Interview | James Needham
INTRODUCING JAMES NEEDHAM - AN AUSTRALIAN PHOTOGRAPHER CURRENTLY RESIDING IN NEW YORK.
When and how did your journey as a photographer begin?
It began very early. My mother gave me the OM1 that she used to teach high school art classes and shoot with herself. After that photography was just always a part of my identity. Photography club, work experience at a print lab, art school and after that almost every job I had, from painting Cycloramas to lighting to digital tech, had to do with photography. So… this better work out because I don’t know how to do anything else.
What camera(s) do you prefer to use?
I shoot pretty much everything with a DSLR these days. Either a Canon 5D or a Nikon D810, whatever I happen to grab. One of those and a 24-70mm lens and I can roam all day. I’m looking to get a Nikon D850 though. Definitely my favorite camera of the moment.
Could you describe a bit about the type of photography you pursue?
I started pursuing a style of photography based on the urban landscape paintings of Jeffrey Smart, Edward Hopper, Rick Amor and Ben Mclaughlin. A single figure or vehicle is dwarfed by the towering structures of the city, a visual style sometimes referred to as urban loneliness. But I like to think my use ofcolour and image construction produces a joyful bent on that title. The focus of my work varies a lot but the aesthetic is the connecting tissue. I’m interested in line and shape and colour, those are my subject.
What inspired you to pursue photography?
A desire to create images but I can’t paint or draw so photography seemed like the best option.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
I'm inspired by film and paintings more than other photographers. I like to translate the aspects of those mediums into photography. The careful composition of a painting and the storytelling offilm. I think the most interesting thing about viewing any sort of visual media is how the person who created it chooses to frame their subject. There is a limited amount of space within a viewfinder and what you choose to fill it with says a lot about you and what you were feeling during that time. It’s like a Rorschach test that you create yourself.
What photographers have influenced your work?
William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Saul Leiter but they’re the heavy hitters whose archives are well established. I like discovering photographers on Instagram. Dino Kuznik, Devin Lunsford, Lark Foord, David Mirete. It’s amazing to watch them produce a constant stream of new work, to see which elements change and which remain fixed, the new directions they take and the conceptual ground they return to. It’s like watching someone discover their artistic style in real time.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I’m sure there is a category or term for it that I’m just not aware of. “Hyper Realism” maybe? I’m not sure, but I have to find a better way to describe it than “Urban Landscapes” because that just makes me cringe.
What is the most significant project you have worked on? Where did you find inspiration to pursue it?
I tend to identify places that I like, shoot and then try and identify common traits to make up a series after the fact. I find the process of photo editing very therapeutic. And the self-reflective insights you have going through your own work often influences your future choices… mostly for the better.
Are there any photography projects you are currently pursuing or would like to pursue?
I’ve returned to photograph in Mallorca several times. The endless blue Spanish sky and the washed out muted tones of the cities made for some great shots. I'd like to expand those shooting trips to other areas in Spain.
What general process do you undergo to produce your work?
It’s equal parts shooting and editing. Once I find a location I like I will post up and photograph it for a while. Making sure to capture different examples of composition, traffic, and shadow movement. Then when I’m going through the photos afterward I see which elements worked best, eliminating or combining those that create the best image.