About the Photographer
American, b. 1977
A camera is used to record one moment of time that hovers between memories and constructed commentaries yet is a documentation of 'real time' events for me, my wife Allison, and son Ethan… Although we three are the immediate subjects, the work is filled with metaphorical reverberations of my own memories of childhood and family traditions. — Tim Roda
Tim Roda stages small dramas in collaboration with his wife and son. The scenes they perform draw on the artist's memories, giving them visual expression, but the recollected moments take on a new, dynamic existence as his family members become active participants. Roda's process may center on performance and culminate in a series of photographs but it ultimately integrates sculpture and installation as well. Originally trained as a ceramicist Roda builds props and backdrops out of materials like clay, paper and wood. These basic, roughly constructed elements give his work the semblance of a theatrical production, an effect heightened by the bright spotlights that illuminate the scenes. Meanwhile, the undisguised fabrications and the rawness of his stagings respond to the nature of memory itself, which renders things schematically in our minds. The way Roda employs the medium of photography extends these ideas. Eschewing a pristine presentation, he allows flaws that emerge in the printing process—hand-cut edges, irregular margins, erratic fixer stains, and abnormal tonal ranges—to take on expressive value. These imperfections extend the rough constructions depicted within the photographs while also functioning as metaphors for life's unpredictability.
Roda's use of improvised sculptural elements is intimately tied to his childhood, specifically to memories of his grandfather. Roda states, "His eccentric and imaginative ability to cope with a less than perfect world was passed down to my father and then to me. My grandfather and father built our family home, swimming pool, tree fort, decks and chicken house out of scrap materials. What you see in these prints is an analog for my memory of those aspects of my family history." In turn, Roda's photographs often depict the artist passing on certain traditions or teaching his own son the ways of a haphazard world. In images such as Untitled #63, for example, Roda and his son re-enact "Chicken Sunday," an annual observance in the artist's family as he grew up, during which they would kill thirty of their chickens for food in the yard. Here, however, Roda steps into his father's place and wields the knife while his son assumes the role of observer, which he himself held as a boy. As in many of Roda's works, Ethan looks nervous or unhappy—probably a mixture of reality and his father's coaching—and the photograph depicts a moment of comradery with an uncertain, ominous undercurrent. Father and son are seen inhabiting a constructed world that could be the product of a child's fancy, though one indelibly informed by the accumulated hardships of adult life.
Tim Roda received a BFA in ceramics from Pennsylvania State University (2002) and an MFA in ceramics from the University of Washington. He currently lives and works in New York.