Q&A: Thomas Gardiner


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? No. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? I don’t know, but I imagine it will have something to do with rising sea levels and global warming. It’s a unique and troubling prospect that no other generation prior has had to deal with in quite the same way. At the same time I suppose the most baffling and tragic realization of every generation is the notion that, inevitably: every generation, in some way or another, has been seemingly unable to avoid the same kinds of mistakes as the previous ones. Are you aware of any conspiracies? Occasionally, but I think there are too many to keep up to. What is it that interests you about photography? I really don’t know. I suppose if it were something I felt capable of defining I would have lost interest in it a long time ago. What is the worst thing about city life? Nothing. I like cities. What part of the planet would you like to explore? The stratosphere. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? ESP. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Maybe astronomy?

What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? I don’t know? I find missed moments often become as valuable to me as the ones when I do have a camera. They tend to provide me with a motivation to bring my camera out in an attempt to re-find that particular moment, which I had earlier missed. At the same time, the duration following a missed opportunity can begin to shape my imagination and form a kind of criteria for what I might like to shoot in the future. Of course, you can never get that moment back; and everything changes completely when you actually do have a camera present for that new moment, however similar to the missed one it might be. And it changes completely once again when I see that image as an actual photograph. Ultimately, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t— but by then you should have enough to work with… so you might as well embrace it! Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. I think anybody who is involved in art experiences the true meaning of doing something for free if they decide to continue on with it. This being the case, doing something for free ‘on the side’ when you’re already doing something for free is seldom a viable option. How often do you take other people’s advice? Never. Describe a personal hell. Being on the phone with those automated telephone systems that every company has these days and realizing you are yelling at a machine. On what occasion do you lie? Usually to get out of an embarrassing situation. In such a case it comes down to a mere cost/benefit analysis. If the potential guilt experienced from lying is less than the grief of the embarrassment felt, then you are actually ethically in the right to go ahead and lie… true fact!

What was the last crime you witnessed? I had just stepped outside my door at around quarter to noon one day just as I saw someone throw a rock through the window of my friend’s car. The guy took her Ipod and then sped away on his bike. It all happened right in front of me. What is the best way to educate yourself? Make all the mistakes you can and embrace failure. It’s the only way to learn anything! What is the next book you want to read? I don’t know, I got a stack at home that is really beginning to pile up. I don’t really want to think about it. Ultimate camera? I would love to put an 8×10 digital back on my 8×10 camera. Most used camera? 8×10 Kodak Master View Camera. 
What object do you want? Nothing. What object do you need? Everything. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? I will probably have a great answer for that if I can ever succeed in showing my mom how to use the computer. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? Yes. Describe a cheap thrill. I have a soda-water-making machine at home. I guess that’s as good as it gets. Are impulses more important than consequences? That depends. Which talent would you most like to have? I always thought it would be nice to be a few inches taller. I’m actually sincere about that! What is your plan for the next 24 hours? I’m going to go to bed in a couple hours, sleep for maybe 6, get up at five and go to work for probably a 16 hour shift at my job… that should cover it!

Thomas Gardiner, from the series Untitled USA (2011-2012) – Website.

Thomas Gardiner graduated from Yale with an MFA in Photography in 2012. He earned his BFA from The Cooper Union, during which time he began working with a 4×5 camera to document the small communities he grew up in around Western Canada. During his studies at Yale he switched to 8×10, and began documenting working-class cities in the Northeast around New Haven. In his first year he was awarded Yale’s Schickle-Collingwood Prize and in his final year both the Leeds-Marwell Photography Scholarship and the Tierney Fellowship. He currently lives in Brooklyn.