The Lexicon of Sustainability: Q & A with Filmmaker Douglas Gayeton

Posted on May 21, 2012

Douglas Gayeton’s The Lexicon of Sustainability is a multiplatform project which uses photo collage, animation, and hand-written typography to explore terms and ideas behind sustainable agriculture. KQED's Jenny Oh interviewed Gayeton for Bay Area Bites on the inspiration behind the project, the creative visual aspect, and more.

The visuals for "Lexicon" are stunning, particularly the mosaic-like compositions that marry photographs, text, animation and video interview in a truly unique way. How did you develop this unique aesthetic? The Italian images in my book “SLOW” began as a happy accident. I quickly learned that a single image was not enough. Not only were my images too small, but they also lacked the ability to convey the concept of “time,” of the beginning, middle and end of things. The idea of capturing hundreds of images, at times over long periods of time, then creating mosaics seemed like the only solution. The decision to overlay these images with text came at about the same time. I wanted to convey what these people said to me as I worked. I wanted to share their insights, their observations. And I also wanted to solve another problem I had with photographs, namely that they often left so much unanswered. I wanted to provide as much information as possible within an image, to create what someone once called a “flat film,” a single image that actually uses time, that tells a story.

Regarding my typographic process: after completing a photo collage, my staff assembles a list of every possible question a viewer might ask, ranging from “What’s that strange thing in the corner of the picture?” to “How does that machine work?” to “What is that person thinking?” After our subjects answer these questions their words are meticulously applied to the image. The process is lengthy. One image with noted farmer/photographer Michael Ableman -- from taking the initial photographs to building the photo collage with text -- took over a year to complete. The result is a handmade and hopefully authentic artifact that explains a fundamental principle of sustainability in highly personal terms. 

Read the entire story at Bay Area Bites


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