Who: Tony Campbell, artist
Film by: UNO student and filmmaker Justin Faxon
Editor’s note: This short documentary is the work of Justin Faxon, a student in the “Introduction to Documentary Production” class taught by Laszlo Fulop in the Film Department at the University of New Orleans.
[Full transcription below]
My name is Tony Campbell. I was born in London, England, and I came to America in my mid-thirties. First for my BFA, and then I went to the Real College of Art, which is a college just for graduate students in London set up by Queen Victoria. At that time it was part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is still around today, as is The Real College.
As an artist I’m very multi-media, actually. I teach print making and photography, and that reflects my practice. As a student, I went to a college that was very flexible about the kind of medium you worked in, so I worked in painting, print-making, and photography. Now I do some sculptures and some video, but predominantly I do photography and print making.
What I like so much about print making is that you’re never quite sure about the result. There’s always this surprise element to what you imagine is going to happen and what ends up happening. Sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised, and there are things that work in a better way than you expected. Obviously, there are downsides to that as well — things are drastically the opposite of what you expected. The great thing about print making is that you can always backtrack a step. You can reprint the color, change the idea, and save the print. It’s that flexibility that I love.
Coming to New Orleans, there’s a broad artistic spectrum of what’s going on, which is really nice. There’s music, there’s art, and there’s theater and other things that intermingle. I really enjoy New Orleans because everyone is an artist really. If you go out on Mardi Gras day or any of those days, you can see everybody that’s being creative, and it’s great to be in an environment where everyone has agency to be an artist.
Since Katrina, there’s been a vibrant fine art community happening. This is a very creative city, and it’s lovely to see everybody using their creative skills and making a costume at different times of the year. They create their wares and then share that with everybody.
I enjoy teaching even before I taught here. I was often teaching people printmaking, especially silk screening. Everyone kept asking me to make their band poster, and I thought it was better to teach people how to do it so they can make their own poster. I was always doing that. It’s enjoyable to watch someone grasp something. [Silk screening] is difficult at once, but it’s like learning to drive. Once you work out the mechanics to it, that opens up the door to lots of creativity and lots of creative thinking.
Teaching art, in general — no matter what your background is — is a different way of thinking and problem-solving creatively. That can be useful in other aspects of your academic career — to think outside the box. I think fine art helps with that.