Joseph Holmes’ photos have been exhibited in dozens of solo and group shows across the country and are featured in the international survey, Photography Now: One Hundred Portfolios. Joe was one of four photographers in the national print campaign, Stunning Nikon, in 2005 and 2006. As part of Berlin Meets New York, twenty-eight photos from his series, joe’s nyc, were displayed on multimedia screens in Berlin subway trains. For more than four years, his daily photographs of New York City have been syndicated in Charlie Suisman’s Manhattan User’s Guide. Joe’s short stories have appeared in the literary journals Phantasmagoria, The North Atlantic Review, and Pikeville Review. He lives and works in Brooklyn.


When and how did you become interested in Photography?

When I was twelve years old or so, my father sold his Leica and bought a Miranda Sensorex SLR with a built-in light meter, a simpler camera that my sister and I could use. Ever since then, I’ve loved taking pictures — and developing and printing them.

What gear do you mainly shoot with?

I use a Nikon D700 digital SLR, most often with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. That’s my desert island kit.

What is your #1 source of inspiration?

New York City. #2 would be my sixteen-year-old daughter Sophia, who constantly impresses me with her artistic soul.

Many times photographers find themselves with a full schedule of paying gigs, ending up with little time for doing the work they truly love. Do you struggle with finding time for your personal work?

My personal work always comes first, because it’s the personal work that makes up my career, selling prints through my galleries and through Jen Bekman’s 20×200 project. I’ve been very lucky that the things I love to shoot for myself have resonated with so many people.

What is your all time favorite genre to shoot (portraiture, conceptual, documentary, commercial, etc..)?

I love shooting New York City, though what I come home with isn’t strictly street photography or cityscapes or any other genre I can pin down. Maybe the genre is just photos of New York City. Can that be a genre? But I’m also having a wonderful time exploring portrait photography. Portraits are rich on so many levels, and I love the social challenges of photographing a stranger.

Do you have any upcoming shows or events you want our readers to know about?

Not at the moment, I’m still recovering and taking a bit of a break from a busy winter. My solo show, “The Urban Wilderness,” was at the Jen Bekman Gallery, 6 Spring Spring Street, through last January 23.

What is the one thing you feel makes your style or your work unique?

That’s something I can’t answer. I’m always fooling around with new ideas and new ways to see things and new things to shoot, but I have to trust those around me when they say that all my work has some kind of consistency of vision. I believe them, but I’m too close to the work to see it myself. Instead, every new idea I shoot tends to feel radically different, like I’m starting from scratch.

if you could photograph anyone, (past/present/future), who would it be and why?

I wish I could go back just a few years to shoot my father before he died. Now that I’m exploring portraiture, I would have enjoyed trying to find a way to capture him.

what’s your dream photo field trip?

My dream field trip is actually just a short walk out my front door. The trip I love best is walking into Prospect Park here in Brooklyn right after a fresh snowfall, arriving before dawn so I can capture the first people hiking through the new snow in that early winter light.

what’s your post production process?

I take images first into Apple Aperture for cataloging and key wording, then I open the selects in DxO tools which corrects for lens flaws like distortion and chromatic aberration. Finally, I finish with some basic corrections in Photoshop — contrast, exposure, etc. It all takes only a few minutes. The end of that process is an image I label a Master Source, which I archive. From that master, I can then re size and sharpen for the Web, for printing, publication, or whatever final destination.

if you had unlimited resources to purchase any type of camera, what would it be and why?

I think I’d enjoy shooting 8×10. (at the time of this interview) I just finished a project, NYC Xmas Tree Vendors – – that would have been really fun with an 8×10. And it’s less a matter of expense than time. My work days are already filled with not just taking pictures but the whole business of photography. Leaning a whole new format would be a serious investment of time. On a more practical level, some day I’d like to move up to Nikon’s D3s, which is very similar to my D700 but bumped up to that next level of gorgeousness. It might be the most perfect camera out there for how and what I shoot. Until Nikon’s next camera, anyway.

who are your favorite photographers and why?

Lee Friedlander has been the most difficult photographer for me to wrap my mind around, right from the start. It’s not like he breaks the rules, it’s as if he’s never heard of them, as if he were born without them. His choices of framing and subject are wildly unexpected. He makes me work so hard for every image I see, and then once I finally absorb what he’s doing, I can’t get it out of my mind. He’s my favorite because I can’t explain him, I can’t imitate him, and I can’t get enough of him.

what has been the shining moment of your career thus far? (or, describe your “big break”)

My solo show at the Bekman Gallery this past December and January was certainly the shining moment. I really loved having the Urban Wilderness images printed, framed and hanging — three of the prints were 30×40″. It just felt really great to stand in the middle of the gallery surrounded by the work. And the opening was such fun — people from all walks of my life came in, and I had the time of my life.

do you have any tips/tricks or advice for amateur photo nerds who are looking to shoot full time or students who are just starting out?

Trust your gut. When you find a project that really excites you, that feels like it’s working and makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and start shooting, run with it. Don’t ask opinions, don’t show it around, don’t second guess yourself and worry that you’re headed down a dead end street — just shoot the hell out of it until you run out of steam, until you know you’re finished. And only then start showing it around. Worst case: it was an important learning experience. Best case: it really is brilliant.

what’s the soundtrack to your life and/or your favorite music to listen to while editing?

I listen to Marnie Stern, New Pornographers, Regina Spektor, Ratatat, XTC… but I can’t listen to music while I edit. It seems to distract the part of my brain that makes good photo decisions.

what’s your favorite hang (when shooting or not)?

The East Village is where I love to shoot, though I don’t know if that’s really a hang or just me walking with a camera. I do all my real hanging at home.

best chow (meal/snack) to get you ready for a shoot? or best way to celebrate a brilliant capture?

Breakfast! For some reason, I really love getting up early and out the door. The light is great, the city is still waking up, everybody’s got lots of energy. So the best chow is a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and a double espresso.

will you share with us one of your favorite shots?

I’m very fickle about my own photos, and I have no desire to be objective. I’m always in love with whatever I’m shooting right now and tired of the work that’s finished and done. That said, I still love this photo I shot a year and a half ago. It not only works for me in many ways, but it represents that Gift from the Photo Gods that I treasure. Sometimes the woman in the yellow dress steps into your frame, and all you can do is press the shutter release and thank the photo gods. In that order.

your favorite photo by another photographer?

It’s always changing, but today’s favorite image is this shot by Alec Soth. This portrait really demonstrates Soth’s brilliance: it feels both posed and candid, mysterious and simple, revealing and withholding. It’s almost uncomfortably intimate. And like all of Soth’s work, it’s gorgeously shot. Soth has a huge number of portraits that are damned near perfect. I’m always inspired by his work.


has your passion for photography changed at all since turning “pro”?

Not at all. My passion for photography took off when I first shot digital. That totally opened things up for me. I’ve never looked back.

do you have a favorite / lucky item of clothing, outfit or uniform that you like to wear when shooting an important assignment or project?

I love shooting in my leather jacket. It’s not especially lucky, it just looks really good on me.

are you a photography nerd or a camera gangsta?

Mostly a nerd — or maybe I’m a camera hippie. I love the gear and the techniques, but I believe strongly in working from my gut, not over analyzing what I’ve shot or what I’m going to shoot next. For that reason, while I like to talk cameras and lenses, I don’t like to talk about the photos and what they mean.

what’s your sign? (we’re conducting a poll)

Actually, I was born without a sign. Strange but true.

who would you like to see interviewed by photopolus next?

Mark Alor Powell has been shooting sublime work for such a long time now, I’d love to hear more from him.


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