Wayne Salazar Art

Wayne Salazar is an artist and writer whose photographs, films, and paintings have been exhibited internationally. His film, Destroying Angel, and book, Open Closets, are in the collections of major museums and university libraries. He is a contributing critic for Artforum.com and his writing on environmental issues appears on Earthjustice.org and AIDA-americas.org. He studied creative writing at Cornell University, earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, and earned an MFA from Hunter College.

Untitled photo

See an interview with Wayne on Behind the Camera.

Artist Statement

From the ages of 10 to 32, I never spent more than two years in the same school or town. Always an outsider, I learned to observe before making myself known.

My approach to photography reflects this background: I shoot from the outside, looking in. I document communities and ask myself whether and how I might fit. I ask what being a member of a given community means, both to those within the community and to those outside it. I see elements that different communities have in common and explore these connections. I prefer series to single photographs, to provide viewers with direction for interpretation.

The photographers who most interest me share an interest in observation, social class, cultural commentary, and narratives constructed from accumulations of details: Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Joel Sternfeld, Alan Sekula, Ralf Schmerberg, Jim Goldberg, Liu Zheng, Helen Levitt.

My ongoing project, Pictures from “America,” is my response not only to the nation we live in, but also to Walker Evans’ American Photographs (1938) and Robert Frank’s The Americans (1958).

Evans found quiet dignity in Depression-era America, beauty in the built environment, and nobility in suffering. His is a sad but uplifting document. Frank, Evans’ protégé, shot a dark underside of the sunny America depicted in so many 1950s media.

Frank had a visual conversation with his mentor; The Americans includes several pictures that echo some in American Photographs. With Pictures from “America,” I have also engaged in a visual conversation with these artists. My work thus not only creates meaning through juxtaposition of images, but also through connections to earlier instances of photography. We each discovered different forms of hardship, human relations, and habitation of the land.

My photographs describe collective experiences, document increasingly atomized communities, and are as much about what is outside the frame as what is inside. They are about others and they are about me.

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