After discussing what attracts him to an individual, Bayeté Ross Smith goes onto to explain what happens when the space those individuals inhabit becomes the focus. As our interview concludes, Bayeté shares that it is the similarities found in the various identities and aspects of the world that he truly finds inspiring. Bayeté Ross Smith truly knows how to seek out, hone in, and capture every day phenomenon.
With “Portraits of Vacancy”, which is still a working title, I was interested in making portraits of people and communities, devoid of the actual people. What captivated me about the various empty spaces were color, shapes, light and texture, foremost. I was approaching making photographs, by attempting to apply many of the aesthetics that painters use. However the objects and accoutrements were also a key element. I was moved by what these objects added to the story of these spaces and these people. In some cases these objects are clothing, bottles or tools. In other cases they are decorations that adorn the space. In other situations it is writing on a wall or some other symbol within the space. What drives these images are the beauty of the spaces combined with the objects and symbols, however the objects and symbols are suppose to engage the viewer in a subtle way.
People are fascinating because they are so dynamic. You hear this all the time, but it is actually true. There are certain basic attributes and behavior most people and cultures have in common, that are just expressed in somewhat different ways. Sense of humor is always a common thread with people. The specifics may differ a little, but it seems that there are always certain things illicit a humorous response. Regardless of their culture or background, people want to laugh. What I am most drawn to in my traveling are the ways people do similar things differently. I am also drawn to cultural appropriation; what aspects of other cultures people appropriate and re-interpret for their own use. An example of this was in Spain, in Catalonia, they have a festival every summer called Fiesta Mejor, which is celebration of Catalonian identity. They had parades fireworks and a variety of celebratory events. One of the things that stood out for me was they had these troops of drummers who performed in the parades and at the various events, and their style of drumming was this Brasilian, South American style of drumming. It definitely wasn’t Spanish. I had never heard of the drum playing that significant a role in the culture of that part of Europe. So it was fascinating to me that a particular percussion style, had somehow become such an integral aspect of this Spanish, Catalonian celebration.
The similarities between the various peoples of the world is an important part of my inspiration. It further proves that identity, while so important to how we see the world and how we choose to interact with other human beings, is quite fluid and arbitrary. But that is part of what makes like so dynamic and interesting. The proverbial “fun of the game” if you will.