Tell us a bit about how you came to photography. Are you self-taught? Or, were you trained formally? Do you have any people or photographers that have influenced you?
I am largely self-taught. I became interested in photography at the age of thirteen. My neighbor was a photographer and I spent a lot of time in his darkroom learning how to develop black and white photos. I bought my first camera, a little Chinon (a Pentax K-mount compatible camera) with a 50mm lens, and started taking my own pictures. My favorite film was Kodachrome. I loved the colors it produced, especially when underexposed by one-third f-stop. I didn’t love the cost of development. As I travelled and as time went by, I took pictures all over Europe and America. I bought newer cameras and lenses. Today, I shoot with a Canon 5D MkIV. I have several lenses but my daily lens is a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8. I read a lot of books on the art and techniques of photography and I look at the work of other photographers whose work I admire. Alex Webb, Saul Leiter, Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Herman, and Costa Manos are some who have influenced the way I look at the world. Some say that my street photography resembles the work of Gerard Fromanger, but I don’t know that I am quite that good yet. I also follow good street photographers on Instagram, where I post my own work as well.
In your architectural photography you focus on specific elements, compositionally, within the frame? Is it an intuitive process? Or do you consciously think about formal qualities – line, perspective, shape, etc – before clicking the shutter?
When I create any image, I mostly focus on the lines and the shapes as they appear in the frame. Color is a big component as well, but not always a main factor. More than a specific color, I look at the contrast between colors or light. It is, to me, still an intuitive process since I don’t have a formal art education and most of what I know, I have learned by doing and making mistakes. I have thousands of bad photographs in my archives.
Several of your images feature subjects silhouetted in black against urban backdrops? Do you like to engage people as more of a representation of a universal human element as opposed to individuals with unique attributes?
The Silhouette images are part of my street photography. I don’t stick to just one genre of photography, there are too many things and subjects that interest me: Portraiture (though, I am too shy and insecure to take many formal portraits), Art photography, Architecture, Nature, Animals, and Street. Depending on the type of image I am making at the time, I engage with the subject, be it a person, an animal, a building or a flower, differently. In my street photography, I do include people more as a representation of humanity rather than individuals. I have always felt a bit alone in this world, despite having a large family, and my street photography is a way for me to visualize the loneliness and isolation one can feel, even in very busy places. Come to think of it, one probably can see that same quality in my other work as well. I do tend to focus on details and single subjects, often isolated from their surroundings.
Your handle on Your Art Gallery is “iamnotbuddha”. You also mention that you like to capture a sense of isolation and serenity within the context of the city in your images. Is there a Buddhist or meditative aspect to your artistic practice?
Yes, I am a Buddhist at heart. Having practiced Martial Arts for many years, I became interested in Zen
Buddhism. I can definitely buy into the idea that everything is made of one thing and that everything is a
manifestation of the same. Unlike other religions, Buddhism also makes you, the individual, responsible
for where you are in life and who you are as a person. Because, we make choices every day and even
when we think we have no choice or we only have bad options, we make a choice, and those choices are
ours alone to make and they have karma, or consequences, that put us where we are in the present. I do
feel a serenity from having that conviction and I think it does reflect in my images.
Finally, it looks like most of your photographs are from New York City. What is your dream city to photograph?
Well, New York City is a great city to be a photographer in and I am lucky to work here. I don’t have a
single dream city. There are too many places I have yet to visit. I love Paris with its beautiful architecture
and art. I also find Scandinavian cities like Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen to have great opportunities
for making wonderful pictures. As do Edinburgh, London, Cambridge, Berlin, Amsterdam, Munich,
Barcelona, Madrid, Vienna, and just about any city in Europe. I have not seen much of Asia other than
Mumbai, which is fantastic, but I would love to shoot in just about any place in Asia and Australia. So, I
guess the short answer is, no, I don’t have a favorite city. My dream city to photograph is the one I am in
with a camera.
You can see more of Gerald Jarvis’s artwork in his portfolio at Your Art Gallery.