Ep 298: The importance of personal projects with guest Joseph Rodriguez

Meet social documentary photographer Joseph Rodriguez from Brooklyn. He has photographed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; journeys of new immigrants to America; gang life in East Los Angeles; and life in Spanish Harlem. Joseph’s photographs have appeared in: The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Newsweek, Esquire, and more. We chat to Joseph about: his love of cinema; beating a Heroin addiction in his 20s; being mugged and stabbed and having his first camera stolen; why he quit a high paying job working for advertising agencies; working 12 hour days driving a taxi to support his photography studies; the advice Mary Ellen Mark gave him to improve his photography; the importance of playing the long game in documentary photography; difference between the tortoise photographer and the hare photographer – and much more.

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Show Notes

Joseph Rodriguez was born in Brooklyn

He works in a social documentary style 40 years.

He has photographed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; journeys of new immigrants to America; gang life in East Los Angeles; and life in Spanish Harlem.

Rodriguez’s photographs have appeared in: The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Newsweek, Esquire, and more.

Awards and grants from institutions including the Open Society Institute; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Rockefeller Foundation; and the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography. Rodriguez teaches at the International Center of Photography and New York University.

‘I’d seen so much of the world’s darkness, so I took all those negative experiences and turned it into something positive by using the camera as a mirror to see the beauty and humanity of the world.”

Joseph chats about:

  • Growing up in Brooklyn in the ’60s?
  • Beating a Heroin addiction in his 20’s
  • His love of cinema
  • Being mugged and stabbed and having his first camera stolen
  • Why he quit a high paying job working for advertising agencies
  • His early work as a photographer who was afraid of taking portraits
  • Working 12 hour days driving a taxi to support his photography studies.
  • The advice Mary Ellen Mark gave him to improve his photography
  • Why sometimes not taking an image and being in the moment is just as important as taking an image
  • The importance of playing the long game in documentary photography
  • The difference between the tortoise photographer and the hare photographer
  • The importance of capturing the human gaze and how Joseph connects with his subjects

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
-Goethe

“Photographs not taken are just as important as those that are. Sometimes you have to let things go and just be there in the moment.”
-Joseph Rodriguez

“Films became a library in my subconscious of imagery that I could pull from much later on. I like to look at my work the way I viewed cinema as a kid. Films are narratives, a storyboard of moments, and to capture moments is not an easy thing.” -Joseph Rodriguez

“If you open your life to me, it is a very sacred thing. To get to someone’s kitchen table is one of the hardest things to do. That’s where these photographs come from.” -Joseph Rodriguez

IMAGE: Joseph Rodriguez
Old woman whose children work and live in the US. When asked if she would like to go and live with them she refused. Cheran, Michoacan, Mexico. 11.07
IMAGE: Joseph Rodriguez
Los Angeles; Gangs; Latino;
IMAGE: Joseph Rodriguez
Markod, Transylvania, Romania. Mother and her son with their pet rabbit.
1994

TV RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • MADE IN ITALY
  • F is for FAMILY

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