by Gilda Davidian

I met Ben Goddard at an LA LOVE potluck dinner a couple years ago, soon after he had moved to Los Angeles. Ben is a photographer whose work is, to me, equally thoughtful as well as it is humorous, complex as it is straightforward. His images have a lot to offer visually and figuratively.  Here is Ben telling us more about himself, his interests and inspirations.

Hi Ben! Tell us a bit about yourself. I’m an artist living in Los Angeles. Been here for close to two years now. I grew up in Boston and studied photography at Bard College in New York. I didn’t get into photography until the last two years of high school. The first pictures I took were of the city streets while my Dad drove me to school in the morning. Music was what I spent most of my time doing in elementary and high school. Kids thought I was pretty whacky because I played saxophone in my high school’s concert and jazz bands, while at the same time played guitar in metal/hardcore bands around Boston. The most fun band I was in growing up was called Combat Death. It was a bit short-lived, unfortunately, but I still listen to the EP we recorded. I remember I had six shots of espresso before we recorded and I could barely play guitar because my fingers were shaking from the caffeine. It made for some interestingly sloppy and tweaked out guitar solos though.

Anyways, I didn’t begin spending a lot more time with photography until I got to Bard. I hadn’t looked at much photography either in high school, so taking my first history of photography class freshman year was a huge inspiration for me. Upon graduating, I moved down to Austin with a friend from school. Although Austin is a beautiful and fun city, I decided after six months that it wasn’t the place for me (I was lucky to make friends with some awesome artists down there though). I’ll miss this abandoned airport my friends and I used to hang out at. It’s the old Austin airport that the city never tore down and it’s now right next to a cookie cutter-style development neighborhood. The control tower is even still there overlooking the neighborhood, which is pretty eerie juxtaposition (here’s a link to a picture I took of the tower from the neighborhood: LINK). We went up the stairs of the control tower once and there are tons of documents strewn everywhere. It’s pretty crazy. Also will miss this bar called Ginny’s Little Longhorn that has chickenshit bingo every Sunday night (yes, it’s true: LINK). So yeah, after six months, I moved out here to L.A. and have been here since.

Let’s see, what else I can say…I’m a gemini and my parents were going to name me Megan if I had been born a girl.

What are you working on now? I’m working on these self-portraits that all involve mirrors in one way or another. They are black & white. I started making these pictures after I became obsessed with looking at pictures on Google image search that people take of themselves in mirrors. So my pictures are playing around with the most obvious, cliche way of taking a self-portrait: photographing your reflection. They’re pretty theatrical and humorous. I use a lot of props along with the mirrors. I’m also currently trying to edit down about 100 or so pictures to create a small series out of them. I took most of these pictures while visiting friends and family in other places over the past year (most of them are not portraits though). They are all pictures I’ve only thought about on their own up to this point, so I’m excited to see how some of them might be able to work alongside each other. This is the first time I’ve used Costco to get really cheap 4×6″ prints made just to be able to shuffle prints around easily. The quality of the prints are surprisingly good!

I just recently got my first studio space which is really cool to have. It’s been nice to have a place where I can make more studio-based work while still taking pictures out in the world. It’s in Atwater Village in my friend’s garage. She has a cat named Fang who is the coolest cat ever (except for maybe my cat Otto). My studio is also right around the corner from Alias, an amazing local bookstore for used art/photo books. I like going there to take breaks, but it can also turn into a huge distraction as you could imagine.

What is the last place you visited? Tell us about something that happened there. One of the last places I visited was Long Island over Thanksgiving. Other than hanging out with family there and eating a ridiculous amount of bialys, Long Island is usually a pretty boring place for me to visit. During this visit though, I went with a friend to check out Wardenclyffe, Nikola Tesla’s laboratory on Long Island that was shut down due to lack of funding and support from the scientific community. Tesla’s goal was to build these towers across the world that would send electricity into the air, which would provide free electricity to everyone. The first tower was built in 1901 at the lab in Long Island and it still stands to this day (can you tell by now that I enjoy exploring abandoned towers?). The property is fenced off, unfortunately, but we were still able to get a good look at all of the buildings and the tower. It looked really wild. Very sci-fi. Sort of like the power plants in Antonioni’s Red Desert. We even met a British tourist there who was observing the remains of the lab as well. He definitely was either a scientist or a science enthusiast because he told us all about Tessla and his inventions. There’s a good article in the NY Times about Tesla and his Long Island lab from a couple years ago: LINK.

Oh yes, and my friend also drove me by Schwing Electrical Supply Corporation that’s on Long Island. A very nerdy yet most likely unintentional Wayne’s World reference right there.

Where do you turn for inspiration? Reading books and watching movies are really the most inspiring activities for me. “Moon Palace,” by Paul Auster is one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. I love documentaries. Agnes Varda’s “The Gleaners and I” is a very inspiring documentary for me.

I also find going to thrift stores to be inspiring. I tend to get ideas for pictures from finding weird stuff at stores. I love picking through the VHS section at Goodwill. You can find some really strange movies there.

Places that I often visit are inspiring as well. My aunt’s house in the mission district of San Francisco is one of those places. All of the walls in the house are literally covered with memorabilia, art, pictures of friends, left wing political activist posters from the ’60s/’70s, etc etc. I always get creative ideas when staying there.

Thank you, Ben!