I’m proud to present the work and wisdom of Julien Strasfeld. This is a special interview for me because Julien and I regularly converse about these topics, and I believe our familiarity helped this interview to be one of the best in this series. Julien’s work is spontaneous while still being incredibly reflexive and thoughtful. I’ve been following his work for years and the effort he’s put into photography has certainly paid off.
What’s your name, age, and where are you from?
Julien Strasfeld, 26, I’m from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada.
So Julien, what have you been up to lately photographically? Have you processed all those images you shot in Europe last year?
I finished processing everything I shot in Europe in November I think, I’ve also printed that body of work, or at least the one that was most on my mind when I was there. 5 images that explore public space, people using it, human form, and how all of these things intermix.
I’m working on finishing up a series of prints I shot in New York, I always forget to put them up as I print them, but in my mind I think they might not mix as well as I had thought. What I’ll make from those prints we shall see.
I haven’t been doing a whole lot lately as far as my own photo, but I’ve shot a few local bands and volunteered as the official photographer for a beginner farmer symposium hosted by these guys.
Last month I was hired by an artist run art gallery and media arts centre to cover their 8th annual contemporary arts festival, and first of what I dearly hope will be annual media arts talks.
I recently helped out with a photo camp this gallery put on and it was a blast getting youth excited about photo. It was insane to see how quickly they were picking up photoshop.
I’m also doing this skateboard advocacy work part time on the side. Fun stuff!
Rad. So recently you’ve been shooting this stuff digitally, where as with your other work you were about shooting film like it was digital. Why the switch? Different project different tools or what?
To keep it short it was a judgement call between turnaround, payscale, and what the clients wanted. I still always have a film camera on me at all times, and usually shoot a few frames at the very least at these things, but yeah. For my own stuff it’s always film, but I’m enjoying learning and feeling confident using a digital camera that feels close to a tool I like. Until this summer my experience with digital has always been really unsatisfying.
And scraps of cut film leads still litter my house.
For a while, like on your Europe trip, it seemed like you just blew through film, as opposed to a lot of people citing the “less is more” argument for shooting film. What’s your take on that, and how do you manage to deal with all that film?
Every time I look back on that trip I find myself confidently thinking how I did what I did was totally right for me, and was why I was able to make the images I did. Shooting that much really made what I was doing second nature, and allowed me to anticipate some things I likely wouldn’t have otherwise. To me, all the work, carrying all the film for two months, the weekend trips to another town to burn through processing the film and making contact sheets was 100% worth it. I was able to manage all that film just by believing in what I was doing, and of course having the date and time of when each roll was loaded into a camera written on each roll. That was probably the single most important thing, and something my parents told me to do the day before I left on the trip. Thanks mom and dad!
To go back to what you were saying about not putting your stuff online, well, you haven’t been. You took down all of you older work and have very little content on your website/flickr account, why did you do that?
For sake of control, and to help me focus. I still use flickr the same way I always have, and I still upload a fair amount, but it’s much more selective and just about everything is uploaded for close friends only. I use it as a sounding board, much in the way I always called my flickr account a sketchbook when I was posting 30% of what I shot.
Though photo and life provide one endless opportunities to learn, I feel like the nascent learning stage of my photography has ended, and I am at base of a new ladder to climb. It is really interesting, I long for so much of what I used to do, and my confidence is constantly shaken, but looking back at my summer, it is affirming seeing how much I did, and how happy everyone was to work with me. I feel confident I can make a living at least partly through photography.
Being able to manage posting as much of what I shot with the resources I have available to me, and the process of spending that much time with all I shoot the way I used to really isn’t something that is manageable. Also I can’t afford it as I have spent the majority of the summer willfully unemployed. I really do need to update my website though.
Who else is killing it in photography right now?
Gosh, I really haven’t been following much online, I’m really excited about Ethan Rhoads, Tomchy is always on point too. Riley Smith is a rad rad dude, and I am super stoked Zander Taketomo is working for 43 in such a big role, and was just on the Shoot All Skaters. Thaddeus Holownia is also killing it. He’s been knocking out so much work this summer, using pigments and silver like a pro and it’s amazing to see how much he’s doing with one, really awesome assistant.
ROTHNEY IS ALSO ZEUS
Curtis is seriously so frigging amazing. I’m so proud he’s still in the Maritimes. I hope he calls this place home for some time.
Speaking of calling the Maritimes home, do you think you’ll continue doing that for a while or do you have somewhere else in mind to move to at any point?
My short term plans are to stay here until the end of next summer for sure. I will be looking into applying at Concordia in Montreal very soon to do an MFA starting in September 2013. I’m incredibly excited that I have this sense of direction, but also that I know what I want to do between now and then, and where I want to take things with that degree.
We’ve had fairly heady conversation about photography before, how much do academics and “book learnin’” play into your shooting and editing process?
Hmmm. I haven’t though about that much to be honest. I do feel I’ve thought about this though, and I know I’ve expressed some early ideas about this sort of question in an interview done almost a year ago so I feel I should have a lot to say. My gut answer is that they play into my shooting and editing process in the same way anything that has shaped your life and world view does, but that I very much find myself thinking of history when I shoot, and I think about philosophy in how I edit, so yeah, a lot. I suppose it shows in what I select (edit) as a professor teaching at the university here in Sackville, having seen my work and spoken with me a few times has asked me to give a lecture in her 4th year history seminar in the winter term. It’s actually pretty damn exciting, and I cannot wait to sit down and work on what I want to say and show. The class is called ‘Public Space in Canadian Cities.’
Last words/shout-outs/thank yous?
Last words are watch this video. Henry is the single biggest reason I shoot a photo when something catches me eye, or I frame something.
Shout-outs go to Danny Dorsa, Andrew Tomchyshyn, Guus van der Velden, my family, you for all the copy editing you’ve done for me and awesome conversations we’ve had, Newman, Rothney, and the various other awesome friends I have with sweet last names. Bauer. Donald for shooting so much damn sheet film, and John Berner for shining bright and shooting so much film and keeping on top of it. That dude has come so far in the last year it’s incredible. Ralph and anyone else who has ever made me smile.
I combined the shout outs with my thank yous. Sorry!