I walk the streets and alleys of my residential Denver neighborhood looking for photographic subjects, so I call myself a street photographer. But I don’t often take photos of people or street scenes. Instead, I use common surfaces and mundane objects as my visual palette. Rusting metallic dumpsters, fading wood fences, stained concrete, stone tiles, and other unnoticed objects are the basis for my images. Like most street photographers, I often get just one good chance to capture an image. Changing light values and reflections often contribute to what works in an image, so I seek the “critical moment” for each photo.
I invite you to see the world as I interpret it. To meet my imaginary friends. And to enjoy the scenes your mind creates as you look at the common material I photograph. I’ve learned that everyone sees things differently. One person may see an image as cheerful while somebody else finds that same image ominous. Yet often there are strong commonalities in how different people receive specific images. What is most fun is that this can be so unpredictable.
It is thrilling when images I’ve captured become real in people’s minds. Think about what it means to photograph a fleeting, random, inconsequential thing that was likely the result of someone’s carelessness or neglect, and give that thing a purpose, to allow it to become something that is appreciated for its aesthetic value. I sometimes joke that I’m the last hope for random stains and scratches to achieve fame and fortune. My photos are odes of appreciation to the power of randomness, which drives nature in all its complexity, intelligence, and beauty.
People tell me that they see something unique in my abstract images and that they love specific colors or shapes. I aim to draw viewers into a visual world where their imagination is set free. My approach is largely driven by the assumption that we are wired to understand the world through metaphor. I look for subjects that suggest visual metaphors in my mind while realizing that I cannot know what someone else will see or what associations and memories are fueling their imagination. Even when I’m not using my camera I frequently find myself looking, with admiration, at imaginary scenes, landscapes and faces on common surfaces. Can my photos help you to do this too?
Should you happen to find an image that you love and purchase for display, I hope you will enjoy hearing a variety of interpretations from others who see it. Depending on the photo you choose, you may be surprised by what people tell you they see. I hope you enjoy my work and that you’ll subscribe to my email announcements and Instagram posts. If you see something you like, please share my work with your friends and family.
– Jonathan Katz