Josh Wool is a photographer living and working in New York. In a city where voices and visions are so easily lost, Wool has been able to achieve an honest vocabulary through his portraiture and lifestyle photography. While he acknowledges the motivation and inspiration the city provides, his natural role as a patient observer allows for a more profound connection with his subjects and environment. In the same way a finger stops the vibration and sound of a tuning fork, the time and place Wool captures on film cultivates a necessary visual pause.
JACOB VAN LOON: You have seasoned experience as an Executive Chef prior to starting your career as a photographer. Food, especially in the design and preparation of food as a chef, is an often understated reference to a social/cultural connection with another person(s). Did this aspect of your past career prime you in any way to shoot portraiture?
JOSH WOOL: I’ve always felt that food is a way to connect with people, and when you think about it, you put a lot of trust in the people who feed you. From the farmers who grow the food, to the people who prepare it, that food has traveled a long way to get to your plate. Cooking for people is an intimate thing. It’s also a connection in common experience and memory. Smell and taste are the biggest memory triggers and to be able to take someone back to their childhood with a bite of food is incredibly amazing to me. I think part of that translates to photography, you really have to connect with people to make a good portrait. It’s intimate and you have to get people to trust you even if it’s only for a few minutes. When people let their guard down, when they trust you enough, that’s when the portraits are best for me.
JVL: “Quiet” is a word I’ve seen to describe your approach to portraiture. How is that something you maintain in your work as you walk the line between candidacy and mutual awareness?
JW: I think that quietness is a direct result of my personality. That quiet approach is, for better or worse, how I tend to deal with a lot of things in my life. My father told me as a kid that one should listen twice as much as he speaks, that’s really stuck with me over the years. It’s amazing what you can learn if you actually shut up for five minutes and observe the world around you. I think at times in social settings I may come off as aloof, intimidating, or unapproachable, but really I’m just observing my surroundings and people’s personalities. The other half of that is that I’m assertive and deliberate in my actions. I think the combination of the two in a portraiture setting allows me to perceive my subject’s personality and then approach them in a way that allows me to make the photographs I want to make. I’m not an in your face, flashy kind of person, I’m more about nuance, subtly, and intimacy.
JVL: Is personality an unexpectedly difficult element to truthfully convey in photography?
JW: It can be an exceedingly difficult task. I don’t think there’s much truth to a lot of photography out there, especially in art photography. It’s all about creating an illusion, not documenting a reality. Portraiture on the other hand is all about finding a way to convey personality, which isn’t an easy thing. People generally only show you what they want you to see. Getting past that wall is the challenge and when it happens the reward is great. Photography is in essence visual storytelling, and some of those stories hold more truth than others, but each has a place.
JVL: How much should portraiture tell about a place and time?
JW: I think a great portrait tells you everything about that particular time and place in a person’s life. Physical place/location takes a secondary role in most cases, but it really depends on the situation.
JVL: Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors. It doesn’t matter what he’s writing, every character and idea in his books are clearly influenced by his life in the South. How does your personal background come through in what you choose to shoot?
JW: I grew up between South Carolina and Virginia and have lived in Georgia and Tennessee. My roots are in the South and I tend to romanticize it as a place and I feel like it seeps into my work more often than not. I think it’s an attitude more than anything else, though some of the aesthetic gets in there too. I have a love/hate relationship with the South, there’s so much that is blatantly wrong with the South - the disparity between rich and poor, the racism, the fundamentalism in religion and politics, but that being said, there are a lot of good and progressive people in the South, it’s an unbelievably beautiful place, even though much of it is slowly decaying. There’s this stoicism that prevails down there, a quiet rebelliousness, that people are going to make a life for themselves despite what other people think or what their circumstances are, that I identify with. There’s so much history in the South and there’s a lot of weird energy down there that is almost tangible. There’s this idea of proper society down there, but what really interests me is the dark underbelly of the South, what the real people are up to.
JVL: I recently went on an eight-mile circular walk through Garfield Park and the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, which were two Chicago neighborhoods that made national headlines last year for being some of the most violent areas in the Nation. For such historically integral parts of the city, I felt a strong disassociation between what I normally think of Chicago, and what Chicago might actually be. How do social and economic contrasts both in the South and New York influence your tendencies as a photographer?
