I was born in Bombay, India, before I moved to Dubai, where I spent my childhood years. Dubai exposed me to the various industrial landscapes, like oil and natural gas production, large-scale infrastructure construction, and shipping ports that helped transform this desert city into the thriving manufactured oasis it has become today. These industrial scenes also left a lasting impression on me that continue to inform the imagery I produce today.
I have been making photographs for the past 10 years, during which time my focus and approach to creating images evolved from casual snapshots, towards images that are research based and might take on a critical role that can raise questions.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the Indiana State University, where my studies were concentrated in conceptual design and urban architecture. As a photographer I am self-taught, though computer technology, Hollywood films, and filmmaking factored heavily in my understanding of the aspects of image-making, as have the works of Caspar David Friedrich, Charles Sheeler and Edward Burtynsky that influenced me at pivotal junctures in my development as an artist
My body of work takes on an abstract quality without losing the sight of its origins. This is not a deliberate effort in which I go looking to create an abstracted view instead I find it to be inherent in the evidence left behind by our highly evolved consumer society.
To record my images I use a medium format, analog camera and film stock that best compliment the subject matter. I print using large format digital printers. This hybrid approach offers me the best of what the analog and digital formats have to offer, while continuing to challenge my sensibilities as a photographer and an artist.
My projects focus on conceptual ideas derived from industrial solutions, often created in the name of progress, that I now view as having become problems that bear examination. When I approach a specific idea, it is usually with the mindset that the viewer needs to be visually captivated before there is any chance of my idea being accepted. If the resulting image holds this type of interest, then it might draw the viewer into further discussion and thought on the perspective about the subject matter. Overall I think my work communicates a contemporary view more than it does any kind of popular view or trend in art.
With my most recent project, titled “Sweet Tooth”, the focus is on synthetic dyes derived from crude oil, and their role in the mass production of candy.
The project’s concept touches on themes of industry, mass production, consumerism and some of the resulting negative effects which may be seen in the piece, titled “Good and Plenty”, featured in the “Utopia/Dystopia” exhibition at Main Street Arts.
The idea for “Sweet Tooth” was born out of a need to find healthy candy for kids trick-or-treating on Halloween in my neighborhood when I was living in Los Angeles. I discovered news articles and a radio show on National Public Radio, that discussed the topic of synthetic dyes being used by candy companies in the US for their production of candy, while using natural dyes in the same candies in Europe.
Having just completed my work on “Mulholland’s Gold”, a project that dealt with the industrialization of water in Los Angeles, I was exposed to the various facets of the oil industry in California. So the connection between crude oil and synthetic dyes only became more apparent in my idea.
The process behind “Sweet Tooth” was to place the candy that I was familiar with as a child and young adult, into an industrial backdrop. So I began with making rough sketches on paper to get the initial ideas down.
I would then scan and enhance these sketches in Photoshop to figure out the composition and color schemes.
Once I have finalized the schematic I set about building and painting the dioramas using household goods, broken or used model kits, architectural model building materials and synthetic paints mostly derived from crude oil.
Some of these dioramas measured up to 4 to 5 feet in height, width and/or depth, before I photographed them and progressed into post-production to create the final image and print.
The most challenging aspect to making my art is in how to rethink my fascination with the sublime in contemporary society, and translate this into a unique visual that can continue to attract and engage the viewer in a necessary dialogue about our time.
If you are interested in learning more about my works and background connect with me on Instagram @neilmarcello