Ever wondered about being a photographer? Josh S.Rose, an Executive Creative Director and conceptual photographer, artist and writer joins us today with an interview about his daily life as a professional photographer, his inspiration behind his compelling works and valuable advice for students wishing to go into design and photography.
1 | Describe what you do on a daily basis as a writer and a photographer?
People sometimes get wide-eyed when I tell them just how much I do and make on a weekly basis. I suppose it's a lot, but it's how I've always been. I have to be creating all the time, something in my nature drives me to do it. I get depressed when I'm not making things. Sometimes it gets me run down and I'll take a few days off, but in normal times, I shoot over a thousand images a week. I try to get out to shoot at least twice, but sometimes as much as four times a week. I also try to write daily, but sometimes it's every other day.
I also have a full-time job as executive creative director for a marketing firm and I travel quite a bit. And we have a two year old at home. So, yeah, I'm working hard. Some have said it seems more like an obsession and that might be true. On top of those activities, I am often trying to teach myself something new - lately, I'm trying to learn more video editing effects. With each new thing I learn, it seems to come together into some new way of creating.
Staying creative for extended periods is all about managing your inspiration. I treat my ability to get inspired very seriously - I read, I watch movies, I watch YouTube videos, I look at thousands of photos, I’m on Reddit, I go to museums and I get a good night's sleep. I also walk a lot. Staying inspired and deep inside the creative process is an art, in and of itself. It’s my number one priority.
2 | What made you choose photography as a career to pursue? What do you most love about it?
Well, first, photography (though I do often get paid for it) is my art, not my career. And though I'd love to make a living at my art, photography simply doesn't pay well enough to sustain a family through it. The pros I know who do photography professionally and make a living from it spend most of their time shooting for other people. That world is hardly any different than the one I have professionally, as a creative director.
The difference is that as a CD, I can come up with the original idea, where a photographer generally follows someone else's direction, perhaps adding a stylistic opinion to it. But either way, that's the world of client-driven, commercial art. In fine art photography, I get to be the final say on my own images and ideas. That makes it more personal for me. It's experimental and highly- creative. I make my own mistakes, do my own growth and push myself in the directions of my choosing, exploring the themes that are most personal to me..
As for what I love about photography, I tried everything: painting, sculpture, drawing, print-making, but I found that I'm extremely drawn to realism. Realism has always been the most appealing kind of art to my eyeballs and even when I was doing drawings or sculptures, I was spending all my time just trying to make my renders look as real as possible. So, in the end, working in photography just allows me to work in the most realistic medium while still letting me explore themes and concepts.
3 | What inspires you to wake up every morning?
Honestly, I start every day with anxiety. My dreams have always made me feel disoriented, worried or confused. They tend to wake me up very early, as soon as I come out of deep sleep and I will lay in bed with a racing mind, feeling very uneasy. For me, my art and concepts are how I cope with anxiety - it’s always been like that. So, my morning ritual is to fight my worried mind with ideas for my next shot. I think about what I want to capture, something new or different. And that leads to a certain eagerness, or intention. And that gets my legs out of the bed. I try to go for a walk with my camera, in the quiet hours before the sun comes up.
4 | You are now a well established writer on Medium with 4.7k followers. Through your experience as a photographer and writer, what have been your most memorable moments been?
There was this one moment that stands out above everything. It was a small moment. I was in my car, driving downtown to hang some work at a gallery. There were three big prints in the back, framed really nicely and I very much liked the concept. I believed I had accomplished something different and unique. It was my Metamorphosis series. The weather was nice, my windows were down, the art was done and framed and I had one of those revelatory moments - this was the ultimate; right there in the car. No better time, no better place on Earth. I haven’t been able to top that feeling.
5 | How did you first get into photography? What inspired you to develop a passion for not only photography but also writing?
For my thirteenth birthday, a cousin gave me a Nikkormat rangefinder camera. I loved how it felt in my hands. It was strong, tough, technical and beyond me.. I was drawn to learn its secrets. That was the spark. The flames were fanned by three different people who took the time to teach me different elements of photography early on. One was my grandfather, who was a great 35mm travel photographer. Another was a family friend who took me to a darkroom and taught me how to do the hard stuff.
And a third was a man at the racetrack near where I lived. My mother loved the horses, so I’d go with her to the track and then go hang out with the employees while she bet and watched the ponies run. My favorite place among all of it was in the photo finish booth where they would take pictures of the winners of each race, in case it was too close to call from the announcer’s table. In that booth, I learned the importance of capturing the moment.
Writing was always a side thing I did. I took three years of writing courses when I moved to Los Angeles. Eventually, I began writing scripts at the agency for TV commercials, print ads and digital advertising. I got published in some poetry journals and after a while I realized that I’d honed my writing skills as much as my visual ones. It’s a different mindset to write than it is to make images - but I have just become accustomed to switching modes. I enjoy them pretty equally and, in fact, each one kind of keeps me from getting bored with the other. When photography starts feeling like a chore, I take a break and do some writing. And vice versa.
6 | What are some tips for young photographers and where should they go for inspiration and advice?
Seek out and study the very best photographers in the world. Start with Robert Frank and see where it leads. You’ll land on folks like Mary Ellen Mark, who I studied with, Robert Capa, Vivian Maier and others. Look up the Magnum photographers. The Life Magazine photographers. Really look at their work, linger on it, understand it. All the answers to photography are in there. It’s harder to learn from portrait photographers because it’s difficult to divorce their technique from the enigma of celebrity, but if you must, look at someone like Peter Lindbergh.
Don’t be drawn to the shooters on Instagram with big followings. Seek out the ones getting attention in art magazines, galleries and museums. Compare your work to theirs. It will keep you humble, hungry and growing. Consider the meaning of your work. Think about how it compares to other great artists. It’s hard to think about, but it will lift you above the fray.
Seek out a mentor. Everyone needs one. You’ll get good and then you’ll need someone who can push you to be great. That takes someone with taste and the ability to push you further, while still acknowledging what you’ve accomplished.
Figure out who that is and cherish that relationship, foster it.. And do it while you’re young. People want to help young people. As you get older, people view you more competitively and are less helpful, so take advantage of the keys you have at your age.
7 | What do you wish you have learnt when you were young, that would be useful to you now?
More than anything, I wish I had chosen a specific kind of photography much earlier. Like a lot of young photographers, I went down the path of a generalist: I did portraits, flash photography, macro, kid photography, editorial, street, sports... you name it, I set out to learn it. The problem is not having all kinds of knowledge, of course, it’s being able to let the majority of it go in order to focus on something specific. It took me forever to undo it and get serious. In some ways, I’m still recovering from that.
Do one thing great, not a bunch of things well. You’ll grow 10x faster than I did.
Visit Josh and his enthralling works: Josh Rose Photographs
Find more about Josh and his writings on Medium: Josh Rose
Follow Josh for updates on Instagram: Josh Rose
Thank you Josh for taking part in our interview blog sessions. Your expertise will be greatly treasured by the students reading this interview and our team gives you our fullest appreciation. Thank you once again for inspiring the young photographers and artists/designers reading this blog.