JW: What we want to think of people, places, and times are not necessarily accurate of how they really are. We romanticize those things, I know I do that a lot with the South. In reality a lot of places and people in the South are broken down, slowly decaying, poverty ridden and at times dangerous. I’m aware of the contradiction in that reality versus artistic interpretation, but I don’t know that I’ve explored it in a traditional sense, but I’d like to at some point. I’m incredibly uncomfortable with typical street photography, I can’t point a camera at a stranger and snap away. I have to be able to talk to the people I photograph.
JVL: It tickled me to see photos from your apartment on Rog Walker’s blog. How has living in New York most influenced you as a photographer?
JW: New York has been amazing, it’s been tough, but really pushed me as an artist. It’s an unforgiving place and it demands that you put out your best effort, there’s not a lot of second chances here, there are thousands of other people trying to make it as well. If you’re not hungry or motivated, and a little lucky, you’re not going to make it in New York. Living here has made me a better photographer, space is a luxury, and it’s made me understand how important working with what you have is. I shoot mostly from home, and each place I’ve lived has had very different light, and I’ve had to adapt to each situation. It’s also exciting to live here and be surrounded by so many talented people in all different fields. There’s a sense of community that’s starting to form, and seeing everybody make those big steps forward in their careers is incredibly inspiring and motivating. I think we all share the common struggle of trying to make it as artists.
JVL: Tell me about your latest camera acquisition.
JW: I just picked up a Crown Graphic 4x5 camera from the 1950’s. It’s an old press camera like Weegee used. I’ve wanted to explore large format for a while, for what I do in portraiture at least in my personal work, it sort of makes sense. The plan is to eventually invest in a 4x5 developing tank so I can shoot and process 4x5 black and white film myself. For now I’m using it as a glorified Polaroid camera for a possible book project over the next year or two. Also when I have the space to build a dark room I want to venture into wet plate and tintypes. I’m not a huge collector; I try to only buy cameras that I feel that I’m going to use on a regular basis. I acquired a number of medium format cameras, but unfortunately sold them off last year when times were pretty tight. I have an Polaroid Land Camera from the 60’s that I use a lot and just inherited a Canon AE-1 35mm from my late grandfather. Aside from that I have a Pentax K1000 an old girlfriend gave me, a Zeiss Icon medium format from my uncle, and a Canon 5DmkII that’s the workhorse for my digital production. There’s a long list of cameras I’d love to own, but I can’t justify buying any more vintage equipment at the moment.
JVL: What is there to value about traditional photographic processes? A lot of the industrydefining companies I used to purchase from completely ate it in the mid-to-late 2000’s.
JW: The analog process is invaluable. The technology involved is incredible, light sensitive minerals on cellulose acetate stuck into a device that records a moment in time, I’m still blown away that someone figured out how to do that. Analog photography is a completely different mindset than digital, at least for me, and you can take all of what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, because I’ve only been shooting for three years (at this point). Analog is about getting it right in the camera the first time, there’s no luxury of taking a thousand photos and hoping you got something. There’s no preview aside from taking a Polaroid. I got into shooting film about two years ago and that’s when things really started clicking for me. Having a limited number of exposures made me think so much more about what and how I was shooting, is my composition good, is my exposure right, do I really want this subject matter? Each frame costs me money and time, I process black and white at home, so when I’m shooting I ask myself am I willing to spend the time processing and scanning this image? So it slows the process of photography down for me and makes it much more of a deliberate process and I think that’s translated into my digital workflow as well. I will say however that just because something is shot with film doesn’t automatically make it a good image. I think it’s important to be versed in both analog and digital, it’s sort of the old adage of you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. I’m certainly not a purist, but I will shoot film as long as it’s available as a medium. I hope there’s enough demand that film companies will continue making it for decades to come.
Josh Wool has a busy year ahead. He will be working on a project for GQ, as well as a largescale editorial documentation for a collective of independent clothing designers to be featured in a concept catalog. Continuing to photograph musicians and artists, he plans to be backstage at Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. Earlier this year, Josh was in Nashville showing work for the first official time in a show at a Joint Pop-Up gallery event, curated by Susan Sherrick. He was honored to have his work shown alongside some of his long-standing inspirations such as Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Lee Friedlander, Horst P. Horst, Vivian Maier, William Klein, as well as friends Joshua Black Wilkins and Mikael Kennedy. He will be returning for another exhibition with Joint Pop-Up in the fall, and with travel and exploration being a motivator, Josh is also entertaining the idea of an in-depth portraiture series that would take him across the US.
