William Wegman: I think that both video and photo were disciplines that were very new to me but ones that I felt were complementary. With video, it was pretty much just jumping in front of the camera and dangling things there, whether it was the dog or my finger or a light bulb or whatever it was. With the photos though, I made little sketches sometimes and then would assemble them. So that came out of installation art I had been making in Wisconsin where I felt that actually I was kind of influencing the installations so they'd look better in the photograph. And then it occurred to me that what I really should be doing was making photo pieces, as they became known as, rather than documenting performances or installations. And I also liked the power aspect of being able to publish or broadcast, which both video and photography was capable of. Your work could be in a magazine and would be understood the same way whereas a performance you had to kind of be there or installation, you could only see an aspect of it but not the whole thing. I felt like when you were looking at one of my photos in a magazine, may not be as crystallized as it would be in your hands or on the wall but for me would mean the same. So that was a major thought I had about it.
I was very stymied right before I had this sort of breakthrough in video and photo. I was putting interesting things on the wall like mud and hair and rotting carrots and I remember a fellow artist came into my studio and there was debris all over the floor and he said it looked really great. And it did. And that was the problem. The stuff on the floor looked really good. But I didn't do it on purpose and I really felt like I needed to control every aspect of the work, that I needed the intention there. I needed the clarity. And one way of knowing whether this clarity was being received was if someone responded, and laughter is one way where you really know someone gets it. And I think that must've really appealed to me, the fact that someone just fell down laughing. But I wasn't really necessarily after humor. But it certainly did pat me on the back, I guess.
In this excerpt, Wegman discusses his transition from conceptual art to simultaneously working with video and photography. [2:21]