Meet Josh Booth, a photographer, musician, and closet poet. In the newest installment of our interview series, Josh discusses why the iPhone is even more useful than you thought, how Peter inspires, and what church and Batman don’t have in common. Read on to learn more.
Q: What is your favorite space to create?
Josh Booth: My work is so varied, so where I create depends on the subject! But by far my favorite place to create is out in nature. Before gas was so expensive, I would often load my gear in the truck, pick a country road I have never been down before and drive until I was completely lost, photographing whatever jumped out at me along the way. I also love to go hiking (usually off the trail) and get away from all the noise of life - voices shouting what you need to buy, how you need to look, what you’re supposed to want/be, etc. It’s when I get away from all of that I can finally think straight, quiet my mind, and hear God speak to me. My other favorite place is quite the opposite but still strangely effective, Starbucks. :)
Q: How do you handle artist’s block (times when it is hard to create)?
JB: Artist’s block is a tough one. My biggest cause is stress/motivation. I try to look deep down and evaluate what’s stressing me out and see if it’s something I can control - it usually means I need to exercise more. I also try to just lighten up and change things in my creative routine. Instead of taking my usual camera gear, I challenge myself to only use my iPhone, or limit myself to just one lens or aperture setting. I also will put myself mini day-challenges - catalog my day through pictures, or keep my camera by my bed and require myself to take 5 pictures before I get out of bed the next day. Bottom line - I experiment, keep an open mind, and don’t worry about the outcome of what I’m trying to create. I just create. I try to never forget what French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue once said, “I have never taken a picture for any other reason than that at that moment it made me happy to do so.”
Q: How do you stay motivated and disciplined as an artist in our distracting society?
JB: My iPhone has helped tremendously with this. Photographer Chase Jarvis wrote a book and iPhone App appropriately titled “The Best Camera… is the One You Always Have with You.” My iPhone has allowed me to capture life as I see it and experience it, without lugging all my pro gear everywhere. Sometimes you’re standing there and just look up and see something - a shape, a pattern, or something - and are instantly inspired, and you are able to capture that right then and there, and in most cases able to share it with your friends right then, too. Art is better when shared :) Taking that thought further - as a photographer primarily working in digital media - I find I have to force myself to find creative ways of getting my work off my computer into a tactile form, otherwise it never seems finished, even if I don’t touch the photos for weeks/years later. This is still an area I am struggling with lately.
Q: What is the best advice someone has given you?
JB: One of my favorite quotes is this: “Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” - Scott Adams (Dilbert)
Q: What is your theme song?
JB: Hard question! Probably “In Your Hands” by Bebo Norman. It really captures my feelings of faith and trust in God - an almost I’m-all-in-but-if-You-fail-me-I’m-dead trust. The melodies and tone of the song relate perfectly with that wistful, careful, & desperate attitude. I’ve felt that way so many times throughout my faith journey, especially when making big leaps of faith. He has never failed me yet, but there is always that fear, right? My fear is usually more about my decision-making quality and not about His ability to perform - He has a pretty good record going for Him!
Q: Who/what has inspired you lately and/or locally (i.e. other artists, exhibits, shows, bands, designers, etc)?
JB: The Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the High Museum has recently inspired me. He has always been one of my favorite photographers, capturing life at the perfect, decisive moment. It reassured the love of photography I had when I first started and inspired me to continue to capture life as I see it. I am often inspired by music too - certain melodies and segments that speak some sort of inexplicable truth - The chord progression in Derek Webb’s “We Come to You” always seems to give me a sense of focus, and the piano lead line in “Two Step” of Dave Matthews Band Live at the Gorge cd (starting at about 6:38 in).
Q: What is one book/song/painting/piece/etc that has been enriching to your faith?
JB: If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg has been by far the most influential book in my faith. It’s about trusting God with everything - and trusting God in ways that most people are too afraid to try. The primary source for the book is the story in the Bible when Peter walks on the water to Jesus. The biggest thing I got out of the book was that Peter tried what everyone else was too scared to do, realizing that even if he failed, Jesus was wholly adequate to save him, and that the faith of the people (other disciples) around him was increased in ways it never would have otherwise if he hadn’t risked stepping out of the boat.
Q: What is your connection to the Divine when you create? Does it resonate with you spiritually when you come up with new work?
JB: Sometimes when I create, there is no direct connection to the Divine, other than the Creator of Creativity is happy with me and proud of the work He gave me. Some of my work has a very deep spiritual connection though. As I mentioned earlier, my nature work ushers me into a stillness where I can rest in Him and hear His voice. Other works I have created have helped me wrestle with disappointments of my faith and helped me get through times when I turned my back on God (or wanted to again), healing me of wounds and helping me work through the tough things that can’t always be put into words.
Q: Describe your process behind the featured piece.
JB: The most common thing people say when they first see this image is “Oh hey! Batman!” referencing the movie The Dark Knight and the red smiles painted on their faces. It has nothing to do with Batman. This photo was created a few years before that movie, and is part of a series of work called “Confessions.” The series deals with those unfortunate realities that the Christian faith is typically known for - a sort of stark visual self-criticism of the shortcomings of Christian communities as a whole and created in a way to help us wake up to how the outside world see us. It’s meant to confess to the world that what they see is valid, and inspire the church to make a change. This image in particular is about the lack of honesty among the church - how so many times we Christians hide how we are really feeling and what we are going through in the very environment we should be the most transparent. We put on a fresh face, smile, say everything is ok, and move on. We rarely function as a family or as a body.
The idea for this image unfortunately came from years of personal experience in the church. I was a worship leader, and no matter what I was going through at the time, I could put on my excited and happy face, and lead worship. I would push aside my doubts and frustrations, not wanting to be open and honest with those around me, even when I wasn’t leading. I created this image in an art class in college - and the whole series created an interesting dialog with my classmates - since most of them didn’t have the best view of Christians and the organized Church. To be honest, I didn’t either at that point of my life, and I personally hated God out of frustration. At one point, I had listened a song by Casting Crowns called “Stained-glass Masquerade” and this image popped into my mind! To create this image, I enlisted several of my friends, and told them to show up in their Sunday best, but neglected to mention what the shot was, or anything about a little red marker on their faces! But they were cool with the idea, sat in their pews, and acted like many of the church goers I grew up with, looking bored, tired, or distracted. I lit the image using flash strobes over x-large soft boxes to simulate a small, dim, window-lit church.
More examples of my work are at http://joshboothphoto.com