A boy and his bikes

by Brook Gardner-Durbin

Andrew Gould starting taking photographs when he was sixteen as a way to compete with his older sister. “It was just a hobby for her, but I took it to the next level,” he said. The sibling rivalry grew into a true passion, and today Gould, now 26, is counting the days until he graduates from the MSU Photography program. After graduation Gould says he plans “to be a ski bum for a year,” as his studies have taken too much time in the past. He also plans to use the time to continue working on photography projects, while applying to graduate school. In the long run, however, Gould would like to become a professor. “I’ve had such a great experience here [at MSU], and I’d like to inspire … as I’ve been inspired,” he said.


Two of Gould’s photography projects are currently on display in Starky’s, a well known local restaurant. The first, “Persona,” is a series of photos of bikes and their owners. Gould says he became “interested in the bike culture of Bozeman, and how people express themselves through their bikes.” The most interesting feature of the project was Gould’s decision to only photograph the bike’s owners from the neck down, to force the audience’s attention onto the bikes and how they reflected their owner’s personality. Gould works at Starky’s, which has allowed him better access to his audience than many artists. “A lot of people have said, ‘oh, that’s so and so’s bike,’ or ‘hey, I know them!’” says Gould, “they’re recognizing them from the bikes, not the clothes.”


Gould’s second project, titled “Destruction,” is also on display at Starky’s. Photographing “Destruction” was “probably the most fun I had on a photo project.” he said. Describing the first project as more cerebral and engaging, Gould called the this series as more “artsy-fartsy.” After engaging the help of a friend, Gould aimed a video camera at full spray paint cans. His friend also aimed at the cans, from 100 yards away, with one key difference — Gould’s friend had a rifle, not a camera. The result of “both senses of shooting” was a series of photographs of literal explosions of color against a white background as the paint can spirals away. Each color had over 100 frames of video which Gould had to choose from before editing, a painstaking process.


While many photographers start projects by going outside and photographing whatever catches their eye, attempting to capture the energy and spontaneity of daily life, Andrew Gould prefers a more measured, planned approach. “Typically I like to know what I’m doing before I set out,” he said. In order to achieve this, Gould begins any project with an artist statement, which will guide his process. The artist statements spell out explicitly what the project will be hope to communicate to the audience.


Many of Gould’s statements are influenced by other photographers that have inspired him. “I like art that evokes a mood, an emotion,” Gould said. Some of his favorites are Alex Prager, famous for her large, staged photographs which look like a still from film, and Neil Krug, who specializes in portraits with unusual colors. Gould is inspired by the way Prager and Krug “find a unique way to show space,” as well as “how they shoot and fill the frame.”


For his senior thesis, Gould is working on a more personal project than his previous work. Describing his previous work as more “fun, and evocative,” Gould’s thesis is his most meaningful project to date. “I usually shy away from harder [projects],” he says, because it can be difficult to express deeper feelings or philosophy in photography. Despite this, Gould decided to attempt a project with a larger focus than his other projects, focusing on how memories shape identity.


Making a living selling photographs isn’t easy, as Gould well knows. Despite that, he believes it is possible to make a living selling photography, even in Bozeman. “It’s about how inspired and dedicated you are.” The photographs of bikers and their bikes are 24 inches by 30 inches, which he sells for $200 with a frame, while the exploding spray paint cans are 8 inches by 8 inches, for $100. Getting started is the most difficult part, as a well known, established artist can rely more on their website to generate revenue, while artists like Gould have to convince local outlets to host their artwork. Starky’s is “really good at supporting local artists,” Gould said, as they allow artists to sell their work free of charge. Most coffee shops or other outlets in town allow artists to post their artwork for free, but charge a percentage of the artist’s sales.
Andrew Gould’s photographs are on display at Starky’s Authentic Americana at 24 North Tracy, and on his website at andgphotography.com. His senior thesis, when completed, will be displayed with the other graduating senior’s thesis projects at the Baxter Hotel, on May 1 at 6 p.m.