ICP Projected: Andre Wagner
Wesley Verhoeve: This series focuses on the lively streets of New York City. Do you focus on any particular neighborhood or do you roam freely as you work?
Andre Wagner: I do both. I’ve lived in Bushwick for the past six years and make a lot of work in my immediate neighborhood, but I’m also a free bird and find myself all over the city. I have a big appetite for photographing, so I love busy streets.
WV: How has your work evolved since your move to New York City?
AW: Before moving to New York I was an undergraduate in Iowa and photography was just a hobby, so living here has a lot to do with the evolution of my work and career path. The street culture alone made me realize the endless possibilities for photographs, because my work focuses mainly on people. But I also realized that I could draw from previous experiences to help shape my viewpoint and inform what I wanted to say as an artist.
WV: You went to school for social work. Do you think this influences the way you approach photography and your subjects?
AW: I think my background in social work has a big impact on my work, maybe not visually but theoretically. Before one snaps the shutter, it starts with what the photographer thinks is important. When I’m working on a body of work, it always comes down to what it is I’m trying to say.
WV: You shoot most of your work on film. What went into the decision to stick with film and not go digital?
AW: For me, it’s really about the whole process. I have a darkroom in my apartment and I truly believe the process has helped me in my growth. Realizing the work from all ends, and making the work with my hands is just a feeling I’m not looking to replace. Also, nothing can replace a silver gelatin print.
WV: In what way has Gordon Parks inspired your work?
AW: Gordon Parks’ story and walk as an African American man is a huge inspiration for me. He persevered, made great work, and helped many people along the way. He taught me that you have to have purpose; it’s not just about pretty photos.
WV: How do you feel your work fits in today’s America? Have your thoughts evolved in any way since the 2016 election?
AW: The work fits in today’s America because I’m drawing from the current times to highlight our social landscape. Everyday with my camera in hand I’m walking the streets, riding the subways, attending protests, photographing parades, hanging out in neighborhoods, and doing my best to capture the energy and emotion of the people that cross my path. In the end, the goal is to have a lifetime's worth of work that speaks to how it was to be alive in this era.
Images from “After Parks” will be literally “projected” onto the windows of the ICP Museum from August 7 to 13 as part of ICP’s Projected series. They will be visible from the sidewalk outside the museum and will be most apparent after sunset.