Delaney Allen

Interview

Your work sometimes seems like a travelogue. What role does travelling play in your work?

It plays an important role considering how I came about making the work I make today. In my second year of graduate school I challenged myself to further examine photography and look at subjects I had yet to encounter. For me, that was landscape photography. At that time I was also in a relationship with a girl who lived 2,000 miles away. We were always travelling between our two cities to see one another, so travel became a big part of my life and something I began documenting for the first time. There had always been a fascination with the road and the unknown around the next bend but I had yet to ever look at it through the lens. It really changed the way I was working and led me down a new path. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time alone on the road trying to find these hidden moments out in the middle of nowhere.

While you are travelling on the surface of the earth, it seems that your photos also tell a travelogue about a journey inside yourself.

Yeah, definitely. A lot of what I do is very personal. When putting together a series I try to incorporate myself into it. That has to do with my fascination of self-portraiture. For a time, while I was studying as an undergraduate, I was taking classes on film theory. That was the first time I was introduced to the term auteur and it shifted the way I thought. I realized that it would be difficult to truly take control of my work in the medium of film, so I started to shift to photography. After that initial move into photography I was introduced to the book “Portraiture” by Richard Brilliant and when reading about the ideas of the “sitter” and who maintains authorship in a portrait I realized I was really only interested in making work that was about myself – places I’ve travelled alone, still life images I’ve arranged and self-portraiture. Over time I’ve gone on to integrate some of my writing to further that personal aspect and make the work very biographical in nature.

What about nature? Does nature play a special role? Or is nature only the stage on which you work with yourself?

Nature does play a special role. I’ve never really been intrigued with street photography or documentary or any sort of architecturally driven work. And with my move to Oregon, that opened my eyes to different elements in nature that I had never been exposed to while growing up in Texas. Since a lot of my series are derived from ideas of mood or emotion I find nature to be a big influence – the changing weather, seasons, sunsets, how light shifts throughout the day. With that, nature aids my work in the sense of a story that I ultimately want to tell.

Do you travel only by car?

For the most part I do. I travel a lot between Oregon and Texas and when that happens I fly. I enjoy flying and the different sense of the landscape you can get from being in the air. But when given an option, I’d prefer to drive. That always allows me more time and options to explore.

Do you have special routes that you drive often?

I think a lot of us are naturally inclined to be habit-forming and I take that into consideration when I go out. That being said, some places I will revisit often can only be accessed in certain ways, which means that I have to travel the same path. But when that does occur, I often try to stop at various places that I haven’t stopped at before. And I’m always searching for new places to explore, which leads me to different parts of the region and down new roads. I spend a lot of time viewing maps and making notes of roads I’ve yet to see.

Did you ever get lost?

I have a very hard time getting lost in the physical sense. My personality and interest in maps tend to always allow me some idea of where I am. Typically if I travel to a place one time then I will be able to return to it just through memory. That’s either driving, walking city streets or when hiking. But I do get lost mentally. A lot of my time spent on the road can either be seen as a sense of therapy or time spent furthering ideas. Driving takes me out of my home/studio routine and really makes me focus on my thoughts. I also feel this way when I am hiking alone.

Where do you create your still lifes? Does this also happen while travelling?

Most of my still life work is created in my studio. With its re-emergence in photography over the past few years I decided to start using random objects I had either in my studio or in my house and see what I could come up with. It still feels like it’s in the exploratory stage for me at the moment. But I have also started thinking about ideas of taking still lifes, either found or created, in nature. Andy Goldsworthy has become a huge influence on me over the years and I’ve been thinking a lot of late about his documentation of these creations he makes out in the world.

In your series “Painting A Portrait” you mix self-portraits with pictures of places from your journeys. Would you say these places mirror your inner life and the other way around? Or is it more a dialogue between the places and you?

With that series, I see it as a journey inward. The opening and closing images of this work show a cave – the first being the beginning of a journey down into the cave and the last looking back from some distance to the opening of the cave. I used that imagery to allow the viewer to see they were going inwards and the work progressed. And when discussing that body of work, I always like to refer to it in a whole as self-portraiture. The dialogue between the places and myself only comes from the ideas of loneliness and singularity. A lot of my editing choices came based on those two words to further the ideas of that work.

Do you perceive your work as scientific field research?

In my eyes the way you work has a slight resemblance to the work of astronauts, anthropologists, psychologists or geologists, who explore hard-to-reach areas in the inside and outside world.
I think with my first two books, this happened unintentionally. I based that work on where I was or how I was feeling in life at the time. But in retrospect, looking back and coming to some understanding of the work, I can see how it could be seen that way. What’s funny is that a lot of the reading I’ve been doing over the past year has been self-help books. And with an interest in those books my natural progression was to move onto studying psychology. That’s what I’m currently doing, studying ideas by Carl Jung and those who have expanded on certain ideas he proposed. So I can see how that could have been a subconscious way of approaching the work.

Can you tell us something about the role of text in your work? In “Painting A Portrait” there are really intimate diary entries that connect and interweave the photos. Is text a fundamental part of your work?

I based that body of work roughly on a one-year period in my life. When I began the editing process, I looked back at random writings I’d made – be it in my notebook, on my phone or maybe something I’d tweeted. I wanted to recapture what I’d been feeling. As I began to see these texts laid out to help with the photo editing process, I felt it would be beneficial to include them in the work. I understood they were important to further what I was going through at the time. And I believe that they can stand on their own throughout the work. Whether they’re intimate, or possibly a little funny, they can help this idea of loneliness and allow the viewer to really see what I was feeling beyond what I was capturing through the viewfinder.
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