Sunday, June 01, 2008

Art Space Talk: Joseph Szkodzinski

Joseph Szkodzinski is a runner-up in the The Next Perspective photography competition. The Next Perspective competition was sponsored by myartspace and HotShoe International. Joseph's photographs were selected by the contest jury which included Henry Horenstein from the Rhode Island School of Design, Dr. Juliet Hacking from Sotheby's Institute of Art in London and Clare Freestone from the National Portrait Gallery in London.

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

BS: You went on to study photography and art at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Can you recall your academic years? Did you have any influential instructors?

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.
There was this small club in a church basement on St Marks Place called Club 57 where a group of artists hung out at night and performed. The group included Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, John Sex, Ann Magnuson, Klaus Nomi and many other talented artists. It was such a treat to photograph the beginnings of their great and sometime short careers.
My thesis teacher, Julio Mitchell was my most influential instructor and a great photographer in his own right. He was a tough teacher but his honesty, though hurtful at times, was as he would say 'the real world talking'.
PM Commuter, NYC

BS: Since that time you have worked as a staff photographer for The Image Bank, Getty Images and the NYPD as well as freelancing for newspapers and magazines. Throughout your career as a photographer you have always found time to shoot your personal work. How were you able to find balance between employment and your personal work? Has it ever been difficult?

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
Phone Booth, Douglaston, NY

BS: When you are behind the camera do you view yourself as if you are on the outside looking in or in the inside looking out? I suppose this is a philosophical question... do you have a personal philosophy behind your work?

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.
The Handicapped, NYC

BS: What else you can you tell our readers about your photographs?

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...
Artists: Rauschenberg, Edward Hooper, Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Pollack, Keith Haring and many others...
Music: Springsteen, Dylan, The Band, U2, Counting Crows and everything else too. Music is very important to me. It's a powerful art.
NYC Street Sleeper

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.
You can learn more about Joseph Szkodzinski by visiting his website-- Joseph is a member of the community-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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