Gregory Fitzsimmons is a Chicago-based photographer, book artist, and filmmaker. His work draws on his experiences as a Navy veteran and as a community activist. He has a BA in Liberal Arts with a focus in Photography from DePaul University's School for New Learning. His work is frequently site-specific and highly personal, engaging in a direct conversation with issues of identity, war, disability, and economic justice. He was a director of The Westtown Tenants Union in Chicago's Wicker Park in the 1990s, organizing participatory projects critiquing gentrification and working as a photographer, editor, and copywriter for The Union's newspaper. Gregory was an art-facilitator as part of a program to decrease violence at a state psychiatric hospital, creating collaborative practices between patients and staff. For the last year, despite his fear of driving, he has been making a photographic self portrait in the form of a driver's license.
The poetry of Jack Spicer and Stephan Mallarme are models for my practice. Instead of the solid but slippery meaning of a poet's words, I use photography's ephemeral nature: fragile when printed, receding from our grasp when projected. My research and making is an inquiry into the fluidity of memory and identity, especially within places and situations charged with personal and collective emotions—psychiatric hospitals, places where murders have occurred, car accidents, and landscapes undergoing trauma and transformation. For me, even the mundane places, the snapshot images, and the routine documents in my life are seen as a flowing violent mess of deep interest.
I shoot medium-format photographs, stereoscopic images, 8mm film, and video, most often outdoors, using my studio to develop the form and relationships within my installations, books, and films. I love found snapshots of strangers, old furniture, moldy books, bric-a-brac, bureaucratic documents, resale-shop toys, as well as keepsakes from my own life. What is mine and what I borrow from the lives of others are combined with and within the still and moving images that I make through an obsessive process of composing, editing, and constant recalibration. Images and objects are elements of conduction for meaning to move through my work from the outside, like radio-electric signals in a circuit board.
For the last year, I have been making a photographic self-portrait in the form of a driver's license. For me, it means using the entire landscape of my life to take a photograph of myself. The license is a photograph I am taking with a very large camera constructed from the entire process of learning how to drive. The car, the streets, the traffic signs and lights, the state office where I must go to finish the self-portrait by passing the road test—everything I do and everywhere I go towards getting the license is part of the lens-based device I am learning to manipulate to make the final image.
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.