Our sincere thanks to Josh Wool for taking the time to answer some questions for Artchipel, and of course, to Jacob Van Loon for conducting the interview. Jacob Van Loon is a painter and designer living in Chicago. This is his 6th contribution for Artchipel Tumblr Monday.
Jesus Perea is a visual artist from Spain whose work is something completely open and changing. He used to work on painting and has focuse in digital and mixed media since 2 years. Focusing on the simplicity of form, the geometry, the space, the empty and the architecture, Jesus Perea is very interested in the dialog of the form and the stain, the rational and the random, the poetry and emotion that comes from it.He loves the surprise that appears in the process, the manipulation of the image to get somewhere that was unknown for him when he started that work. Through his artwork, Jesus Perea wish that the viewers feel connected with it through some kind of emotion. Please visit artist’s Facebook or follow his Tumblr for more work. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Avr-2013)
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Mathilde Aubier is an artist, illustrator and graphic designer living and working in Le Mans, France. She likes to recycle old pictures, especially textures and human bodies, to create her own collages. Mathilde’s work is like muted surrealist short stories: “I have an instinctive approach in my artwork and don’t have any messages to deliver. I like the idea of creating poetic space, where you can escape from the reality for a while.” Mathilde Aubier is also the co-founder of the art and design studio ( Ma + chr ). Please visit artist’s website or follow her Tumblr for more discoveries. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Avr-2013)
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( Ma + Chr ) is an art and design studio based in Paris, founded by Mathilde Aubier and Christine Delaquaize. They likes to mix vintage photos with contrasting geometric shapes and colours. Very inspired by each other, the duo always try to inject a bit of humour in their collaboration work. Please visit their website or follow their Tumblr. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Avr-2013)
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Vincent Junier | on Tumblr (France)
Girl Power. Collage sur tissus
Saute moustaches. 760 X 570
Vincent Junier is a French graphic designer who has practiced collage for over 10 years. His artwork is guided by the desire to tell stories. In stead of writing, he uses the glue and the scissors. What leads him is the pleasure to play with the signs by assembling the images like a playful and enriching exquisite corpse. He wishes to unleash the viewers to have their own interpretation, according to their culture and personal story. Please visit artist’s Tumblr for more work. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Mar-2013)
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Jean-Baptiste Courtier is a young photographer working and living in Paris. Originally from North of France, he arrived in Paris searching for something, but without any precise idea. After working in radio stations and sound studios, it was when he started working in a model agency that his interest for photography was born. Courtier’s work corresponds to something fun that he dreams to see in real life. He shoot his pictures in a traditional way with a large format camera, 4x5 films. His photographs aim to capture something he has done in the real life and represent a personal challenge, like a performance or a magic tric. Courtier wishes to express through his work some kind of poetry: “Frankly, I’m quite égoistic in the way I work. I want to have the pleasure of recreating the images that exist in my mind and prefer to let the viewers to create his/her own story around the picture.” Please visit artist’s website or follow his Tumblr for more discoveries. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Mar-2013)
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Raphael Vicenzi, better known as Mydeadpony, is a self taught illustrator living in Brussels, Belgium. His illustration and watercolour techniques are influenced by fashion illustration, street art , collages & typography. Mixing digital media, painting and sketches and drawing on watercolours, splotches and textures, he creates immensely detailed images representing things that go through his mind at some point in time: “I do hope that sometimes people can find some connections to my work because they’ve been there as well.” Mydeadpony is inspired by good art, books, life & unexpected happy accidents and shares his inspiration on his Tumblr. Represented by Colagene, you can also visit his website or follow his Tumblr for more work. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Mar-2013)
Snow Storm. Oil stick, charcoal, color pencil, acrylic paint, crayon on paper, 96x64 cm (2012)
Untitled. Acrylic on paper, 76x56 cm (2013)
Jan Willem van Welzenis is a Dutch painter, originally from a small medieval town nearby Gouda. He is now living in Dordrecht, A city that is famous for its Dutch Golden Age painters such as Albert Cuyp, Ferdinand Bol and Romantic painter Ary Scheffer. With sweeping gestural brushstrokes and a calligraphy manner of painting, his art is an original style of abstract expressionism, influenced and inspired by the action painters and Willem de Kooning and Cy Twombly. Graffiti-like scribbles and scratches blend with thick paint on paper, he blurs distinctions between drawing and painting: “I work fast and directly without trying to make up what and how to paint, but only work intuitively. Sometimes I wish for a light space with vibrant colors, but sometimes I need a moorland with violent scratches.” Please visit artist’s website or follow his Tumblr for more work. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Feb-2013)
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Moritz Wehr aka Mowr | on Tumblr (b.1994, Austria) - Friendship
Moritz Wehr, also known as Mowr, is a young artist based in Austria. Curious yet introverted, he is constantly trying to embrace the world and making the best out of every situation. Moritz loves to experiment with colors, light through his work and limitates always the image to a few objects, trying to focus on a few important things, leaving out unnecessary detail. By creating beautiful and interesting images, he tries also to capture a feeling, thought or deeper meaning: “My greatest goal would be that when people are looking at my images, that they experience or feel something.” Please follow artist’s Tumblr for more work. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Feb-2013)
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Alexandra Höhn, also known as Alex fotografiert., is a self-thaught photographer and freelance copywriter from Hamburg, Germany. Simple with a twist, Alexandra’s work relays (mostly) daily stuff which is a bit odd or bizarre. Through the photography, Höhn wishes to arouse a question mark in the viewer’s mind. Alexandra Höhn is having her first group exhibition in a gallery in Hamburg.
