SHOTS Magazine 98 – Fall 2007, Interview with Russell Joslin
How would you describe this body of work?
The work is rooted in my ongoing preoccupation with transience, loss, memory and identity. I’m interested in the lines of destiny that shape our lives and the tidal waves of history that can sweep those line away. Am also interested in the relationship between truth and fiction and how meaning can be created and altered through juxtaposition and editing.
On the surface, this series is on the topic of traveling. How would you characterize the distinction between a traveler and a tourist?
It’s a fine line – but perhaps comes down to the fact that the traveler heads out with fewer preconceived expectations and lets the experience reveal itself in all its messy specificity – while tourists tend to arrive with an itinerary of the sights they want to see and therefore gloss over the quotidian concerns of the place.
Why did you choose photography versus another means of expression?
I was originally a painter and mixed media artist. During the sixties while living in Mexico City I apprenticed with the Mexican photographer Rodrigo Moya. I didn’t actually become seriously involved with the medium until some years later when living in New Orleans. I was attracted to it because it brought me out of the isolation of the studio – a portable medium I could take with me wherever I went.
Who has been the most important influence on you as a photographer?
Everyone! Sorry, since I came to photography as an adult working artist who had already been influenced by the range of modernist art and literature, I cannot cite a singular influence on my work. But there are many many photographers whom I admire –Bill Brandt, Duane Michals, Gilles Peress, James Nachtway, Philip Lorca di Corcia, Nan Goldin, – to name just a very few that jump to mind at this very moment. Given more time I could name twenty-five to thirty others.
What drives you to continue as a photographer, and what is your ultimate goal?
I find it an immensely exciting and fulfilling occupation and can’t ever imagine stopping doing it. Not sure about the “ultimate goal” part – I suppose, to keep developing and growing in my range of expression and to have my work accepted and appreciated by an ever larger audience.
Besides being a photographer, what have some of your other jobs been? Are you presently a full-time photographer, or do you have another job in order to earn a living?
Currently I’m a visiting instructor, teaching photography at a college (Hamilton) in upstate New York. Prior to that for sixteen years I was the Executive Director of an international studio program (Sculpture Space) – and have held an array of other art related positions. Though I haven’t ever earned all my income directly from photography, all my jobs have been offered to me because I’m actively engaged in my field.
Describe the first photograph you made that you considered a success.
New Orleans 1973. I got myself invited to a press conference on a riverboat to celebrate the launch of Paul McCartney’s “Venus an Mars” album, which had been being cut at Sea Saint studio – and me an unaffiliated fledgling free-lancer with a brand new camera, amidst a horde of seasoned press people. I shot several rolls of film with no venue to publish them, so dropped off a few prints at the recording studio. Imagine my surprise when some months later the designers called from London to say they wanted to use one of my images for the poster in the album.
If you were to make a “soundtrack” to be played to accompany the viewing of your photographs, whose music would you choose to put on it?
Depends which body of work. I recently made a couple of five minute i-movies – both relating in some ways to my still photos – for one I used Steve Reich’s “Other Trains” and the other “Spiritual” by John Coltrane
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
To be aware, to see deeply, to move slowly, to become invisible.