What I try to do is reinvigorate strategies and clichés I find in Hollywood movies. At a certain point I had these huge folders, each one classified according to subject matter or genre: people with guns, people kissing, Indians and cowboys falling off horses, getting shot, getting shot with arrows—almost every plot device. Then I cropped the cheap, recycled imagery to give exhausted images new meaning, or at least something other than their original meaning. I’m basically reassembling atoms to give them a meaning that’s more au courant.
Probably I was never going to get out of National City, so I was going to show people what it’s like, to make art out of where I lived without glamorizing it, and with the idea that truth is beautiful, no matter how ugly it is. I drove around in the car shooting my pictures from the window, because I didn’t want to make the place more beautiful by setting my camera up with a tripod, getting the right light, and just the right composition. I wanted it just the way it is.
The real reason I got deeply interested in photography was my sense of dissatisfaction with what I was seeing. I wanted to break down the rules of photography—the conventions. I discovered I was more of a “thinking” person than a “working” person. Photography allowed me to register my ideas more rapidly than painting them. They grew out of a sense of urgency. If you’re stranded on a desert island and a plane flew over, you wouldn’t write “HELP” in Old English script.