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A Brief Interview with Jared Ragland

SM: Who are you?
JR: My name is Jared Ragland.

SM: What are you?
JR: I’m a fine art and documentary photographer and former White House photo editor. I currently teach and coordinate exhibitions and community programs in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


SM: When are you?
JR: I’m so yesterday.  If I was Gil Pender from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, it wouldn’t be Peugot picking me up for a party with F. Scott and Zelda; instead it’d be ’49 Hudson to take me to a jazz club with Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty.

SM: Where are you?
JR: Always someplace else, it seems.

SM: Why are you?
JR: In Walker Percy’s 1961 novel The Moviegoer, tells the story of Binx Bolling, a thirty-something stockbroker in New Orleans who battles an existential crisis by going to the movies and embarking on “the search.” “The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life,” Percy writes. “To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”


SM: In your series, Everything is Going to Be Alright we see a number of forms employed be it cinematic structure, the human form as icon, chemical and plant structures, or man made structures: buildings, roller coasters, music. Many of the images themselves are manipulated to look like a film negative—the structure perhaps one could argue, from which a photographic image is made. All suggest, a certain structure necessary to make communication—that is to say language—work and all of these structures or languages are contingent upon the other. They are neither true nor false but hold some logical connectives which are dependent upon fact.


SM: Those facts, might be collective understanding of a place, a mood, or like an audience watching a movie together—informed by a very specific space that once the house lights are turned on again, is no longer and subject to change with the passage of time. Everything is Going to Be Alright suggests that by way of these connectives and despite truth or falsity, everything will in fact be alright. Share if you would, your thoughts on the value of these structures on which we understand otherwise complex ideas of interconnectivity.


JR: Thank you for such an insightful reading of the work, Shaun. The images in the series are certainly interconnected and reference, oftentimes tangentially, The Moviegoer, as well as to my own sense of “the search.” While the more familiar images may provide a point of entry, the context or combinations in which the original and appropriated images are presented reveal alternate, more nuanced meanings. Often fluctuating in feeling between intimacy and distance, private and public, realism and metaphor, the dualities in the pictures allow for a breadth of inquiry and mystery that, for me, is more exciting and challenging than a more straightforward, linear sequence of traditionally-made photographs.


JR: In The Moviegoer, it is the search itself, rather than arriving at some certainty, that compels Binx to act. Likewise, my goal is to encourage viewers to journey toward a kind of understanding based not only on observation, but also on self-reflection through contemplative analysis and deep viewing practices. By combining the two kinds of images – original and appropriated, the commonplace and the obscure – my aim is to dissolve boundaries of space, place, and time while building conceptual narratives that are held together by a consistent emotional sensibility.