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Glen Erler's Insight

The London-based American photographer applies a lingering and nostalgic eye to his editorial work.

The Californian photographer captures quietly nostalgic imagery, focusing on the lingering in-between moments using muted colours and often little lighting, he plays with the shadows and blurred light. His photos often depict the quietness of American suburbia amongst solitary girls nonchalant in their youth or families, and subtle still-lifes of the everyday, blank walls, plantlife or stairwells whilst drawing meanings from what one may often overlook. Erler has also been commissioned for a range of differing photographic projects including for singer Roisin Murphy, editorials for 10 Magazine, and is now based in London.

Dazed Digital: Are your photos mostly about family and nostalgia? Do you think those are the most natural reasons for photography, to capture past memories, and especially those of close people?
Glen Erler: There is a large portion of my work that is connected to my family and friends. I believe in the saying photograph what you know. Saying that, several of my recent projects have been based on and around single characters and although they have been friends, I wasn’t directly connected to them. My work is also sometimes based on past memories but nostalgia isn’t a key factor in the making of the images. The memory is only a starting point.

DD: Do you see the people in your photos as characters to portray a story you’re imagining, or are you trying to capture them as themselves?
Glen Erler: Most of the time they are playing a role so to speak. Even with my family’s involvement in my photographs, they tend be put in situations that have come to mind rather than me simply documenting what they are doing. Very little is actually capturing them as themselves.

DD: Do you usually have a particular image in your head before you set out on a shoot that you want to shoot?
Glen Erler: I try not to follow any rules. Sometimes I have a very specific image in my head before I start and sometimes the image I may think I want to make unfolds into a different or better image.

DD: Is there a frame of mind you're in when you photograph your subjects? There often seems to be not a sadness or melancholy, but maybe quietness to your photos?
Glen Erler: I simply see things a certain way. That doesn’t always become clear straight away and it can be a process I go through while taking pictures. It may be present before I start or it may take some time before I feel confident that that image is finished. I don’t shoot digitally… yet… so I often go on instinct and can feel when each image is finished. Sometimes there isn’t the luxury of time and this can mean that an image isn’t complete. In this case, I may re-visit that picture at a later date and at that point, the older image(s) get edited out.
I agree that my images are not sad. I don’t set out to make sad pictures and melancholy is also not a word that enters my mind while making work. There is certain quietness and sense of waiting or in between moments of things happening that occurs. It’s just a part of how I see things.

DD: What does the deliberate awkwardness of your subjects represent?
Glen Erler: There is a sense of what might happen in this photograph or what has happened? This isn’t a conscious choice but does often come through. Maybe it’s what separates my work and/or makes it my own?

DD: Do you think your photography represents the real or the unreal?
Glen Erler: It’s both in a way. It’s very real photographs in very real situations yet very considered and the images are worked at and worked into. The still life’s and landscapes are the documentation of the particular person(s) life and surroundings I’m photographing at that time. They are the most real aspect of each story. Most everything within the frame is well considered and thought through before the picture is taken yet they are still the reality of that person’s life at that moment.

What's... special about you, then?
I’m still working on that one. I have twin 4 year old girls. They are very special… to me.

...your worst vice?
Soy ice cream and tennis.

...the best piece of advice you've heard?
Be honest.

...the world coming to?
Not enough food to go around. the top of your shit list?
That’s a long list. Under-funded councils. Our neighborhood has been petitioning for speed bumps due to the large number of children on our street and they said that someone had to get injured before they would consider putting them in. Figure that one out.
Parking, speed and bus lane cameras. Very corrupt indeed.