Interview with David Harth: Artist with a Long View

I found out about David Harth’s Every Person Project via Facebook from a friend who participated in it. I decided I, too, needed to be a part of it, so I contact him and of course Harth was on board with my participation. As you read the interview, you will understand why.

How did the idea for the work come to you? Was there a Eureka moment when you said, “I know! I’ll do a photobooth project?”

It wasn’t a Eureka moment.

In early 2012 I was witnessing photographs uploaded to Facebook that had filters to make the photos look old (think Hipstamtic, Instagram, etc.). This made me think of traditional photographs before digital photography was introduced. It made me think of photography and processes that did not use filters. It made me think of photo booths. I took self-portraits in such booths as a kid growing up. So I thought it would be a good idea, for a project, to take photo booth portraits with all my friends. Just for a project as well as an archival record of people in my life.  I realized some of my friends are not on Facebook and some of my Facebook friends are not friends in the traditional sense. I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed to take a portrait with every person I know and every person I don’t know.

 David-Licata-and-David-HarthWhy photobooths? Wouldn’t it be easier to just do selfies with your iPhone?

This suggestion makes my stomach turn. While I appreciate, adore and love iphoneography, this is not what it’s about. I love the commitment to the object and the moment in time. With digital photography and camera phones, photographs can be deleted immediately or retaken immediately. With the photo booth, if one is unhappy with the print, they must physically destroy an object. I like the commitment to this object. An object that both of us invested time to produce. The time it took and moments shared it took to produce it. Intimate moments, not in terms of intimacy in the loving sense, but just the small quarters, time, and exchange between people. It’s an experience that one does not forget.

You have another project, the Holy Bible Project, which is time based and has a cut off date, but the Every Person Project is different. Why did you decide you’d do this project until you are no longer on this earthly plane?

Quite simply, the project is every person I know and every person I don’t know, that is over 7 billion people. That’s going to take a lot of time. More time that I have in my lifetime. I figured this could go as long as I am able to take photographs and could continue — as long as someone named David Harth is in the photo booth. (I already took a portrait with someone named David Harth). The Holy Bible Project, the moment it began, I just decided to do it for 20 years. Why not 10? Why not 25? I couldn’t tell you.

What are your plans and hopes for the project while you’re alive, and beyond?

The immediate plan was only the website. Which has photographs and little texts about each person. As the project continues, I’ve had encouragement to do exhibits or books. I did a huge outdoor installation with ArtBridge which is still up in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I think for now, I’ll let the project progress naturally. As what happens with my work a lot, I discover the direction of work based upon the public’s participation. After all, look at my burger project “I ate a burger with Harth.”

Has anything surprised you about the project?  Has it led to any insights about time, aging, photography?

Well, in terms of aging, I think it will be very interesting to see myself age. I’ll be the only continuous constant. Already you can see photos of me with a full beard and hair and no beard and completely bald. In time, I’ll age into an old man with wrinkles that my Opa would have been proud of. Insights? I just learned that strangers like to be a part of something. I find it fascinating that strangers are willing to take a photo booth portrait with me. I’m very grateful for that. Since doing this I’ve also developed new friendships that I would not have ever had the chance to create. Not the mention the amazing, eye-opening, intelligent, creative and wonderful conversations I’ve been having. It’s also a great excuse to see an old friend that you’ve haven’t seen in 10+ years.

I encourage you to check out the links to Harth’s projects and if you’re in New York City, participate in the Every Person Project. I enjoyed meeting Harth and taking the photo. I like the idea that I’m a small part of this massive project, a little speck of paint in a giant mural.

Interested in reading more interviews? Check out the Interviews page.