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Artist's Statement: Scott Areman's "The Room"

By David Schonauer   Friday July 25, 2014


“One night I was sitting on my couch watching a documentary on Van Gogh. They showed his portraits and the small room where he lived in France,” says Atlanta-based photographer (and PPD reader) Scott Areman. “I remembered how much I liked his portraits and thought it would be fun to do something similar.” So began Aremen’s intriguing project “The Room.”After watching the Van Gogh doc, Areman stumbled upon a 300-square-foot office space with what he says had “perfect light.” He then recruited subjects via Craigslist to create a “series of portraits that were simple, without a lot of production,” accompanied by interviews that “reveal even more of the people pictured to present a moving and powerful piece.” As Areman explains in today’s edition of Artist’s Statement, the personal project  that “just came together” has helped land some big ad-agency jobs.

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Artist’s Statement
“The Room”
By Scott Areman

I’m often thinking about what I want to shoot for personal projects. One night I was sitting on my couch watching a documentary on Van Gogh. They showed his portraits and the small room where he lived in France. I remembered how much I liked his portraits and thought it would be fun to do something similar—a series of portraits that were simple, without a lot of production. As I was thinking about it, I looked on Craigslist that night and found a small, 300-square-foot office that had great natural light. It was easy. It all just came together.

I posted on Craigslist that I was looking to do portraits of all types of people. I got about 80 responses and did about 30 portraits and interviews with the subjects. I would first do the interview for 15 to 20 minutes, then take about 40 to 60 minutes for the portraits. My goal was to work without an assistant, hair/makeup artist, or stylist. No computers, no lights, no Internet—just me and whoever walked in the door. All of the portraits were shot with a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 50mm 1.4G lens at f/2.0 or f/2.8. I asked people to bring some options for clothing, but I photographed almost everyone in what they came in wearing. I would drive home and back up the images and interviews.



At this point I've created online a mini site (theroomproject.net), and I have designed and printed a tabloid-size magazine that I’m using as a promo piece to send to clients and new contacts. I worked with a graphic designer named Ariel Nay to create the magazine. I wanted the portraits and the promo piece to have an editorial feel. It took several months to get the layouts the way I wanted. I’m not a graphic designer, but I usually have a strong idea of how I want something to look. I’ve also been looking into how I could use social media like Tumblr or Facebook to more directly engage viewers and potential clients—and to find other people to photograph.

Doing the project this way brought the focus on the process of being with the people I was shooting. I think the simplicity allowed for the emotional depth of the project. The interviews reveal even more of the people pictured to present a moving and powerful piece. The work also brought me back to the beginning of my career, when I did a series of portraits using natural light and a seamless paper background. Coming full circle helped me to reconnect with how much I love photography and portraits in particular.

Interestingly, I have had several clients hire me to shoot advertising campaigns or design projects based on the look of "The Room." However, I had to come up with a lighting setup that would resemble the look of the natural light in that space to use in the studio when shooting those commercial jobs.

 

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