Clayton Cotterell – Noé
“”Noé” is an experimental documentary project concentrated on Noé Jimenez, an eighteen year old living in New Haven, Connecticut. When I met him in a painter’s open studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2006, we quickly struck up a conversation. He explained that he was an artist and shared his incredibly tenuous plans for his immediate future. When I asked his age, I was shocked to learn that he was only sixteen at the time as his demeanor and interests had led me to believe that he was at least in his twenties and much closer to my own age. Despite his maturity, there were times where his true age was exposed through his physical gestures and naïve comments.”
How did he change since you started photographing Noé?
Noé has changed in the ways that most of us change in the period he is in. He has wanted and gained independence, had relationships begin and fail, and started a path toward adulthood by experiencing the world around him.
How did you change?
This was really the first project I completely put myself into for such an extended period of time, so it was a huge learning process for me. When finalizing the statement for the work, it felt more like a confession than an artist’s statement, and that taught me a lot about the way I make work and how I need to understand why I make the things that I do.
Has any of you had an influence on the other’s character, life direction, artistic plans?
Noé is an artist and I think he enjoys talking about his work with me. He is in art school as a painter now and will soon finish, but I think he’d be doing that regardless of our relationship.
What was your next project after Noé? Was it connected to this one in any way?
My next project after Noé was All in the Family, where I photographed my younger brother before and after he had joined the US Army. The two are very connected in terms of the time of life they were each experiencing. Where they differ is the context in which they exist.
Has this series been exhibited?
It has been exhibited in a few group shows around New York City but has never really been reviewed.
How do you think the intimate moments you show in your photographs are linked to the artistic creation?
I think by bringing together the intimate moments, and molding them into a sequence or edit is where the artistic creation begins. As a photographer, I compose and push the button of my camera when I feel the time is right, but without really knowing why most of the time. I suppose the choice of the moment is also an act of artistic creation by capturing what I’m seeing.
Why does the world need this kind of images? Or, if you think it doesn’t, why do you need to take them?
I’m not so sure whether or not the world needs these images. I made them because it was a way for me to figure things out for myself. I think that’s why a lot of artists make the work they do, because they’re trying to understand something more clearly. This project was really my own escape from an adult reality. I idolized the time and intimate moments Noé was experiencing by photographing them.
You co-curate a photography blog (wanderlustagraphy.blogspot.com) with another photographer, Amy Elkins (featured on oitzarisme, too). How do curating and creating art go along?
Curating is a nice exercise from time to time because you’re forced to look at other’s work and see how the images can fit together. It helps when looking at your own photographs and piecing them into an edit or sequence. Also, Amy is my girlfriend so it’s fun to collaborate on something together.
What do you look for in the images you post on that blog?
I just look for something unique in an image and keep it in the back of my mind while looking at the other submissions. It usually starts with a visual thread that somehow makes sense.
How do you see the contemporary art, and especially photography, developing?
It seems that contemporary photography has been turning on itself for a while, meaning photographers are looking at the medium and thinking up new ways of developing it. There’s also a blending of genres taking place that I think is positive. When I was in school I remember a lot of people seeming to be very cautious of using the word “documentary” when talking about their “art”, as if taking straight photographs of real things wasn’t artful. That always bothered me and I hope it doesn’t stick around. People are taking much more liberty with their photographs these days and it’s exciting to see.