Snapshot collector Robert E. Jackson speaks with snapshot painter Justin Duffus about his work and inspirations.
Justin Duffus makes paintings from twentieth-century snapshots and snippets of Americana, highlighting the strange, humorous, often lonely, and sometimes inconsequential moments of everyday life.
In one painting, a boy sits at the edge of a motel swimming pool – shivering with arms crossed – swathed in cyan and blue tones. In another, three business-suited men in a nondescript room walk in a circle around another man, wrapping him in pastel streamers like a human maypole while two women watch. In other paintings, masked figures confront the viewer head-on, the harsh light of a cheap camera flash rendered with jarring elegance. Hung together, Duffus’ paintings embolden a mysterious, open-ended narrative, giving new energy to images with an anonymous or discarded past.
While his sources vary, some of them are based on images acquired from the collection of Robert E. Jackson, the Seattle-based vernacular collector-extraordinaire, whose collection currently boasts more than 12,000 American snapshots from the past century. Like Duffus’ paintings, many of Jackson’s snapshots have a similar attention to the peculiar, absurd or unintentionally artful. Following Duffus’ recent exhibition, Fear of Drowning at Seattle’s Linda Hodges Gallery, we asked Jackson – who is also a collector of his work – to speak with the artist about his practice and the ideas behind it.