I carry in my pocket a small orange

Photographs by Aysia Stieb
Interview via emails, November 2018


What's the story behind Foot Tap, Jaw Jerk?

Foot Tap, Jaw Jerk is a long-running title for the work that I have been doing for the past 2 years [which] first came out as a two-person show that my good friend / frequent collaborator Jack Bool and I had in November 2017. [The project] refers to that exhibition, but is also still fitting for the things I am continuing to make and photograph. The work intertwines with a previous body of work titled  Apples - Oranges. The core ideas are about sensuality, desire, and sweetness but they are always expanding in relationship to where I am with myself in the moment of taking a photograph.

What is the feeling that compels you to make a photograph?

 The best way to describe the emotions behind my work is with this piece of writing that evolved while working on Apples - Oranges. I've included a small piece of it:

I carry in my pocket a small orange and wait until I am bored enough to break that baby out and enjoy it. I hold the small fruit in my hand and recline a little more in my plastic chair. I carefully peel the orange, not so carefully that it takes a long time, just so that it unravels as one piece to keep the mess to a minimum. I have a lot of practice. I don’t have to look down and so I stare blankly in front of me. I think about that time when I stared out into a field all I could see was a strong color blue and how that feeling was recreated the other night when we were feeling really calm and grateful and we stared out into a different field and I thought it would be black but it was yellow in spots because we were in the middle of a city. We quickly dropped our bags and sprinted straight into the space that you just told me your imagined in your head 15 minutes ago when we were meditating on the floor. You told me, and we ran into, the horizon which kept going and moving away and I was reminded of driving in the Yucatan thinking about Robert Smithson's writing about his travels in the Yucatan like that other guy who wrote the original book about his travels in the Yucatan.


Even after publication, it seems that your bodies of work often continue to grow. What's significant about this, why do you continue to add to these specific bodies of work?

It's a combination of many things. I am not interested in limiting anything as it may get further away from what it wants to be. For the most part, all of the concepts and emotions central to a project I am still experiencing and expanding on. Plus, sometimes a new picture looks best with an old picture and together they tell me about how I am still the same person even through change.

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Where does Foot Tap, Jaw Jerk get its name?

This title came from a moment I have almost everyday (usually on the train, in transit, on the treadmill) when I want to dance but feel I cannot because I'm in public, and so I have these foot taps and head bobbing or "jaw jerks" to the beat of the music I'm listening to. In those moments, I have a strange visualization of myself from the outside while simultaneously feeling things viscerally and internally. 

How does that feeling you describe, "I have a strange visualization of myself from the outside while simultaneously feeling things viscerally and internally," relate to your understanding and unpacking of your pictures?

I am always interested in the surface of the picture. Physically in exhibition and how it is presented and printed, and also what the picture looks like upon first impression. I think that seeing something in construction, like the viewers personal understanding of a subject like a woman or a bee, and my understanding of myself in a public setting (like on the train) is contrasted with the emotion and linked experiences beneath someone's impression of that woman or that bee.


Are your bodies of work always decided in advance? Or, do they typically develop organically? Are projects formed after the fact and in the editing process?

 I don't work in projects but photograph, edit, and combine based on something like: this is what I am thinking, and these sensations and emotions are the ones I continue to make pictures of, so how can I keep expressing that? Right now I am trying to work on a group of photos that are more time and location specific, but they really continue to be about sensation and experience from that time and location.

What's the new work you're developing?

Many of the pictures I am working with right now were taken at my house in Berkeley. My partner Noah has been remodeling the house for the past year and so we have been living on a construction site. The pictures are not directly of that but it has definitely influenced what pictures I have taken in the past year here. Dust, sunsets, lots of trees, concrete, tools, etc.


Outside of photography, what inspires you? 

Moving/movement is the most inspiring thing to me. Traveling is number one, it is really important and such a gift. So much I value and new things I've learned have come from traveling. Also physically moving my body. Dancing, hiking, working out, stretching. I made some work about walking in the past. Separate from movement, I'm also inspired by sea turtles, fruit, my mom, puppy dogs, recently some episodes of Oprah's Sunday podcast... haha.