See Photographer Eric T. White’s Trippy, Dada-Inspired Collages [NSFW]

By

"I have an X-Acto callus," artist and photographer Eric T. White told the Cut with the slightest hint of pride before unveiling his collection of 4-by-6-inch whimsical, and often sexual, photo collages — all cut and pieced together from his own collection of personal and professional photographs. White, a D.C. native who spent his youth hopping around California, New Mexico, Las Vegas, and Germany, graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2002 and spent his first years out of college in New York assisting photographers Christopher Griffith, Tina Barney, and Todd Eberle. Within the past three years, he's sprung out on his own, shooting a mix of portraiture, still lifes, and fashion editorials for publications like Nylon and Paper. Around that time, White also wielded an X-Acto knife and created his first collage.

"I’d just make one weird one and put it on my fridge, and my friends would laugh at it for a while and say, 'Oh, that’s weird,'" he told us. "I’d do one a month, and then I really started to see the value in and the creative exercise of making these things. Looking through old things and seeing how they piece together." His collages, which began as an offbeat and more personal side project, have evolved into visual feasts that glue together and offer a second life to his work: his parent's backyard, body parts of his friends, Rita Ora's face from an editorial he shot, a palm tree from his travels, and the list goes on. "Mickey Mouse–boob ears," "boob halos," disco balls, Coke bottles, religious iconography, American flags, and flowers also regularly appear in his work. White's created roughly 70 collages since his first, and, as he travels everywhere with a point-and-shoot camera in his pocket, his collection is only destined to grow. We spoke to White about his creative process, his thoughts on female objectification and advertising, and his future plans for his work. Read through the Q&A below and click through the slideshow to enter White's poppy and provocative realm of collages.

What initially made you interested in creating these collages?
While I was assisting, I got to travel a lot, and I always had my little point-and-shoot camera with me. I was taking snapshots everywhere. As I started to put my work together, I always wanted to include these images — like a beautiful landscape or a cool tree — but they could never really fully fit into the other work that I was doing, and I hated that. I have one of those 4-by-6-inch printers, so I was constantly shooting film and printing them out, and I ended up with a huge stack. I was looking through them one day and decided to cut some of them up.

Are your collages created entirely from your own work?
They're from some editorial shoots that I’ve done. Rita Ora is in a couple of them and Grimes. It's a mix of stuff that I’ve done for Paper and Nylon, old snapshots, personal work, and editorial stuff that I’ve been doing. All of them together.

There are a lot of breasts and Coca-Cola in your photos. Is this a theme that you’re continuing?
I’ve always been really fascinated with Coca-Cola as a brand. It hasn’t really changed over the years. Wherever you go, there’s always Coca-Cola. It’s so American, yet it's worldwide. It’s iconic, and it’s [all about] consumerism. The breasts, also, were kind of [tied to] consumerism. In one way, they're almost like Coca-Cola. They sell things. They might not be for sale themselves, but they’re also used to sell these things.

Would you say that you're objectifying women?
I would say that’s fair. That’s not necessarily my intention. I think advertising, in general, objectifies women.

Do you think you’re objectifying men, too?
Oh man, I don’t have as many men in there. I don’t have as many men in my work, in general. I would objectify them if I could [
laughs]. But I think the female body is objectified all the time in advertising, in art, in America. I’m just kind of playing off of that.

Can you expand more on how advertising in America affects your work?
You look out the window, turn on TV, radio, whatever — they're just so in your face at all times. On one hand, it’s kind of disgusting, but on the other hand, those are the people who are giving me money to take pictures of their products. I’m in both worlds of it. I see how it gives me my job — but at the same time, it’s really always there.
I’m not taking a strong stance, I’m trying to be playful.

What themes are you trying to capture?
On one side, I really like being provocative and sexual and really explicit. On the other hand, I’m trying to make some that are a little bit more family friendly, that don’t have to come with a NSFW warning. I think that there’s value in both. Certain people will gravitate toward the really dirty ones and other people will gravitate to the ones with flowers with a couple of hands and disco balls.

There's an overlap between fine art and photography in your work. Do you consider yourself more one than the other?
At the end of the day, I’m hopefully an artist. I really love taking pictures of people, taking portraits, going into an environment, interacting with a person, and leaving with a document of that. That, I think, feeds into my collages, and then I can take what I’ve done with people and a month or six months later, put it back into the collages and give it even more life and relevance.

Who are some artists or photographers that inspired your work?
I'm super inspired by Dada, the Surrealist movement, and I think that obviously shows in the collages. As far as photographers go, Nan Goldin, Helmut Newton,
Ryan McGinley, and Larry Fink.

BEGIN SLIDESHOW