He is young, motivated and eager to show his inspiring work to the world. His name is Joshua Aronson, and you will enjoy seeing the world through his lens. Joshua picked up a camera at a young age and instantly fell in love with analog photography. In this interview, he talks about the importance of social media nowadays and explains how it feels being a young artist in this new wave of social media-prone photography.
Hey, Joshua! Welcome to our magazine! Can you tell us when did you embark on this photographic journey? How did it all start?
I just got the bug, you know? My grandfather was a photographer. He passed it down to me. It was in my bloodstream. So when I was about 15, I began using the camera. I would document friends or follow skateboarders. Then it became music videos. Then it became analog photography. I love the camera. It’s an extension of myself.
What would you say influenced your photography the most? How did you establish your photographic style?
The every day and the ordinary influence me. I like to be considered a presenter of sorts. Collecting what’s around me and developing it in a way that presents an aesthetic or a politic. So I aspire to make images that reflect the way I live, the way I work, and the way I play. I think that’s how my photographic style established: out of a desire to use the camera as a tool for something other than just photography. I like to think of the camera as a mirror onto the onlooker. When you look at an image of mine, you ought to see an extension of my world – politically, personally, and artistically – but also a mirror onto your own.
In this digital world, why analog photography? What made you fall in love with film?
I love it. I work with analogy photography because I believe in its tactile nature. It’s essential to me to be able to touch the image I am working with. I like being able to hold a film negative and feel the weight of my work in my hands. I also fell in love with film because there’s a heterogeneity amongst digital photographs. The sameness of digital photography disrupts me. I would say it’s the essence of my work.
In your opinion, what are some of the advantages of shooting on film?
First and foremost, going back to Photography 101, any camera gives you the right to stop, look, and appreciate. Say I were a doctor, right? I could not stop off on the side of the road to understand a crack in the sidewalk or the smell of a rose without someone thinking I had lost my mind. As a photographer, I can appreciate these things, and people will say “oh, he’s not crazy, he’s just a photographer.”
The camera gives me the opportunity to pause and digest. With film, this opportunity to pause is heightened. So I shoot on film mainly because it forces me to slow down and appreciate what it is I’m shooting. I cannot be trigger happy like some digital photographers today. I wouldn’t dare waste a frame of film on something I am not there to explore.
Nowadays seems like a lot of people are starting a photography business. In your opinion, what is necessary to make your work stand out from the rest?
Honesty. Clarity. Simplicity. Any good photographer should lay him or herself bare. I have a willingness to be wavy. I insert myself in my work. I have a mind like a sponge. I am always soaking in images. I am obsessed with memory. I question what is around me. I am making photographs that think. These are all the things that I find necessary to make my work stand out from the rest.
I understand you are a huge believer that hashtags should be avoided on Instagram posts. How important is for artists today to display their work on social media?
I don’t believe hashtags need to be erased from the face of Instagram posts entirely. I enjoy hashtags and know many artists who use them ironically much to my delight. I am only advocating for the shift in focus amongst photographers from reblogs, retweets, and hashtags to form, color, arrangement, or context. Stop trying to make work that will go viral.
I am a big believer in this: the photographer's gem is his or her ability to simply just be. It is less so his context, his cosigns, or his hashtags. It's his being there, showing up, and photographing something he simply could not avoid. I just want to see more photographers in it for the process. If I could make one request, it would be to stop doing it for the likes.
How does it feel being a young artist in this fresh wave of social media-prone photography?
Almost always good. I feel very fortunate to be alive right now. I am living at the same time as other artists like Frank Ocean, Virgil Abloh, Dev Hynes, Dozie Kanu, Tyler Mitchell, Grace Ahlbom, Harley Weir, Ava Niuri, Olivia Bee, Julian Klincewicz, Simon Davis and Jason Sondock, Jai Paul, Alex Muret, Tyrone Lebon, Joshua Sobel, and Tremaine Emory. These artists and their processes are significant to me.
Collectively, we are growing together. We are learning to navigate the unknown waters of social media in our work simultaneously. Also, as a photographer, social media allows me constant access to my job, whereas a traveling photographer, before our time, would not be able to revisit his archive so quickly. Sometimes, revisiting a prior series or a specific image from the past brings up unresolved intentions in the work which I want to explore further.
Social media can be very constructive in that way. I think interviews like these are so interesting, though, because they mark a place in time. Perhaps in ten years we will look back and ask, why did we not acknowledge the dangers of social media, then? For now, ignorance is bliss.
You've also worked with many famous brands such as Off-White and Tommy Hilfiger. What was this experience like for you? How did a 23-year-old photographer from Miami convince these brand to shoot for them on film?
Interestingly, the preeminent challenge I face when working with a brand like Virgil Abloh’s Off-White or Tommy is not the need to convince these brands to allow me to shoot on film. The challenge I face is my need to maintain a level of subversiveness and authenticity in everything I do. With prominent photographers choosing to shoot film over digital now, I often find it easy to convince a brand to let me shoot on film. The actual conflict arises when I attempt to represent a brand authentically without compromising my own aesthetic or opinion.
I think that has a lot to do with the brands themselves though. With a seasoned American brand like Tommy, the inclination is always to remain classic. With a relatively young brand like Off-White, there is obviously more freedom at hand. For me, each brand is like a stage prop. They are tools. They are very visual tools that draw attention to me. Brands are flashy and working with them allows me to do what I want. It is rarely about convincing. I am always collaborating, and the experience is almost always right.
Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
Yes. I am reading a lot of Hans Ulrich Obrist. I am watching a lot of films in my spare time. I am listening to Blonde and Endless. I am studying Comme des Garçons ads from the 90s but also Stussy ads from the 2010s. I am not a futurist, but I am thinking about the future. I am thinking about asking Virgil Abloh to publish my first photo book on his publishing imprint “FINE PRINT.”
I am thinking about photographing young artists in a late artist’s estate like Jackson Pollock’s in upstate New York. I have visuals releasing with Cadillac and Hudson Jeans this fall. I want to photograph my first magazine cover this year. I believe the ocean never dries. I’m asking myself: How would you touch an image if you were blind?