While working in Detroit, I acquired a series of photographs from a retired former Detroit Police officer, Marty Gaynor, whom I began to interview weekly over a course of two years. Among his thousands of photographs were images that he had taken in the line of duty. By cataloguing, arranging, and interpreting his work, I gave it the parameters of an archive. I arranged Marty’s images to create documents in the format of a grid. Each grid was presented to Marty as a canvas for him to transcribe a narration for his images.
I infiltrated and paired the grids with images I had taken during my investigation and interaction with Marty. After organizing the images, I began to struggle with indexical notations the archive revealed when presented as unified work. I embarked on an image making process along side Marty to see if I could understand the realities of identity, spirituality, and empathy.
Barbara Tannenbaum: Curator of Photography, Cleveland Museum of Art
“Some of these images are official; many are personal. Taken collectively, Beautiful Pig is not just a story about police work in Detroit during the late twentieth century, but about the whole world of policing. We gain a sense of Gaynor’s personality and life, and his feelings about his career. All of this is definitely told primarily through remarkable images”.
The Anamorphosis Prize: 2015 Jury Special Mention by Anouk Kruithof
Beautiful Pig is a straightforward book as object, but it’s layeredness in design shows the complexities of identity through narrative mixed with questions about violence and lets us travel to bigger issues of great importance. I see this book as evidence of an investigation, which has been done by the artist into the life of a retired former Detroit Police officer, Marty Gaynor. Most of the pages of the book show Gaynor’s old photos in grids, where one can see his personal investigations during his employment; photos taken by Gaynor of people arrested accompanied by handwritten instructions, personal findings and somewhat critical stereotypical notes. Subsequently, the artist did his investigation of the police officer through photographs he took and the quirky ways that he worked together with a: the retired man himself and b: his photographic archive. The book is extraordinary because it manifests Schonberger’s unraveled quest for social collaboration that lead to this book, which I see as a detection to a much more complex problem, one which is accurate and current. It’s like a loaded puzzle that cannot be resolved. I see this book as a metaphor, which provokes my spinning mind into the current enigma of violence and stimulates me to further thinking, therefore deserving my special jury mention.
© Ben Schonberger 2013 - 2019