Self-portrait using the tintype processGordon Stettinius photo
The selectors said: Gordon Stettinius documents small nuances seldom noticed in passing. He makes us look and laugh as he captures them. He creates intriguing personas for his photographs that require more than a quick glance. Stettinius has shown his work extensively in Richmond and New York.
Photography found Gordon Stettinius at the University of Virginia while he was studying under professor Holly Wright. A native Richmonder, he was an art major — he made some sculpture and enjoyed drawing and printmaking. He thought that route would lead him into commercial photography, but taking classes at the Art Institute of San Francisco altered his plan because he spent time with working artists. He lived in Minneapolis and then in Tucson, Ariz., where he got his first exposure to the plastic "toy" camera that has become a signature of his work.
The introduction, made through a handwritten flyer, led Stettinius to "a man on the north side of town, and we made the exchange beneath a purple sky in a Circle K parking lot … Cost me 10 dollars. And it was highly addictive."
Thus Stettinius began using a plastic Holga camera that led to his use of a small Diana. In a digital age, he's shooting film with rudimentary cameras. This lends a time-out-of-joint effect to his work — contemporary images of parades, religious celebrants and roller-derby girls are given a tincture of Mathew Brady.
He lived away from Richmond for 13 years, then "prodigally returned." He has taught at VCU and captures fleeting moments with his small cameras.
A newspaper article about U.S. 1 deserving historic designation inspired him to dovetail a photography sojourn with his son's five weeks at camp. "I'm not sure what I would've done otherwise," he says. "I got the Miss Potato Blossom Pageant in Maine and the Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest in Key West. But Tuesday in Daytona is dead." He may return to some towns. Road trips and photography are his metaphorical church.
Stettinius is aware of the cliché inherent in these carnivals. But he enjoys seeing people transform themselves in contexts that are religious, social or sexual. "I like going to weddings," he says. "I like going to drag bars. I like any opportunity where people step outside themselves."
Upcoming projects include a book imprint, and his first title, concerning New York photography, is projected
for release early next year. He's collaborating with photographer Terry Brown for a series of self-portraits made at Dementi Studios, "What Am I Doing Now?" wherein he assumes different personas.
He explains, "The next one is ‘The Governor,' because Dementi takes the official portrait of Virginia governors."