The unreliable narrator

Jonah Siegel is a senior at Castleton University, who is known for challenging his viewer’s perspectives with his photographs. Siegel originally had the goal of becoming a professional musician. After high school, he and his band moved to Los Angeles, California in hopes of being signed by a record label. The photographer ended up moving back to Vermont, re-evaluated, and decided to pursue photography.

Q. How would you describe yourself as an artist?

A. I get a little weird sometimes around calling myself an artist and just like saying I have an artistic practice. A lot of what I do these days is based around inherent deception in art and image-making so I like the idea of being an “unreliable narrator.” I like the idea that an audience can’t fully tell if I’m being genuine or lying or if I’m being both at the same time.

Q. What led you to focus on photography in college?

A. It kind of just spurred from necessity to a certain degree. I have been obsessed with photography since I was 12 or so, and for me, it’s pretty rare that an obsession sticks around for more than a few months. So, to be able to study something that I can turn into a career of some kind and won’t make me go insane and be miserable just felt like the only option.

Q. What is your favorite piece and why?

A. Of my pieces, I’m really into this series called Cast, where I cast some of my own archived 35 mm negatives from when I was in high school into epoxy. I love how they look, it’s this very delicate yet industrial aesthetic, and also it feels like it conceptually can go a lot of places, and I’m figuring it out almost in the same way an audience might. Of other artists, it’s kind of hard for me to say one favorite piece just because I feel like I’m seeing so much all the time, but I often go back to this Jeff Wall photograph called “A View From an Apartment.” It’s just this photo of a woman in an apartment, but the longer you look at it, you realize he’s photoshopped in little subtle things, and then if you read about it and the set-up is incredible. He hired this actress to live in an apartment for a month and then at the end just took a photo. That blend between truth and forgery is super interesting to me.

Q. Who or what inspires you?

A. A lot of people all the time. I talked about him above, but Jeff Wall for sure. Also, I’ve been interested in this photographer Justine Kurland. I spend a lot of time just going on gallery pages, looking at their artists, and seeing what they are doing. Also, I tend to get a lot of inspiration from disliking something. If I dislike something conceptually but like it visually (or vice versa), it feels like this interesting balance for me between a lack of personal connection and strong personal opinion, which I think results in interesting work.

Q. What are your goals as an artist?

A. I try to keep my goals open-ended in general. My main goal is just to be constantly involved in the arts, both professionally and personally. However, that might manifest itself works for me.

Q. What does your work mean to you?

A. I don’t think of my work as directly personal. I don’t really like to use it as an outlet and think of it more like an artifact that already exists, and my role is to uncover it or put it together. However, I might rationalize it though; making work gives me unique sweet little sips of serotonin, so in that way, I suppose it does act as an outlet.

Q. How has creating art affected your experience and/or outlook on life?

A. It’s possible it’s made me a bit cynical, frankly. I’ve always been a bit suspect of most things, but regularly engaging in art has certainly not helped. I don’t find this to be a bad thing. I think I just tend to not take things at face value.

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