand workbook. I never make contact sheets and haven’t had proof prints made for years. Instead, I make print-on-demand books that end up being a hybrid of contact sheets, diaries, sketches, and/or simply a record of what I was shooting in a given moment.  It gives me a chance to filter through my output as well as testing new ideas.

 
 
© Ed Panar
 
 

RJ: My website is embarrassingly clunky and basic, and I tend to see it not as a creative project, but as a simple way for people to look at project samples. This is probably a mistake, because as you said, more people probably encounter the work there than in any other form. Do you apply the same sort of editing and sequencing rigor to your website as you do your books?

EP: I see my website as a great exercise in editing and presentation, not unlike the series of workbooks that I put together. I try to completely revise my site at least once a year, with smaller updates and changes made intermittently. It’s important to make sure that it is as good as it can be each time. But since the web is such a fluid medium I also don’t worry about things being a bit off, and I’m ok with putting up work that may be quite raw in terms of development. It’s easy to change things around on the fly and I like the idea of putting stuff up that might suddenly disappear at any moment. So I guess you could say the website is a bit of a looser format for me overall, and that's one of the things I enjoy most about it. I like thinking of it more as a public sketchbook or a small window into my process rather than strictly a digital portfolio. There are a lot of interesting possibilities for how pictures can function online and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface in this regard.

RJ: For me, the last image in Same Difference serves as a beautiful epilogue for the book. It’s a perfect blend of joy, irreverence, and utter lameness, all in a single photograph. It tells us what we need to know, without taking us out of the visual experience. You could even say it functions as a suitable stand-in for an overwrought academic essay that explains how the photographs are supposed to work. Was this your intention for this photograph?

EP: I can’t say that those things specifically were on my mind, but I felt that it was a perfect note to end on and reading your question makes me feel good about that decision!  That picture came into play towards the very end actually, and it was Nicholas Gottlund who proposed ending with it. We felt that shot left the door open, to whatever might come next, for better or worse. It was just another example of going by intuition, it just felt right. I also liked the fact that after that image was added there is at least one picture from almost every year since 1994. Throughout the book I’m trying to suggest different paths without fully resting on any one of them. As a closer, this image is just another way to leave things open just a bit longer, twisting the ratio a bit further.

 
 
© Ed Panar
 
 

 

 

Ron Jude & Ed Panar