An Interview with Photographer Josh Wool
We spoke with New York City-based photographer, Josh Wool. His work spans advertising, editorial, music, and entertainment. This portrait of Josh in his Open Road was captured by Monique Wool.
How did you develop an interest in photography?
My interest in photography started at an early age. My parents bought an old house when I was a kid, and the folks who’ve lived there previously had stacks and stacks of old Life and National Geographic magazines piled up in one of the hallways. I remember pouring through them and I think that’s where my initial interest in photography came from. I really didn’t start taking photos until I was in my early thirties though. I was a chef for years and unfortunately had to have some surgeries on my hands, I was out of commission for almost two months recovering and as part of that I picked up a camera as a way to keep myself occupied.
How has your photography evolved?
Like most people, in the beginning, I tried to replicate the styles of photographers I admired as a way to learn. I think the evolution has been in finding my own voice as a photographer and creating images that are distinctively my own style. When I starting taking portraits, that’s when it all clicked for me. I went from just taking snapshots or just capturing moments in time, to being able to create a narrative through a portrait.
You seem to have the ability to make the subject relax and reveal a candid side to them through your photography. Do you have any tips to achieve this?
Basically, when I photograph people it’s all about having a conversation and keeping them engaged during the process. I’d say the majority of people aren’t all that comfortable in front of the camera, so as we’re talking I’ll give them little bits of direction on how to move or pose themselves. Also, I try to project a sense of confidence in what I’m doing, so that my subjects know that I will portray them in a positive manner. I think that goes a long way into getting past the walls people put up when a camera is pointed at them. At the end of the day though, it just about interacting with people and getting them to trust you, even if it’s only for a few moments.
From your point of view, what makes a good photo?
Simply put, a good photo is one that draws a viewer in. When the audience is able to connect with an image, that to me is a success.
Who influenced you the most?
There are a few photographers that have really influenced me. Dorothea Lange’s work in the depression era really stuck with me, as well as Richard Avedon’s series In The American West. Also, Irving Penn’s portrait work, Frank Ockenfels III, Sally Mann, and Richard Learoyd have been very important to my development and understanding of making portraits.
How does Stetson fit into your style?
I pretty much wear a uniform, Levi’s, Blundstone boots, black t-shirt, and an Open Road. It is such the classic, iconic hat, but it never looks out of date. I feel just as comfortable wearing it in New York City as I do out in the country. It’s the old idea that style never goes out of fashion. My Stetson has become almost part of my persona in a way, it’s just part of who I am.