1. Name / occupation / location:
Joseph Gerhard / photographer, musician, nurse / New Haven, CT
2. How long have you been doing what you’re doing?
I first became seriously interested in photography in the early 70s. In the 80s and 90s, I gave up photography for painting, but came back to it in earnest in 2005.
3. What was your last ‘day’ job (or what is your current day job)?
I am an operating room nurse in cardiac surgery at Yale. I work three days a week—long days—which leaves me time for other pursuits while freeing me from the need to pay the bills with photography or music. It’s interesting, engaging work that I really love.
4. Favorite writer / artist / photographer?
Pretty hard to limit it to a single choice, but if I absolutely had to I’d probably say Rebecca Solnit / Cy Twombley / Harry Callahan.
5. Who or what inspires you to create?
It’s always unpredictable and seems to come out of nowhere. I *do* find that I’m most receptive to ideas and impulses early in the morning. Before I’ve had coffee and before I’m even fully awake. What I usually refer to as “ass-scratching” time.
6. Describe your last DIY project:
Building a darkroom again after more than 25 years of not having one.
7. Decade you wish you could visit?
1870s in America. The country was emerging from the horrible trauma of the Civil War and trying to reinvent itself and move on. Also a period of tremendous and violent labor unrest which led directly to so many of the benefits enjoyed by workers since.
8. A place you’ve visited that was almost too beautiful to capture?
Venice. It wasn’t *almost* too beautiful, it was too beautiful, period. An almost panic-inducing beauty.
9. Describe your pre-work ritual:
See number 5. Aimlessly walking around the house, staring blankly out windows. All while completely avoiding any thoughts of working.
10. Piece you created that is nearest and dearest to you:
One of my most recent photos, a portrait of my father sitting on his bed. I was incredibly moved by his willingness to sit for the camera, but most by the riveting and impassive way he gazed into the lens. I knew I had something special the moment I pressed the cable release and I was trembling when I first saw the contact print of that negative.
11. Something you care deeply about:
Access to affordable health care. While I am thrilled that the Affordable Care Act ( I despise the term “Obamacare” given its origins) has introduced some much-needed changes into the way healthcare in this country is delivered, it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough, in my opinion. That such as modest proposal was nearly defeated by the Supreme Court and still faces such vicious repudiation in certain quarters will live on as another shameful chapter in American history.
12. Current project you are working on:
I’m making lots of studio portraits at the moment, learning how to use the lights expressively. In the past I’ve photographed exclusively by available light, so this is quite a departure for me. It’s thrilling and, at the same time, makes my head hurt—given how much there is to learn.
13. Goal for the future:
Stay healthy and keep working. I’m thinking about a series of portraits each one of which would combine two photos (in diptych format): a studio-type portrait of the person against a seamless backdrop, paired with an interior photo of their personal environment. Sort of deconstructed environmental portraits.