Monday, March 5, 2012

Russell Joslin


The deadline for Both Sides of the Lens: Self-portraiture closed on Friday. We received many wonderful images from artists all around the world. Juror Russell Joslin has his work cut out for him. This week, I interviewed Russell on his work and processes.

Tell me a bit about your process creating a self-portrait. What goes through your mind when making an image?

I suppose the things that usually go through my mind are technical things – trying to avoid mistakes and thinking about the framing, exposure, depth of field, and so on. That, and the thoughts of the day and thoughts surrounding the intent of the images I'm shooting.

                                                    Self-portrait as a Stain, 2008


Could you walk us through the process of a planned shoot and the process of a spontaneous shoot?

An example of a planned image would be Umberto R. In an ongoing series I'm doing that is essentially about the nature of loneliness, I sometimes reference characters and attempt to make them my "own". In this case, the image is a nod to Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D. At about the same time I was thinking about referencing the lead character from this movie, I had also been thinking about using my dog in a self-portrait. I have a lot of snapshots of her, but wanted to use her in a photograph that I would ultimately count amongst my better works. The dog in the film looks a lot like mine, so the connection was easy to make, and I planned the photograph from there.

                                 Umberto R, 2008

Though I'm in the process of planning a new series that will challenge my usual way of working, I would say that the majority of my work in the past has leaned toward a more spontaneous approach. That said, I often have a sketch in advance of shooting or have ideas about how I might want to compose an image. There are also locations I know well and return to often, so even if I don't have a specific plan or idea, I'm familiar with my surroundings. There are other times, however, where I'll shoot in places that I'm completely unfamiliar with. An example of this would be Uncle, a photograph I made on a meandering trip alone through the Pacific Northwest, where I stopped every so often to shoot. When I encountered the wall, I knew I had to photograph it somehow. I was intrigued by its surface and how the initials scratched into it read to me as a sort of "secret code". I shot several different variations of it, and this is the one that ended up being my favorite.

 
                                         Uncle, 2009


As an artist, your body of work is primarily self-portraiture. How does that influence you as a juror for this exhibition?

Doing what I do and seeing things how I see them is so embedded in me that it’s impossible to quantify or simplify how it influences me as a juror or otherwise. I think having years of practice as a photographer and editor has brought about more refinement in what I do, and in the case of selecting and editing work it allows me to better trust my instincts.

                                         The Beautiful Confusion, 2009
                                         Too Soon or Too Late, 2010

As editor and publisher of SHOTS, you must view an extraordinary amount of work on a daily basis. How has this influenced you as an artist?

I do indeed look at a lot of work—not just for SHOTS, but also for my personal curiosity, enjoyment, and research. I find there's a lot that can be learned by looking at the work of others. Obviously, I can learn from someone’s visual and technical approaches, but I have also learned that it can deepen an understanding about myself. In other words, when I find that I’m really connecting with a photograph or with a particular photographer's work, there's something within me that is the cause for that connection, and arriving at an idea of what that is can deepen an understanding of myself. Generally though, I think looking at a lot of work deepens my appreciation for the medium and sharpens my instincts as an editor and photographer. Maybe it's no different than an answer than anyone of any profession would give – you learn by those around you and by those who are good at what they do. If you love what you do and have that fire in your belly that makes you want to get better and evolve in your work, it seems only natural that you seek-out and observe what others around you are doing and how they do it.

                                         Secret
                                         Simply the Other Side, 2012


Stay tuned for the results of Both Sides of the Lens: Self-portraiture!

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