If you look at a photograph, and you think, 'My isn't that a beautiful photograph,' and you go on to the next one, or 'Isn't that nice light?' so what? I mean what does it do to you, or what's the real value in the long run? What do you walk away from it with? I mean, I'd much rather show you a photograph that makes demands on you, that you might become involved in on your own terms, or be perplexed by. -Duane Michals
Artist’s statement: I'm a Conceptual Photographer. Distinct from the Conceptual Art movement in the 1970s/80s, Conceptual Photography is a current, growing movement in fine art photography that puts content and ideas first. In a world saturated with images, Conceptual Photography strives to make work worth seeing, not just looking at. Other Conceptual Photographers and I advance the medium by creating work that is intentionally challenging, or “difficult.” The goal is to make images with high content and layers of meaning, to elicit emotional response, and most importantly, to create work that raises more questions than it answers.
My work is about the relationship between simulated realities and consensus realities. I like to describe my process as making simulations of simulations of simulations. I photograph in places like amusement parks, zoos, aquariums—places that are intentionally designed as self-contained constructed realities. I also build sets, which are somewhat smaller, more controllable realities.
My obsession with the philosophical aspects of photography began after working for 10 years in photojournalism. I started questioning whether my work, which was mass-produced and distributed to inform people about the world, contained any truth. I ultimately concluded that my opinions, beliefs, and bizarre sense of humor would always find their way into my pictures, no matter how hard I tried to remain impartial or neutral. When I discovered the history of fine-art photography, it set me free. That’s when I committed myself fully to fine art, where I could not only feel free to let my opinion shine through, but I could do so intentionally. My move to fine art allowed me to delve deeply into the philosophy and history of photography and make work that is personal without being autobiographical.
The work on this site begins with my black and white film work from graduate school and continues to present-day color work. I usually print my work very large, with a range from 24 ″x36 ″ to near billboard size. I make my black and white work in the darkroom with a unique mural printing technique, and I make my color work with large format digital printers. My newest series, "There's Nothing To See Here" features work I made while living in China for 2 years and will be released in 2017. -Philip Ringler