It was sociologist Stuart Hall who led Los Angeles artist Todd Gray to rethink the nature of his work. The prolific Jamaican-British theorist, who died in 2014, was noted for his profound examinations of power and the ways in which culture can be deployed to maintain a certain order. In resistance, he noted, there is also power.
Those ideas inspired Gray to exert his own resistance by rattling the conventions of photography. “I started using round frames, I went from 2-D to 3-D, I stopped using glazing,” he explains. “It led me to challenge the assumption of what it meant to properly exhibit a photo.”
The artist began to layer his images in elaborate three-dimensional collages, with images showcased in unorthodox picture frames. (How often do you see a snapshot presented in an ornate, gilded frame?) In their content, Gray’s pieces also wrestle with power. As the artist told Aperture magazine last year, “Photography is a way for power to have a direct line into subjects, into us, into the masses; to formulate narratives that we don’t question, because we think these narratives are something called reality.”