Artist of The Week: Joshua Aronson
Joshua Aronson is rooted in the present. It’s a perspective that informs every part of his work—from who he photographs, to what he spends his time on, to how he starts his day (with a 25 minute roam around his neighborhood, if you were wondering). The “Emerging” series is the fruit of his labor: a documentation of who’s bubbling up to the forefront of the creative landscape, Aronson selects his subjects based on their ability to be in the now, and nowhere else (in his own words, “a distinct connection to the moment today.”). We sat down with Aronson to talk more about the project, and got a hold of his latest “Emerging” photograph, a dreamy portrait of NYC model Seashell, plus a slew of other shots from the series (check them all in the gallery above).
I’d love to hear more about the “Emerging” series.
The idea for the series came about very naturally. I was living in Miami before I moved to New York, and down there, there are obviously some really incredible things going on. Young artists doing really cool things. I just felt that these kids who were putting their lives on the line for Miami weren’t getting the love and attention that they deserve. Right around the time of Art Basel, I reached out to i-D Magazine about doing a story on these kids. i-D was cool with it, and that December we put together the profile on 10 young, emerging, Miami artists. That is what spawned the whole series, and now we’ve done Miami, we did Miami again the year after with i-D, I’ve gone to LA to photograph a similar story, and now that I’m in NYC, I’m working with artists here. Chicago, Tokyo. It just started from there and grew out naturally.
How has the project evolved since the very first one? You’re in different physical environments, so how does that affect your creative process?
What I’m trying to do is create a document of the present. I want to create these photographs that hopefully in 20 or 30 years people can look at and wonder, “What was it like to be an emerging artist in 2018 in Miami, or New York, or Chicago?” Those environments affect the work in that area. I’m always trying to create something historical, something that’s grounded and rooted in reality, so it’s affecting that very naturally. While this is a document of the present, I also see it as a proposition for the future. As a young, emerging artist, you have the potential of becoming an old, established artist who is successful.
So obviously there’s so many new artists coming up in every city. How do you select who you’re going to shoot? How does someone fit the bill in your eyes?
Personally, I’m interested in people who I feel have a distinct connection to the moment today. Who are very rooted in the present. I think someone who makes the present moment different from art in the past. A lot of people today aren’t bound by one medium. For example, one artist I photographed recently is Tyler Mitchell, he’s a photographer but he also directs fashion films. It’s an interest in these people who aren’t afraid to cross boundaries and work across different platforms.
What’s been your most memorable shoot?
I would have to say, being in Tokyo, which is a city that I’ve always, since 15 or 16, wanted to go to. Being in Tokyo, and running into Dozie Kanu. He’s a sculptor and designer who collaborates a lot with Travis Scott. Running into him and creating these portraits in Tokyo, because we were two kids living our best lives in Tokyo. We wanted to record that and document that for people back home. Being 23 or 24 and flying out to Tokyo is definitely a possibility, that was really special to me.
Can you talk a little about interning for Ryan McGinley? Is that how your career got started?
I’ve been taking photos since I was in high school back in Miami. I’d shoot my friends skateboarding, home studios making music. Working with Ryan and at his studio, it came at a time when my career was already more or less off the ground. I’d been shooting for some magazines for quite some time, living in NYC for about a year. Working with Ryan added a new perspective to what I do. It opened my eyes to a lot I didn’t think about before.
It’s interesting because I talk to some artists who were mentored or assistants for people, and some just make it on their own. It’s interesting to see how it influences their process. Especially since he’s such a well known photographer.
Absolutely. Ryan for the longest time has been a real idol for me, and someone I’ve looked up to. Having the opportunity to work with someone you respect and love on a professional level, but also on a personal level. He’s the greatest guy, he’s so down to Earth and easygoing. I would say that working at his studio, being surrounded by his photographs all the time, it’s a lot of nudes, and radical pictures of people jumping or running around, doing crazy things. Being around that had an impact on me. Now, in the next couple of months, my work is going to take a different turn. I think it has something to do with being around Ryan’s studio and allowing myself to be influenced by all of that.
As an artist, what do you do if you’re feeling in a creative rut, or uninspired? How do you find fresh inspiration?
There’s so many different ways. I like to take a walk every morning, 25 minutes, no talking, just listening. Sort of allowing your brain to fill up with thoughts or ideas, or just trying to feel what’s around you before you jump into your day. I try to do that, and that usually keeps me on track. If for some reason I’ve already taken my walk but still feeling in a rut or dry or something, I like to read a lot. Not necessarily about photography or artists, but read books written by architects. One of my favorite writers is Hans Ulbricht Obrist. Just allowing yourself to explore somebody else’s practice or mind frame and see how they do it. It’s a great way to get inspired.
As far as what you have coming up, what is super exciting for you?
I’m working on so much, it’s a bit of a beautiful mess.
[Laughs] A good problem to have.
I think as far as what’s coming up, one of the things I think is really important to me is being able to give someone something physical. Whether it’s a book, or a print, or a poster, but something real that they can hold. A way of sharing my photography. Something I’m working on right now is my first book. I’m excited about that. So you’ll be seeing that very soon. Otherwise, just trying to open the door to more collaborations. Working with different emerging and established artists, more fashion brands, more magazines. And potentially a show coming up.
Images courtesy of Joshua Aronson
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