The Queue: Giles Clement

The Queue: Giles Clement

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, August 23, 2021.
Blog post cover graphic for The Queue featuring Giles Clement

Welcome to the Kinship series of The Queue

A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

Cover of Fall 2021 issue of American Craft

Bringing a Collaborative Mindset to the Craft of Photography

Giles Clement is a New York-based photographer whose portrait work using wet-plate photography methods is explored in "Portraits in Craft." This feature article by Emily Freidenrich from the Fall 2021 issue of American Craft profiles three artists who use old photos and photgraphic processes to tell new stories. @gilesclement

photgrapher in charcoal tshirt and olive pants posing with a large format view camera

Giles with his self-built, large-format-view camera. Photo by Mike Beyer.

How do you describe your work or practice?
Portrait artist and photographer who uses a camera to explore and learn from other peoples lives.

The past year has presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
The pandemic has been difficult in many ways but also what felt like a timely point of pause and reflection for me, my career, and where I want to go with my art. I'm not sure whether I'm staying grounded at the moment—days seem to blur together, and a lot has shifted since things were relatively normal. I find myself feeling a bit suspended in time a lot of days, wondering where to put my efforts and also try to pick up the pieces of the business which once supported me.

The theme of the current issue of American Craft is "Kinship." Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
I've always seen my work as collaborative. I'm telling the stories of my subjects, but in order to do so, they have to be open and willing to share that story.

During Covid and continuing into the transition back to "normal," I have been making efforts to change my relationship with colleagues in the photo and art business. Photography has become so mainstream and so accessible to everyone that those who choose to make a career of it are fighting for a dwindling stack of work. This scarcity mindset has led to what seems to me like a race to the bottom with pricing, quality, and the ability to commit enough time to projects.

I'd like to find ways to work together with other photographers—to promote their work and help them find work which suits their aesthetic. To pass on jobs which don't really tick any of my artistic boxes but are simply means to make a quick buck.

I might be overly idealistic, but I'm also a strong believer in the goes-around-comes-around thinking, and that the rising tide lifts all ships. With any luck, there will be a mindset shift to how some people approach photographic art, with more understanding and appreciation for the moments captured.

photographer with shaved head and beard holding up an ambrotype portrait of a person with a saxophone

Read more about Giles' work in "Portraits in Craft" from our Fall 2021 issue. Photo by Brian Lima.

What has been the biggest barrier you've had to break through to get to the point you’re at with your career?
It might be too personal, but for me it's been mental health. Childhood trauma can be hidden and skirted for a long time, but it eventually catches up. I've just begun the process of coming to terms with that and finding ways to love myself for who I've become. Opening up to other artists about my struggles has been helpful, sometimes in big ways, sometimes if only to understand that I'm not alone.

I've always seen my work as collaborative. I'm telling the stories of my subjects, but in order to do so, they have to be open and willing to share that story.

What’s your favorite social media post you’ve seen recently, and why?
I think we've reached and passed the high-water mark for social media. I'm exhausted by it all, and with very few exceptions, nothing really stands out to me on any social platform anymore. My followers' interaction with my work online fell off a cliff about a year ago. I'm not sure whether that was "the algorithm" or just a collective point of exhaustion with consuming art through a screen. I'd like to think it's the latter, as I'm thoroughly sick of consuming amazing pieces of work through a two-inch phone screen and would much prefer to get out and interact with the real deal.

If you could purchase any artist's work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
I purchase art when I'm able. I know how good it feels to have someone invest in one of my pieces and love to pass that feeling on. In the past year, I've bought work from Robby Staebler (@uvways), J. Grant Brittain (@jgrantbrittain), and David Swanson (@swansonphoto).

Cover of Fall 2021 issue of American Craft

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