Born in Tours, France, Françoise Larouge has studied in the history of art at L’Ecole du Louvre and in the history of film at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris. Her first artwork was focused on painting, but quickly she began to work on short film wrinting histories, casting actors, being script for a short story. While she was developping her art skills, she worked for the CGT (one of the most important french worker union) and other places. She had a fresh start with photography and collages after a few years of wandering and has graduated in 2006 in plastic expression at Ecole Duperré. For Françoise, collages and photographies are two best way to express herself. By the photograph, she works on the memory and the fidelity. With the collage, all the mixes become possible: mental portraits, humour or lightness. Please visit artist’s website for more photography work or follow her Tumblr for more collages. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Feb-2013)
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Reverend Bobby Anger | on Tumblr (b.1962, USA)
“The fair Ophelia! - Nymph in thy orisons. Be all my sins remembered.” — Hamlet
The work of Texas based artist Reverend Bobby Anger is somehow dark and cinematic. Though there are often nudes, Bobby reads references to a timeless fashion that appears in many images as well. He shoots people in the studio, outdoors and in environments, trying to create a common feel throughout them, a common narrative that ties them together. The images are often but a fraction of a larger narrative, a dark decisive moment in an ongoing story. Frequently paired with quotes from literature (or occasionally, the Bible), the story is generally about loss. There is often a moral component. When they work, the balance of the story comes in some way from the viewer’s own experience. It is this common truth in the varied experiences of many that he is trying to capture. Bobby is inspired by a balance of reading (particularly Emerson, Thoreau and Jeffers), writing and solitude. Please follow his Tumblr for more discoveries. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Feb-2013)
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Ceneri. Mixed media collage on wood treated with cards before, 50x70 (2003)
Grigiobianchi. Collage and painting on wood, 50x60 (2006)
Alessandra Bisi is a painter from Milano. After a traditional education in art, her present approach to painting is abstract. Her art continuously researches the relationship between color and space to achieve a composition that is simultaneously form and emotional expression. Interested in mixed techniques, she uses in her collages the paper as color. Throught her art, she wishes to capture feelings and emotions, interior and intense manifestations, that are not expressed with words. Using chromatic relationships, their strength and form, she intends to articulate a mental process. Stimulated by nature and by daily life, she paints an ideal world and expresses the traces and facts of her life. Please visit artist’s website or follow her Tumblr. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Jan-2013)
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Born in a small village in the south of Sweden, Julia Mai is a freelance Illustrator now based in Reykjavík, Iceland. What Julia Mai expresses in her artwork she says is a tricky question, as it is the soul way to express herself. She often gets surprised with what comes out on the paper. Her inspiration comes from everything around her: people she meets, imaginary or real, and stories they tell her. The human nature, our flaws and our beauty. “And the nature, which especially here in Iceland with it’s mythical scenery gives a quite unreal feeling,” she says, “I guess that what I do gives me the opportunity to flee, it’s like daydreaming put on paper, if that makes any sense.” Please visit artist’s Behance, Facebook page or follow her Tumblr for more work. (Interview with artist by Artchipel Jan-2013)
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