Mar 11, 2020
William is an American photographer who seeks to document the forgotten past of the US through his work. With his series 'Dusted', William questions the stereotypes of America's mining industry, which more than often show it as a prosperous dream, forgetting its impact on nature and the desolation they leave behind once the resources are depleted. Shot entirely on B&W, the series perfectly conveys the feelings of sadness and abandonment that occur when false promises are made.
am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?
WMS - Thank you for having me; I’m William Mark Sommer, a film photographer from Sacramento, California. I have received my BFA in Photography from Arizona State University and exhibited over the United States and Internationally. I have spent most of my 15 years crating in photography traveling the many back roads through out the Western United States. Through these travels I have developed a closer understanding with the idea of the American Dream. Experiencing America’s history in person and understanding its progressive nature in forgetting the past, these travels have empowered me to bring attention to and preserve the forgotten within my photographs. Through my series I have self-published 10 books and zines that confront these ideals. Right now I am in the process of working on multiple book projects that I look to publish within the next coming years.
am - How did you start in photography?
WMS - My first touch into photography was running around as a child shooting photos of my friends and family with a disposable camera. I feel there was always a camera around me when I was young, but I feel I received my first introduction into composition and the development of projects through creating skateboarding videos. Creating these videos showed me the ways of connecting the moving image to music and developing a sequence from start to finish. These concepts I developed in the video form have stuck with me over my 15+ years of creating in still photography. Education has also been integral to my development in photography. The darkroom was my refuge during the trials of high school. In college I learned how to turn that solace into an avocation and career. Through my time in school, I have learned the values of perseverance, and how resilience in the wake of failure is necessary for advancing my photographic practice.
am - What inspires your work?
WMS - I feel inspired by many things, from spending countless hours driving through the deserts of the southwest, to being at home reading and looking at photo books. I receive inspiration from everything around me, and I feel like I can pull inspiration from even the most mundane situations.
Out of all my inspiration, I feel that conversations inspire me the most. It’s a way to develop new ideas while mowing over previous ideas that aren’t fully fulfilled. Conversations about creation is where I feel connection with people, its where I find love and where I find the most progress in life.
am - What is 'Dusted' about?
WMS - The purpose of creating and then exhibiting “Dusted” is to give a voice to the misunderstood and to challenge stereotypes of rural America by showing the unseen and giving a voice to the misunderstood. Within this series I question the whitewashed narrative of America’s mining history, a version too often presented in history books and local museums. Knowing that mining is destructive by nature, seeing what this process has done to the earth, and spending time with the people who are forgotten as mines deplete resources, shutter, and move on; I was driven to tell this story. I want to show what was left in the wake of false promises and hopes.
am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?
WMS - I feel like I have too many to answer, but I would like to give credit to my mentors who have helped me develop the most within my photography and interests. Chris Fraser, Binh Danh, Mark Klett, Rebecca Gregg, Linda Conner, and Jessica Starkey have all helped me develop further as an artist; and they all create many amazing works and are just great people. Please look them all up and see what they’ve created in photography.
am - What is your favourite movie?
WMS - I always love 'Beginners' by Mike Mills. It’s a beautiful story about a man navigating his life after his father’s death while jumping back into the memories he identified as representing his dad and the storied life he had. I feel it’s a must watch for anyone who is a storyteller or an artist that works in a documentary mode of creation. I also love 'Lost in Translation' by Sofia Coppola for its ways of exploring the relationships we have with each other. I like how both these movies navigate a semi-autobiographical story that shows parts of the director/writer’s life, while still staying within the binds of fiction. I feel that way of telling a story truly strengthens the narrative, and made both theses movies great.
am - What is your favourite photo book?
WMS - I have 5 books that I always keep going back to for inspiration:
1. Jasper - Matthew Genitempo
2. Deep Springs - Sam Contis
3. Sleeping by the Mississippi - Alec Soth
4. Vegas and She - Stefanie Moshammer
5. An Island In The Moon - Jordan Sullivan
am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.
All images © William Mark Sommer