You’re currently getting your BFA at Syracuse University. How has that experience been?
Getting my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Syracuse has absolutely informed my practice. I took a class with Doug DuBois my Sophomore year called Image/Sequence: Photo Book. Doug had published a book with Aperture a few years before called ..all the days and night. Books are a topic Doug is hyper passionate about and knows like the back of his hand; he was a great teacher. The class was my crash course in the book form starting with Robert Frank’s The Americans (which is a lot of book nerds’ bible) to complex modern books like Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood. That class really changed things for me and gave me a hunger to start making books.
You recently published a zine of your work called But I’m Sexy, Can’t You Tell? What was the process like of putting this zine together?
But I’m Sexy, Can’t You Tell? was a long process to put together. I started it right after the class with Doug in the summer of 2012. The original working title was I Love You More Than You and featured more traditional Garry Winogrand style street photography. As I made more mock up versions of the zine and showed it to all my teachers and fellow students, I realized it was just wasn’t very good. I was a poor Winogrand style shooter at the time, and it was simply a bad zine. You have to be unforgiving and ruthless when editing work. Sometimes an image that you love needs to be cut to make a better sequence. The project got put on the back burner in the spring of 2013 when I studied abroad in the Czech Republic, which ended up being the best thing I could have done. I revisited it when I got back to the states, finalized the edit, and did a run of 77 copies through a great production house called Conveyor Arts in the fall of 2013.
The work featured in the zine was shot in Prague and Philadelphia. Did you find it difficult to join the two or was it one body of work from the start?
That was initially a big worry and problem for me as an editor, but I quickly realized that the work wasn’t tied to any geographic location. One of the reasons the inclusion of the work from Prague is so important is that it helps the zine speak to something specific, instead being about city x. In addition to Philadelphia and Prague there are also images from Oslo, Budapest, and New York City. But that isn’t significant for me, the work isn’t about location.
That was my problem with the initial edit of I Love You More Than You (the first draft of the zine), it was too general and trying to speak about place. But I’m Sexy, Can’t You Tell isn’t about geography, but rather the consequences of taking a perfect idea, like an advertisement or architecture, and watching it slowly warp and shift in the urban landscape.
Take for example the cover image of the blacked out tooth. That was originally an advertisement for Gap clothing on the side of a bus shelter. It had some slogan like “be you!” with an alternative-ish model with a gap tooth. Someone found that ad and drew sharpie marker over one of her teeth. That interaction is really interesting me to. It starts with this perfect digital file that is what Gap clothing wants, and as it is introduced to the urban landscape where it warps into something totally different and unexpected.
You started your own publishing company, Humble Parrot, in 2013. Tell us about that.
When self-publishing it’s tempting to just put out a publication under your name, but “Chris Trigaux” isn’t very sticky. Also, Trigaux isn’t the easiest thing in the world to spell. In order to establish a memorable umbrella name, that I and possibly other artists in the future could produce work under, Humble Parrot was born. I was really inspired by Alec Soth’s publishing house called Little Brown Mushroom. He produces independent newspapers and art books under that name. I was also trying to funnel some of Soth’s poetics when I came up with the title Humble Parrot. Photography is like a mushroom, in that it take pre-existing material, the scene in front of the lens, and decomposes/reuses it to make something new. This is in contrast to other media like painting that start with nothing but a blank canvas. Photography is one of the only art forms that starts with the finished product. In this way it’s like a parrot as well, which are these entities that just copy whats around them, like a camera.
I contacted my buddy Joe Maccarone, to make the humble parrot logo. I set up big-cartel site and before I knew it I started a publishing company.
What other projects are you working on?
Right now my major project is my thesis for my BFA program at Syracuse University. That will exhibit in a pop-show exhibition at Spark Contemporary Art Space in late April. I definitely have more plans for Humble Parrot. I just need to produce more content before I can think about putting together more zines/books.
Chris Trigaux is an art photography student at Syracuse University. Copies of his zine “But I’m Sexy, Can’t You Tell?” are available for purchase here.