Cale Wilbanks reflects on the future of art and photography
Some say art is dead, and that today we are bombarded with digital images that mean nothing. But what if digital photography could be taught by the film photography that came before them? "Cale Wilbanks: Photography before the Digital Revolution," an art exhibit, showcased 35mm shot photography, made between 1990 and 2000. Some works shown at The Rumor Mill in Los Angeles, California, hadn't been seen in 20 years.
A live performance by Bumtech, a rock duo made up of Sharon Schloss and John Walterscheid, was a perfect complement to Wilbanks' art. The chill, strange, sound of eclectic keyboard and soft drumbeats added to the relaxed mood, as people roamed around the intimate café talking among themselves about Wilbanks' art. Many stood in contemplation over his pieces. "His work is more like art rather than photography," Martin Charles, contributing printer, said. "We printed several copies before the life-size photos were just right. Photography today isn't art, but his is."
Wilbanks considers his art to be a showcase of the impact of life size 35mm photographs. "It isn't a rebellion against the new digital medium. Digital today is very disposable, very throw away. My number one role as a photographer is to create never before seen works," Wilbanks said.
At the age of 11, Wilbanks began staging his "Star Wars" figurines like a band and photographed them. Then he moved on to female dolls with hair dyed various colors and cut in various styles. But as he grew, he went on to take photographs of actual live bands, and has done fashion work with real models.
Wilbanks reflected on his early childhood years saying, "I was making great mistakes." These great mistakes seemed to blend into his showcase, especially seen in his piece titled "Rubin." It is a deep red portrait of a man inhaling a cigarette, his face covered in red light. Wilbanks captured the burning and the expression of pure relaxation at the precise moment. Wilbanks' friend, who wasn't even supposed to show up that day, created another perfect accident. "My neighbor came up to me and said, ‘I hate smoking but I love that photograph,'" Wilbanks said. This piece went on to become published and sold at a charity action.
Wilbanks doesn't like to talk about the technical aspect of his art. "You don't ask a painter what brushes they used, so why talk about lenses," he said.
Wilbanks' art leaves the interpretation up to the viewer; one makes their own story, one sees what they want to see and no specific ideal is jammed into one's head, skewing the image altogether. Wilbanks now has taken up a new medium, film, and is more concentrated on that at the moment. However, he does have some advice for the digital photography generation: "Think. Think about if you need that photo or not. Show the truth in what you're shooting."