How long have you been a photographic artist?
My first photographs date from 1965 when I was 8 years old. I became more serious about it during my senior year of high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy 47 years ago.
What drew you to photography as a form of expression?
I’ve tried my hand at drawing, painting and music to some success. I consider photography to be a more universal visual language. In my early experience, the intricacies of the chemical process could be fun and rewarding.
Are there any artists or art styles that help inspire your work?
I expect one could easily discern my photographic influences range from Walker Evans to Robert Frank to Lee Friedlander to the New Topographics group. But I continue to expand my knowledge of photo history through monographs and theoretical essays. Additionally, I am a tenacious student American history, with an emphasis on Mid-America. Less obvious inspirations include some work by painters like Hans Hoffman and Richard Diebenkorn, and a particular fondness for Joseph Cornell’s boxes.
Above all, I think life experience guides every artist’s work.
Has your work seen any transitions or transformations from when you first began in this medium? If so, in what way?
My schooling gave me a chance to try different genres and techniques of photography. Besides portraiture and conceptual series and installations, I sought out absurd contradictions in the man-made environment. This last straight style led to plain documents of unusual and overlooked scenes, revealing the iconography and characteristics of American culture. As I continue these approaches, my aim is to provoke thought, leaving interpretation open to the viewer.
I shot black and white film in various formats for over 30 years. When I lost access to a darkroom, I transitioned to digital procedures, first by scanning film to make inkjet prints and eventually, getting comfortable with a digital camera. Now I am nearly exclusively shooting and printing color.
With the quarantine in place, how are you using your photography to deal with being in isolation?
Just before the stay at home directive, I was going through my digital image archive in preparation for my new website. This gave me a chance to discover some forgotten pictures and find some common themes. I hope to collect some series and sequences into book form. Next, I will be scanning black and white negatives from an even larger archive. I expect my website will continue to evolve.
What else would you like us to know about you and your work?
While a full CV can be found on my web site, here is a very short biography:
Grew up in Oklahoma City and Columbia, MO.
BFA in photo at KCAI 1974-1979.
Member of the band, Tirez Tirez (which opened for Talking Heads in Kansas City, KS in 1978), 1978-1981.
Moved with the band to New York City, 1980, recorded an LP, and played many venues (CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, etc).
MFA in photo at Indiana University, Bloomington, 1982-1986.
Lived in Chicago, worked in photo labs, played in bands, started a record label, 1986-2001.
Managed Photo Lab and Adjunct Instructor at College of DuPage, IL, 2001-2012.
Curated “Continuum: KCAI Alumni Photography: New Work by Graduates from 1975-1979” at the Cross Gallery, Kansas City, MO, 2007.
Retired in 2012 and moved back to Kansas City, MO in 2014.
Exhibited nationally and locally, with solo shows at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, Kansas City, MO.
To see more of Jeff’s work visit his website: https://www.jeffburk-photo.com/
Social media – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeff.burk