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Interview with Daniel Rios, CHAW Darkroom Artist in Residence - Fall 2018

January 24, 2019
Daniel Rios was the CHAW Darkroom Artist in Residence for Fall 2018. It has been a true pleasure here at CHAW to watch Daniel work! We are thrilled to have had him in and about CHAW. Below, learn about his work and experience as an artist in residence with us!

Florida Ave Grill
Unfixed Gelatin Silver Print

Daniel, tell us a little bit about you! How did you come to be an artist?
I did my undergrad here in DC at the Corcoran, where I studied photography. I started working in the arts right after graduation at the Maine Media Workshops, then came back to the area to work at the School of Art at George Mason University, after a good 5 years there I moved on to the Newseum where I handled all the digital work of their artifacts and images for the exhibitions and finally where I am now at the US Senate as the official photographer. For me all of these jobs have been about balancing that life with my work as an artist, squeezing in extra minutes for projects and days to make trips to photograph; what I learned early on was that they all tend to inform each other. Whether its teaching art students, working with photojournalists or taking hundreds of pictures a day it has made me work harder at being an artist. Ultimately being an artist is about labor, its about making work.

My work is generally experimental in nature, once I find a path I’m interested in the work moves into a kind of refinement stage where the experimenting ends and you have to rely on your formal training and how things work whether its in the darkroom or digital lab - the goal for me is the final piece.

Why did you choose a residency at CHAW? 
As an artist it is nice to have the time to focus, work, and figure out what you want to do. I showed a piece at a group show held at CHAW back in 2012, and it felt like something to keep in your back pocket - a unique place in the city, actually in my own neighborhood, where there was a darkroom and space to spread your work out - and I wanted to come back to it. 

The projects I’d been working on were starting to feel either forced, like I needed to make every trip to the studio have a return on the investment, or they were simply taking too long to complete. Having a place to experiment and be messy turned out to be a great reset on what I was doing and led to new work. 

What was your initial proposal for this residency and how did your work change over the course of it?  
Initially I came to CHAW to complete two bodies of work that I had been photographing for a few years, I had them envisioned and just wanted to get them done. One of them I did, and the other…well I abandoned it to be honest. That work branched into what I’ve done while at CHAW. I began culling images from the Library of Congress, another resource that was in my neighborhood that I’d only barely begun to explore. High res scans of original negatives taken here in DC, but in my view, tourist pictures; I’ve spent hours and hours looking at this city and how it has changed or hasn’t in some cases - mirroring the past decade that I’ve lived here and how I’ve experienced it. Making digital negatives I contact print them in the darkroom, then rather than fixing the images I’m letting them fade back to nothing. This makes the work performative for an install, but also lets a viewer experience the images like the real places — snapping a photo and moving on, experiencing something only to have it torn down or re-purposed, ultimately relegating itself only to memory.

What’s next for you now that the residency is coming to a close?
I’m pushing forward on a few projects that are non-photographic which I’ve left untouched since I began the residency. I’m working out a series of text-based paintings that are serving as studies for some works in neon that I’d like to execute later this year.
Daniel Rios will be giving an artist talk about his work and his experiences as the CHAW Darkroom Artist in Residence on February 22nd from 7-9pm. Please join us!