Briefly describe the work you do.
My work takes many forms; however, it is rooted primarily in digital photographic processes. I investigate how we use photography and technology in an increasingly virtual and connected world. I am currently exploring these ideas using live streaming webcams and social media. These spaces include Times Square and Dealey Plaza, where a webcam looks down from the vantage point of John F. Kennedy’s assassin.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. I don’t come from a particular artistic family; in fact, I was originally an astronomy student in college. It wasn’t until I decided that applied mathematics and physics just weren’t for me that I turned to photography. Cameras have always fascinated me. I like technology and gadgets, but I had never done anything serious with photography. Switching from the School of Science to the School of Art at the University of Arizona was a transformational experience for the better. It was there that I exchanged my view through a telescope for a view through a camera . Thankfully, I was afforded the opportunity to really explore the crossover between art and science and develop my own voice as an artist. It is this overlap that greatly informs my work today.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I’ve had a “traditional” studio space. It always served as a space where I could explore my more messy ideas, a place to tinker in a physical sense. It was common to find all sorts of electronic components from the projectors and computer monitors I was tearing down and rebuilding all over my workbench. Other times my studio would be filled with stray pieces of wood and sawdust from some of the cameras I was building. My most recent work, however, really breaks from the traditional studio setting. My webcam work requires only that I have a computer and an internet connection. Working on my laptop allows me to continue that particular body of work from just about anywhere, be that my house, at my desk, or while I’m waiting to catch a flight at the airport. Everything is connected to a network virtually all the time, I have even used my phone during breaks between classes to pickup where I left off. Depending on what I’m doing, my studio follows me around, whether in my pocket or in my backpack.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
What I envisioned when I first started is vastly different from what I do now. When I first decided photography was something I was really interested in professionally, I figured I would learn the technical side of the medium. I thought I’d go to school, learn as much as I could and apply it to my interest in astrophotography. I very quickly reconciled my interest in science with my interest in photography, but in ways I never expected. It’s clear now my knowledge and understanding of art was extremely limited. Since then it’s been total immersion. I have worked to explore new definitions of photography. I have had the unique opportunity of studying alongside many great artists. I learned a lot about the gallery-side of the art world, working at the Kennedy Museum of Art and managing two on-campus galleries in Athens, Ohio. I also had the joy of teaching a really great bunch of students who are beginning their careers as artists. That is something I’d like to do more of in the future.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I tend to work here and there throughout the day, but I prefer to schedule longer blocks of time in the morning and night. With a current ongoing webcam project I have to work sporadically since the project is very much time based. I’m working with webcam streams that are on wildly different schedules from my own. Working on this project that involves global time means sometimes I have to be working very early or very late.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Being that 5 years ago is about the time I started my art practice my work has changed quite a bit. Questioning of photography, technology, and identity are themes that have remained constant; however, some of my methods have changed. My early work involved being in direct contact with my camera, the new webcam stuff deals with cameras in places I’ve never been physically. They are like Mars rovers, beaming back images from distant places. On top of that, some of the projection based work I’ve been exploring the past couple years is very new territory for me.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
A wide array of scientific research certainly has an impact on my practice. That definitely informs my curious, questioning approach to my work. I do often find myself coming back to the Isaac Asimov quote- “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That’s funny…”. Beyond that I make a point of surrounding myself with hard working people who are equally passionate about what they do, art related or otherwise. These are the people who have at some point heard me say, “Hey, come check this out.”
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Astronomer, still. Space is a vast, wondrous thing.
Carlos Rene Pacheco is an artist and photographer from Tucson, Arizona. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in Photography from the University of Arizona and his MFA in Photography + Integrated Media at Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio. A former Astronomy student, Pacheco’s work has been described as equal parts magic and science. A reconciliation of his questioning of the photographic medium and his passion for scientific exploration, Pacheco’s work offers a subtle twist of the viewer’s expectations and feelings of familiarity.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.