Tim Roda: Family AlbumApr 18 — May 25, 2007


I started using photography, not for the love of the technical aspects of the medium, but because of its properties, both abstract and physical. It is the only medium I can use to best depict my vision of life, art and time.

Although the final product is a photograph, the work casually travels within arenas of installation, photography, film and performance. A camera is used to record one moment in time that balances between memories and constructed commentaries, yet is a documentation of “real” events for my wife, Allison, and son, Ethan.

Every scene that has been created was first envisioned in my mind and then played out by my family. Although we are the immediate subjects, the work is filled with metaphorical reverberations of my family history and my memories of childhood.

My son’s ever-present, central role in the work serves as an identifiable entry point for the audience. Allison’s role is to photograph the work, though she occasionally appears in the images. Over time, we have developed an unspoken language intuiting my vision of art.

Although splattering chemicals on the paper and altering my negatives provides some visual variation in the physicality of the image, the “content” of the image has always been the most important quality of the photograph. Overall, the photographs capture moments of ambiguity so that the work can be understood in several layers. I strive to produce a sensation that makes people both familiar and uneasy about the incongruence of life’s experiences.

When asked about the irregularity of the margins in my work, I explain that there is a relationship between the apparent contempt for the materials and the reverence for the subjects of the imagery. I have always said that the subject is the most important part of my work. I understand that for people from photography backgrounds the technique of my work is very distracting to the content. My work is all about metaphor. The rough edges, irregular margins, erratic fixer stains, and haphazard tonal range are suggestive of the working-class way of life that my grandfather experienced when he came to America as an Italian immigrant. This set of values was passed down to my father and then to me in all of its eccentricities. For example, my grandfather and father built our family home, swimming pool, tree fort and decks out of the same secondary wood they built our chicken house with. My father just built a two-car garage with three sides and wood that looked like a patchwork quilt.

Technically, I could print what photographers would consider to be a perfect picture, but I would consider that to be imperfect. The seeming imperfections that you see on the physical print are similar to ways that I use the materials within the photograph. The props or devices I include in the images are made of paper, wood, tape and clay—simply because they are all mediums that are all disposable or re-usable. I have decided that it is more important for me to be myself and approach techniques and materials the way I do rather than jeopardize the integrity of my art by conforming to existing standards.

—Tim Roda

Museum of Contemporary Photography

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