Daniel Peebles: Mise-en-Scène
Some years ago, I was visiting the Foam Museum in Amsterdam and came across a wonderful exhibition by Taco Anema, where he was commissioned by the city of Amsterdam to create portraits of families in the Dutch Master style. Photographer Daniel Peebles echoes this approach to photographing family, but in an off-kilter, multi layered, very American way. The result of his efforts are a voyeuristic glimpse into family life, with an expanded narrative that allows for the small novellas of everyday life.
“These triptychs are created with an 8×10 view camera and a super wide lens, the aperture always set at f 64. I scan the color negative film, then the triptychs are put together in Photoshop, un-manipulated, and the images are digitally output as archival pigment prints on cotton rag.”
Everyone has a prescribed role within their family, and I allow family members to show me how they are together. As I work, especially during the down time moments, I watch for the unconscious mannerisms from my subjects that are so indicative of who they are on a personal level and how they relate to each other. I take my queue from their environment, actions, and gestures. This is ultimately the glue that binds and describes family.
In the triptychs, my subjects appear repeatedly throughout the three frames; expanding the narrative, addressing time and space, unlike a single frame is able to achieve.
On one hand, the photographs depict individuals within a family, but on the other, they are my personal investigation into the complicated relationships between human beings. I create a set within their environment, an impromptu theater production, where their story becomes intertwined with my own, a collaborative visual autobiography.
These pictures are manufactured realities, my own extrapolation of the many contradictions that make us human: our frailties, our strengths, our loneliness, our intimacies, and above all, our absurdities.
As with any stage or film production, there is crew and collaboration. I must express deep gratitude for my assistant, Ashleigh Abbott, without whose sharp wit and strong back, this project would never have seen the light of day.
With the exception of a few years in New York City, Daniel Peebles has lived in New Mexico since he moved to Albuquerque in 1980 to attend graduate school at the University of New Mexico, where he received an MA in Art Studio, Photography. Peebles was born and raised in Excelsior, Minnesota, a small lakeside community outside Minneapolis. He came to the Southwest via California, where he received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.
Besides his undergraduate studies, Peebles also worked as an assistant for The Friends of Photography, and The Ansel Adams Photography workshops. At the workshops, he worked with pivotal photographers including, Ansel Adams, Arnold Newman, Barbara Crane, Robert Heineken, amongst many others, who were (are) responsible for blazing the trail of what defines photography today.
After graduate school, Daniel Peebles taught photography at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Dissatisfied, he returned to New Mexico after one semester, and began working in the film industry, scouting locations, styling food, and working 2nd AD. Still dissatisfied, Peebles was quoted as saying, “It became painful enough for me to consider making a living with photography”. This, of course, went against everything he learned as a student of the fine arts.
From 1990 to 2010, Peebles created commissioned photographic works for the editorial and advertising industry. His clientele included national and international magazines and corporations. Over the years, he developed a personal appreciation for each genre, and was able to synthesize them both without sacrificing his personal integrity as an artist.
In 2012, Daniel Peebles created the photography curriculum for the class, Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media, at the University of New Mexico. He taught this curriculum, which included lighting and art direction, until the program’s demise in 2016. Through this teaching experience, Peebles recommitted to shooting large format film.
Daniel Peebles photographs have been exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, and are in numerous permanent collections, such as, Los Angeles County Museum, Musee Nicephore Niepce in Paris, and The New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.
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