Downtown: Photography by Dan Mouer
My profession is anthropology-the observation and interpretation of human culture using the tools of ethnography and archaeology. The camera and the printmaking process are natural adjuncts to that profession. My typical subjects are people or their creations.
Houses, buildings, city streets and human faces and figures are the stuff I make most of my pictures from. My earliest photographic influences came from Henri Cartier-Bresson's 35mm "street photography" of the 1940s and 50s. The color works of William Eggleston and Joel Meyerwitz in the 60s and 70s have also been greatly influential in my approach. I've had training and experience in cinematography and film production, and it's fair to say that film-especially the "art film" of the 1960s and 70s-helped to shape my approach.
My intention and inspirations are documentary and commentary-I almost never "construct" a photograph-but I also don't feel constrained to work entirely within the constraints of "straight" photography. I identify my work as art-social art, perhaps-as interpreted and mediated documentation. While I am attracted to traditional genres-landscape, portrait, architecture-I've always felt most at home with human subjects in their everyday activities and environments.
During the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, much of my personal work in photography was part of an ongoing project I called Doors, Walls and Windows. In contrast with formal architectural photographs, traditionally made with large-format, perspective-correcting cameras, I was documenting the human built environment from the perspective of a street photographer. My subjects included houses, Maharajah's palaces, highways, archaeological ruins and streetscapes in varying stages of construction and decay. I photographed doors, walls and windows in India, Southeast Asia, Mexico, the Caribbean, and through the United States. My concerns were less with architectural properties than with the processes of time, light, weather and the fleeting aesthetics of the moment.
The prints I've chosen for this exhibit are from the Downtown series. While some were made with a large format camera on transparency sheet film, most are the results of long walks through downtown Richmond and the neighborhoods of Jackson Ward, Shockoe Bottom and Manchester with a 35mm camera and color negative film. In addition to images that concentrate on the human built environment, I have also included a couple that focus on the more typical subject of so-called street photography-humans and their interactions with streets, sidewalks, light, each other, and the camera.