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Interviewed September 1, 2003
by Sarah Clover

Erik Gould

      Images: Railroad Tunnel– East entrance, West entrance20 IntersectionsSigns along Harris AveParking shacksIndia Point swing bridgeRoadside memorials  
Erik Gould
Gregg Anderson
Cristina di Chiera
Erik Gould
Kathleen Griffin
Elizabeth Keithline
Scott Lapham
Rafael Lyons
Julie Manso and Carl Dunn
the Men of Letters
Rag and Bone Bindery
Howie Snieder
Herb Weiss
Cliff Wood
May Yao

“Spaces like this are interesting to me, in that, in a matter of a couple generations a really desirable thing in the community – a point of pride – has been almost forgotten.”

I met with local photographer Erik Gould in his Pawtucket studio/darkroom to discuss his most recent project: The Rhode Island Photographic Survey. Erik's recent shows include his exhibition “Work from the Archives of Rhode Island Photographic Survey” in Wheeler Gallery, September 2002, and his photos of the Loutitt Laundry Building were in the collection of contemporary photographs of historic architecture entitled “Providence's Ten Most Endangered”, presented by The Providence Preservation Society at the Center City Contemporary Arts Gallery, Oct/Nov 2002. The AS220 Darkroom Benefit show at Monohasset Mills in the spring 2003 auctioned off one of his works. More recently, his work will be in the upcoming “Providence's 10 Most Endangered” show at Gallery Z in October.

But lets get back to the Survey. The idea behind the RI Photographic Survey is “to create an overarching framework where I could work to find an easier way to explain why I am collecting and looking at all different types of things: not only a site, parking shacks, things repeated in the landscape, shopping carts left in weird places, odd ball things left on the curb, roadside memorials, etc. Once you start looking and noticing something, they seem to be everywhere”.

One of the RI Photographic Survey's main focus is on Issues of sprawl. How it is all interconnected? You can't hope to save historical sites without dealing with that issue too… During my studio visit we discused a variety of subjects activated by Erik's photographs and sketchbooks; the discovery of an old prison during the malls construction, the history of water place park, urban renewal, landscaping and the Bradford Pear tree, and the arts community.

Erik’s urban myth:
“I got this story from another area photographer and I don't really know where he got it from. The story is there are of a lot of churches in Providence. There is one that supposedly cannot be photographed. If you try to take a photo something happens and the film is affected and you can't make out an image... but , I don't know which church is and he didn't know. I've thought about getting a listing of all the churches, going through it and trying..."

Introduction to “Rhode Island Photographic Survey” booklet, Erik Carlson & Erica Carpenter:
These photos reveal the living aspect of our discarded places, those sites that we see without really seeing in the course of daily movement. Someone's backwoods, a roof on an urban parking shed, the weather-worn eulogies of a roadside memorial, the collective dialect of one street's composite of signs – we find more than we bargained for when we try to look. Charismatic juxtapositions, unintended typologies, and the embellishments of eccentric personal detail reveal that these spaces are not lost in our landscape but very much a part of it. We've claimed them as our own.

Erik relocated from Rochester, NY to Providence on a whim. He had been working on theater set design and freelance photography. The move here motivated him to take his photography more seriously and he began to work within that field. The physical space of RI was a very appealing. Just wandering around he would see incredible things. Within the compactness of the state, he found “a quirky little corner filled with quirky people”. He found people to be friendly and willing to share and open up. Because of this openness from other's, he feels “a responsibility to give other people opportunities”.

Erik jumped right into the art scene and community by contacting artists whose work intrigued him. He became involved in the Insight Foundation that published a quarterly. He also solicited Rhode Island Photography for a slide show at The Newport Art Museum. And well, one thing led to another – working in a lab, freelancing, a stint at the Providence Journal. He is currently working for the RISD Art Museum. “Artist's are lucky that their job doesn't define who they are. What you do to make money – how you take care of the mundane”.

For more information contact the Rhode Island Photographic Survey at 545 Pawtucket Ave, Box 405, Pawtucket, RI, 02860 or visit

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