Mr. Farley's first film was made in 1970. As a graduate student majoring in sculpture he took a class on the history of film. At the end of the semester he had the choice to either write a paper about the films he saw or make a film. The film was a hit on the film festival circuit and Farley was hooked. When he received his MFA a year and a half later he had more credits in film making than sculpture.
His many short films and documentaries have won numerous awards and have been broadcast and screened at venues around the world, including the Sundance, Berlin, Chicago, Sydney and New York Film Festivals. Farley is one of the featured artists in The Golden Span: A Celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge on view May 26 – June 28, 2012. Here he talks to Maria Medua of the Artists Gallery about his work.
Artists Gallery I am glad that you brought the photographs to us just in time for the June show celebrating the 75thanniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. This landmark has been depicted so often, but your images aren’t what I would call conventional. How do you approach subject matter, especially one that seems thoroughly exhausted?William Farley I came to the west coast for the first time on a Merchant Marine ship as a crew member. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge just after sunset on a beautiful July night was a visually spectacular experience and upon docking, I quit the ship and began to live here. I became enchanted with the city of San Francisco that night and over the years the bridge and its surrounding landscape have drawn me to photographing the mystery which infuses this environment.
Artists Gallery You told me that there are certain times of day and certain types of light that you like. Can you say more about that?William Farley I only photograph in the fog after midnight and before dawn because it allows me to find places which are free of human activity. What is left is the grandeur of the environment, the architectural integrity seen in the trees, the contour of the land, and the man-made structures jetting from the land. The atmosphere of fog highlights the shapes between the identifiable objects and allows for the viewer to see a new reference point which was not visible before my reframing.
Artists Gallery You also have a background in filmmaking. How does photography – where you get only one frame in which to tell the story – compare?
William Farley My background as a film maker brings me to search for a narrative in these landscapes as I explore natural and man-made environments, which have a dimension of expectation to them, not unlike the atmosphere surrounding a movie set, where some dramatic human behavior has just taken place or is about to begin. I photograph urban and rural landscapes absent of their inhabitants, where the elementals seem visible and available to be recorded.
I hunt with my camera for the “un-seeable,” in pursuit to capture an image which lingers beyond time.
In celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Artists Gallery will feature an exhibition of work about the bridge and the bay by local artists. More than a dozen artists working in painting and photography will show recent work on these themes.
The Golden Span: A Celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge
Exhibition dates: May 26 – June 28, 2012Gallery hours: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
William Farley, Three Lanes Sign, 2009; photo: courtesy the artist