Portfolio 2020 Artist Spotlight: Maury Gortemiller

As The Atlanta Photography Group’s Portfolio 2020 exhibition enters its final weeks, we would like to share Spotlight Interviews conducted with each of the eight artists chosen to share their work by esteemed juror Sarah Kennel – today we would like to introduce Maury Gortemiller.

Maury Gortemiller is an Atlanta-based photographer and educator. His work has appeared in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA), the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans and the Aperture Foundation Gallery in New York.  He also writes on photography and contemporary art issues, most recently in Art Papers, Perdiz Magazine and The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (University Press of Mississippi). More recently, his photography appeared in Time Magazine’s “The South” issue and his first monograph “Do the Priest in Different Voices” was published by Aint-Bad Press in April 2019.


I sat down with Maury to discuss his work, Make Believe, and his process:

How would you define your style? 

I Always Assume that Women Do Not Tell the Truth (Page 87) – 2018 ©Maury Gortemiller

I suppose I have a style that is evident across most, but not all, of my work. At times I enjoymaking images that are the product of meticulous planning and staging. I also often take a camera with me wherever I may roam, in search of more intuitive and spontaneous images. Sometimes, the staged images are created to appear casual and haphazard, and the intuitively-created images read as quite deliberate. Nothing is ever wholly what it might seem to be in photography, particularly in terms of subject matter and intent, and my two processes relate to this.  Possible descriptions of this style: Deceptively Casual, Deftly Extemporaneous, Surreptitiously Unpremeditated, Keenly Incidental, Carefully Extempore, Judiciously Improvised, and perhaps Foxily Adventitious.

Tell us a little about your process and how it might set you apart from others? 

I am interested in imagery paired with text – two previous series (“Do the Priest in Different Voices” and “Breathe In and Disappear”) feature significant amounts of text that in many ways alter the context and intentionality of the images. I’m also interested in and repelled by the current U.S. President. I am truly baffled at how my country is saddled with the current administration. I decided to study Trump’s first bestseller The Art of the Deal and attempt to undermine lyrically and visually his voice and presence.

Do you work in other modes of expression?

I am also a writer of essays and poetry.

Who inspires you? 

Right now I’m extremely interested in Aaron Hardin’s family-related imagery, Feng Li’s atmospheric flash pictures and the portraits of Deana Lawson.

What was the most powerful work of art you recall viewing? Where was it? How did it make you feel?  

 The most powerful art object for me is a book. During the late 1990s, I lived in Oxford, Mississippi. While walking through Off Square Books one afternoon, I came across a copy of William Eggleston’s Democratic Forest, which was revised and re-sequenced in a new publication last year. I was immediately attracted to the striking and odd images, as is the case with many of Eggleston’s more famous pictures. His work tends to have a similar influence on many photographers, of course, so there’s nothing remarkable about my experience. However, what clearly held my interest were the seemingly ordinary images that appeared to deny the possibility of a traditional photographic reading. Some subjects seemed inscrutable – I couldn’t imagine why the photographer decided to create the image, or what might have moved him to consider the scene as photographable. I have in mind his image “Memphis,” depicting the remains of a fried egg on a red plate, along with a kitchen timer, dish scrubber, can opener and Doritos in a sandwich bag. This might seem like a negative viewing experience but it wasn’t. On the contrary, the book suggested the possibility of photographs, which project the stirrings of a personal, interior world onto the most utterly quotidian stages.

By Donna Garcia

Learn more about Maury Gortemiller and check out Portfolio 2020 .

Inside the Maids Talked of the Dust of Paradise (Page 138) – 2017 ©Maury Gortemiller

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