Interview #1 Josh Fletcher: Photographer

josh fletcherI first saw Josh’s photographs about two years ago hanging in a local coffee shop and they instantly made an impression on me. He used rich colors and simple objects to create solid photographs. Since then Josh has developed his photography through his travels and his adventures around the world. I sat down with him to see what he had to say.

When did you start taking pictures?

Well, my dad gave me my first camera when I was 18 when I graduated high school and that is when I first started taking photos. Then when I went on a trip to Nepal and India, that’s when I really started to get into photography. I think God has just given me the ability to see different aspects of His creation and I like to pull that out visually and especially with photography which I feel has kinda been thrown in my lap. He is saying what are you going to do with it now?

I took some photography classes 4 years ago just for the fun of it because I was wanting to paint from my photos. But I ended up really enjoying the connections you make with people through photography. That is something I just really enjoy.

So you took photography classes just to be able to paint from your photos? As a reference?

Yeah. I was always painting from other people’s photography. But I ended up getting really into photography and opportunities came up. Internships and people in my life. Other photographers I was able to connect with. I’ve always been interested in history and old things because there is a story behind them. I feel photography has a depth. It can bring out the history of somebody, the history of what’s happened and make it more relevant to people.

Do you shoot film or digital?

Pretty much all digital now.

What is your favorite kind of picture to take?

I’d say people. Definitely people. Primarily I just like being able to get involved in what people are doing and bring out what they are doing, tell their story.

You usually meet the people you take pictures of?

I do. I like to do that. I like to interact with them. Ask them what their story is. I like to take photos of just the life of what they’re doing, instead of trying to create it.

Honestly, I really don’t know where this is all going. I think God opens up many opportunities in your lifetime. There are always different directions you can go and areas of strength that you have. And I think everyone has that creative part. No matter who you are you have some aspect of creativity in you.

How do most people react to the camera?

Depends on where you are. Like in Africa they love the camera. But here in America, people are very shy. People in Africa really don’t want to know how you’re going to use the photo. But people here will be asking, “uh why are you taking my picture?”

Where in Africa where you?

Sierra Leone, next to Liberia in West Africa.

For how long?

Seven months, most of the time on a ship with Mercyships, and a lot of time in the villages too. And because of the ship it was a lot like living in America in Africa.

Ever not want to take pictures?

Yea. There are definitely moments where I am sick of it or I don’t really feel like this is what I am supposed to be doing.. I’ve had that. Or just kind of get tired of… well, the responsibilities of life take over and I drown in that and that can make it hard to be creative. But overall I am really inspired by a lot of things.

What do you do when life is pushing out creativity?

The main thing is to just keep working and don’t stop. It’s easy to throw in the towel sometimes. You feel like giving up or this is wrong. Like just the other day I had a shoot and my camera went down and there is a whole section of the shoot I missed. But it’s ok. Do you give up or do you keep shooting? Because creativity stops if you stop. So I feel if you keep pushing through, even when it feels hard or you feel it is not working or your like you don’t have any creativity by trying to create your creativity comes out again. So that is what I have experienced. But it is not always easy. Not for any artist to continue creating.

Ever surprised by your photos?

Yes, but if you’re ready to create at any moment that is when things happen. Especially with photography, it’s all about moments.

Is it ever hard to let go of a shot?

Oh yes. You can really love a subject and want to capture it but it did not work out. And facing up to, “I messed up.” Which is not an easy thing to say.

Do you notice missed moments?

Yes. That is horrible. If you don’t have your camera and something really cool is happening. That is like argh!

Do you do a lot of editing?

Yes, lots of it. 20% of my time is taking the picture and the rest is spent editing and color correcting.

For editing I use photo mechanic because it is extremely fast and works well for editing large volumes of photos and for renaming them. Then moving into Photoshop to color correct. I am kind of a perfectionist which can be good and can be bad too.

How much of what you shoot do you keep?

10% to 15% of what I shoot is what I keep. Its pretty typical to throw away 90% of what I shoot. Painters go through a similar struggle. When you see a finished painting you don’t see the 5 layers of paint under it. No photographer or artist wants to show their bad side. There’s a lot of bad photos I’ve taken.

Do you have darkroom experience?

Yes, that is what both of my first schools of photography were. The first school I did was just 3 months of darkroom. I think half of the art is on the computer or in the darkroom. Its knowing how to take a photo then knowing what to do with it.

Do you have any photographers you admire?

Really just the guys that I’ve known along the way. Older guys that have been doing it for 20 or 30 years.

Do you have support from family and friends?

Yes. They’ve actually been extremely supportive always. Especially my parents. They’ve always been there to really support me.

What do you do to pay the bills?

I work with another guy and we have two teams and we shoot weddings. And I am working with a small publishing company in town, taking pictures of their art pieces. They have about 4500 paintings from the 1800s till now that need to be archived and digitized.

What is the plan for the future?

I’ve got about 100 pieces published and I want to put together a portfolio and start getting my work out there. Artists can have a short focus, me too. Its easy t o think “today” and not think what are my long term goals, what am I striving towards with photography, with my art. That can be hard as an artist because it is so hard to make a living just as an artist.

Where have you been published?

I’ve done magazine covers, book covers, billboards, a lot of publications for the hospital ship I worked on, a few websites and different things like that. Newspapers.

Any advice to a beginning photographer?

Be patient. Learn what a good picture looks like before you try and take a good picture. It helps to work through other people’s work, especially people who have been doing it awhile. And learn from them. And there is a lot to learn.

Are you comfortable calling yourself an artist?

I don’t know how to answer that one. I don’t know if I am an artist or just somebody that tries to capture what is already there. I don’t even feel like I am a good photographer at all. I just feel like I’ve been able to capture certain places because I’ve been able to be there at the right time.

Josh’s work can be seen on his website: www.fletchphotography.com

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