Joseph studied photography and art at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, and graduated in 1981 with a BFA in photography. Since then he has worked as a staff photographer for The Image Bank, Getty Images and the NYPD. He has also did freelance work for newspapers and magazines. Joseph has always found time to shoot his personal work-- many of these images reveal his photographic journey through America from the 70's to the present day.
No Pets, Phoenix AZ
Brian Sherwin: Joseph, at age 22 you borrowed a camera from a friend and felt an immediate connection. You have described the experience as a "sense of immortality and power". Can you discuss those early years and why you felt a connection with photography that you had not felt with other means of creation?
Joseph Szkodzinski: I guess I was always taking pictures in my head. I remember as a kid trying to freeze moments in my head-like mental photographs and I still remember them. I really regret not having a camera back then.
When I was growing up, my best friend, Richard Verdi, was a aspiring photographer and I was always telling him what and how to shoot . I tagged along on his photo treks into Manhattan from Queens to shoot protests, concerts at the Filmore East, CBGBs, the street, it was a great time. I think I was always mentally photographing moments during that time.
The funny thing is that even when I am without my camera now I am still taking those inner photos. I even make a silent shutter sound when the moment is right. Years later, Richard finally got fed up with all my directions and lent me his camera and told me to go shoot my own photos and that was the best moment of my life at the age of 22.
Homeless with Pigeons, NYC
JS: It was a great time at the School of Visual Arts. So different from the schools I had attended before. The ultra liberal arts atmosphere allowed me to be myself and made me want to excel and since it was something I loved I didn't mind working hard for it. Being around other artists was also a big plus. It's where I met Keith Haring and John Sex and it led me to the idea to shoot my thesis on NYC Nite Life at the clubs downtown in NYC. This was from 1979 to about 1985.
JS: No, it hasn't been difficult. I think I put the same energy into my personal work as well as my professional work. It's just that the personal work is more satisfying. The only difficulty I have had is not having more time for my personal work.
BS: Joseph, do you have an emotional connection to your work? Or are you more connected to the process? Is the finished photograph nothing more than a reflection of the process that interested you... or is it the unification of that process and the emotion, methods, and techniques that you utilized?
JS: Yes, I believe my emotional connection is what keeps me shooting. I really don't care about all the technical stuff although I utilize them when I am shooting but I stay in the zone and only care about the moment. I am out looking to find the image. Thus, the name www.thefoundimage.com.
JS: I think it depends on what I am shooting. Professional work- sometimes outside looking in. With my own work, I am shooting what is inside of me and looking out trying to find that connection somewhere in my visual field. Sometimes I feel I'm on the inside looking in when I am working on images that I create in Photoshop for my Inner Visions series. It allows me to create images truly in my head and to further my creative process.
BS: Joseph, I've noticed on your site that some of your images are available for stock use with a fee. As a photographer, what concerns do you have concerning the theft or 'ripping' of images online? Are you overly concerned with that issue or would you say that gaining exposure online out-weighs those concerns? Experience tells me that photographers are threatened by this aspect of the net more than others. Thus, your perspective on the issue would be greatly appreciated. Is there a concern? Have you ever had to combat these issues?
JS: You know life is short and if I concerned myself with that, it would spoil my creativity and focus. I put my copyright on my work and if they are 'stolen' I hope someone is enjoying them and not profiting from them. Hopefully these people will enjoy them enough to eventually buy a signed original someday, but if not-- what can I do. It is a tough choice when you want to gain exposure.
JS: Nothing else, they're on their own now and have to speak for themselves.
BS: What about influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements? Music perhaps?
JS: Photographers: Cartier Bresson, Robert Frank, Dianne Arbus, Eugene Richards, Bill Brandt, Jerry Uelsmann, Gregory Crewdson, Ernesto Bazan and many others...
BS: What are you working on at this time?
JS: Since I moved from NYC to Phoenix, Arizona, 5 years ago, I have continued work on my various projects such as Lost in America, Signs, and a new series called Shots from a Car soon to be discontinued if gas prices continue to go up..... But I have my camera with me all the time continuously looking for something to find.
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have?
JS: When I am out shooting-- and getting my shots --there is nothing more satisfying for me. I feel at one with everything.