Fellow FSC member Katie Mollon alerted me to the Free Film USA project a few weeks ago. I was online looking it up within moments, and subsequently sent a message to Neil Hamamoto to see if he would like to chat with me about it. Fortunately for all of us, his answer was yes! Haven’t hear about the project? Check out the press release:
FREE FILM : USA presented by worthless studios
New York, NY - worthless studios is pleased to announce FREE FILM : USA, a conceptual public art project distributing and processing rolls of 35mm film across the United States for free. The project will be taking place in a 1973 Airstream trailer that has been converted into a professional darkroom and will travel across the country from August to mid-November 2019. The trailer will stop in 15-25 destinations, asking participants to take photographs based on their interpretation of the prompt ‘red, white and blue.’ The FREE FILM team will be using their stops as opportunities to interact with the local creative communities and gain insight on the unique vantage point of each location.
Photography’s ability to capture a singular, unaltered moment in time is one of the most powerful tools of documentation. The medium’s history in America is particularly noteworthy. Introduced in conjunction with the westward expansion of the United States, photography has immortalized many of the most significant moments in the span of our country’s modern history. Though nearly 200 years old, film photography continues to be celebrated in this technological age for its raw, unfiltered and poignant ability to archive instances otherwise lost.
FREE FILM : USA’s celebration of film photography is specific to its goal of capturing an unbiased look at the country. Participants are given free rein to interpret the words ‘red, white and blue’ as they see fit – whether focusing on its ties to patriotism and the experience of being American or how the words more broadly fit into their lives. Through this method of crowdsourcing, FREE FILM : USA will document an impartial, multifaceted, and well-rounded glimpse into present-day American life.
With each stop, the project seeks to activate the local artistic community and encourage creative participation. Once complete, the project will culminate in a curated body of photographs forever memorializing this particular time in the United States and furthering the imagistic archive of American history.
The FREE FILM team is made up of artists from a number of different backgrounds celebrating the arts in numerous modes of creation. This project will be a continuation of their interdisciplinary yet cohesive collaboration that has been established while alongside each other at worthless studios.
worthless studios provides space, materials, technical assistance and resources for aspiring artists of all backgrounds to realize their artistic visions. Founded in 2016 by Neil Hamamoto, and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2019, worthless studios was conceived as a platform committed to knowledge exchange, manufacturing, and public art. The studio has begun to showcase work from new artists in a number of different mediums including sculpture, painting, photography and performance.
Release date: June 3, 2019 Exhibition: FREE FILM : USA presented by worthless studios Dates: August 2019 – November 2019 Media Contact: Maria Vogel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Neil was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project; my questions are in bold, and his responses follow.
What was the genesis of this project?
I came up with the concept back in October of 2018. I was offered a prime piece of retail space on New York's Canal street and wanted to produce a project under my studio's name - worthless studios - instead of using the space to exhibit my personal sculptural work. worthless studios is a 501c3 non-profit focused on helping new artists start their careers. We provide support by way of studio space, materials and tools. Sean Jackson had been working out of the darkroom in the studio since inception and in thinking about how we could produce an interdisciplinary project FREE FILM : CANAL was born.
I absolutely love the idea of the mobile darkroom in the Airstream! That's been a little dream of mine for a while, but it really is just a dream. How was that process, in terms of sourcing one and getting it ready? I saw some photos on your instagram that make it look like it was a hefty undertaking.
Yes, the Airstream build itself was a huge huge undertaking. We turned a disgusting 1973 Airstream Land Yacht into a professional darkroom, office and exhibition space in about 5 months.
The Airstream build is really another example of how we work collaboratively as a studio. Another artist who has been working out of the studio - Free Tripp - was a huge contributor to making the Airstream possible. He designed the entire plumbing system and electrical system and of course contributed tons of hours to the physical building of it. Caroline Doyle (actually a local New York comedian) was the third set of hands that helped make the Airstream possible. We had to learn a lot as we went but it was an extremely rewarding project in itself that we all get to enjoy now that we are on the road and so far so good.
I'm interested in knowing more about y'all as a group. The press release says "The FREE FILM team is made up of artists from a number of different backgrounds celebrating the arts in numerous modes of creation. This project will be a continuation of their interdisciplinary yet cohesive collaboration that has been established while alongside each other at worthless studios." So, who are you? What sort of art do you each make? And would you like to talk about any collaborations from the past?
I'm Neil and I'm a conceptual artist from New York and the founder of worthless studios. I typical make sculptural work from wood, metal and other prefabricated objects. My most recent works and projects recontextualize commercially manufactured objects to invoke the feeling of newness. I like to revive the identity of outdated objects in order to offer a glimpse of the future present through a nostalgic lens and questions the worth of innovation. Before pursuing sculpture as a full time career, I studied mechanical engineering - product design, and worked in the wood and metal shops for Jeff Koons.
Sean Andrew Jackson has been working to create a portrait series of hand-selected artists each of whom are unique contributors to society, and/or burgeoning artists on the rise. Using an intimate lo-fi monochromatic approach, his aim is to depict these characters as they are in daily life - animated and down-to-earth - behind the scenes and façade of social or commercial media.
Jackson is an American social-documentary photographer born in rural Virginia, now based in New York City focusing on exploring small groups of people. After studying journalism at the University of North Carolina, Jackson spent a period of time working in the newsroom at CNN before moving to Manhattan to apprentice for photographer and icon Bruce Weber.
He is deeply fascinated by the power of people and aims to pair his photography and film alongside his love for anthropological storytelling.
Free is an interdisciplinary artist currently working in New York. His works in sculpture, performance, and sound are responses to the relationship of the interior and exterior and the transmissions of the imaginary into what is real. Since 2018 Free has been working at worthless studios as an artist assistant to Neil.
Caroline is a comedian and writer living and performing in Brooklyn. She grew up in San Francisco and has performed stand up in Chicago, Berlin, the Bay Area and New York, as well as at comedy festivals like SF Sketchfest, the DC Comedy Festival, and Big Little Comedy Fest.
She’s a contributor at Reductress and has been published in the Pink Canoe and Little Old Lady Comedy. Catch her at her monthly shows Stacy at Rebecca's Bar in Brooklyn and Jokes Engineered at Caveat on the LES. Cheers!
How much film did you acquire for the project?
Quite a bit! We budgeted around 100 rolls per city and are stopping in 18 cities across the country.
How did you decide what cities to visit?
First and foremost I wanted to visit cities that I had not been to before. That list consisted of Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Portland, Santa Fe, Austin, New Orleans, Birmingham and Asheville. Of course there are tons of cities that I've never seen in the US so then it was deciding which cities were big enough to have a film photography market but small enough to not have the access to a darkroom or analog photo network. I also tried to keep the diverse range of US cities in mind and evenly balance our stops
How's it been going so far? How's the response been?
So far so good! The response from participants and visitors is always positive and I anticipate more of the same as we continue onward. We've finished processing all of the Detroit rolls and have made some selections to be printed. We've also started processing Milwaukee rolls and are excited to start building this exhibition on the theme.
Samples of work from participating photographers, from the Detroit stop: