Photographers have the power to show the world the way they want you to see it. Though that’s totally subjective and it depends on the viewer’s perspective, the aim of most photos are clear in their intention. Some photos beg you to feel, persuading a certain mood or emotion. Others are just mere memories. But not everyone can be a photographer with artistic direction.
Joe Nigel Coleman is a photographer that aims to convey a sense of dreaming with his photos, giving more life than originally present to his own memories. He’s let loose a slew of images with releases such as “Portraits,” “People as Landscapes,” “Mirage,” and a series simply called “Dreaming.” They’re all very different, yet they all seem to perfectly capture a distinct sense of hazy memory that almost seems an impossible achievement with photographing beautifully real landscapes.
We spoke with Coleman about his recent endeavors, pursuits in traveling, his photography style, and sense of direction.
Mass Appeal: Who are you?
Joe Coleman: Joe Nigel Coleman. 26. Photographer from Newcastle, Australia.
MA: You still live in Australia?
JC: I just got back here yesterday after six months travelling around the Americas. But, yes I plan to live here for the next little while, at least.
MA: Was that for a project or an experience? Or a little bit of both?
JC: I don’t really plan too many projects. Most of my work comes from the situations and places I put myself in. Obviously I was excited to photograph these places, but it was about the experience. In other words, I suppose that my life experiences come first, then the projects are bodies of work which come from the life I choose to live.
MA: Where’d you go in America?
JC: Well, I started off in South/Central America, then made my way up into the states later. I’ve always wanted to see Latin America as long I can remember. Obviously it is very naturally beautiful, but the Hispanic culture, language, and way of life, has always interested me
It was also really amazing to experience and learn about the indigenous people. I was learning spanish in Guatemala for 6 weeks and spent a month in Colombia traveling up the Caribbean coast with two good pals.
MA: How’d you get around? Taking public transportation and using the Spanish you learned?
JC: Yeah, I can easily get around with the Spanish I know, I met a lot of people who didn’t speak any Spanish at all, which goes to show, body language goes a long way.
MA: So you’re a photographer. What do you classify your photos as? Subject matter wise.
JC: Um, I suppose my photos are probably easiest classified as landscapes. I see them as a reflection on my lifestyle, dreams, desires, memories.
MA: That’s what you’re trying to capture? Dreams, memories, desires. Would that be your subject matter? Records of such?
JC: It’s not particularly what I’m trying to capture. But it is what I end up with. As in, I don’t have these things in mind when taking the photos.
MA: What do you try capturing initially when taking the photos?
JC: I suppose it’s usually something that captures my eye as beautiful, interesting, or strange. And yeah, I suppose sometimes I will take a photo with the intention of saving a memory.
MA: Okay, let’s talk your projects. Specifically, Mirage. I really love those photos.
JC: Oh, thanks.
MA: What was your intent with that series?
JC: Well, like I was saying before, I don’t usually shoot photos with a project in mind. I was at the tail end of a trip to New Zealand, and all I had left was a couple of rolls of B&W 1600ISO film, which means the film was really sensitive to light, and you wouldn’t usually shoot it in direct daylight. But these rolls were all I had left, so I used them anyway, and ended up with that series. Wasn’t intentional, but turned out to be a happy accident.
MA: Your portraits. These are people you know and friends?
JC: Yeah, they are all pals. People I’ve met at some point along the way. I’m not very good at photographing people I don’t know or have a connection with.
MA: And I’m assuming Dreaming is a compilation of landscapes and areas you’ve been to and appreciated?
JC: Yeah, exactly. It’s like a massive compilation of photos that I’ve taken over a few years. I’ve grouped them together in that series because they all remind me of dreams that I’ve had, dreams that I could have, or just remind me of a dream anyone might have. I hope people can relate to them that way.
I haven’t actually updated that series in a long while. My website in general is quite out of date, I’ve got a lot of new work and I’m currently trying to figure out what to do with it.
MA: What are you putting out lately?
JC: A book has been in the cards for a while. I have been pretty slack, but I’ve been using my Facebook page and updating my photo diary whenever I got a chance while on the road.
Now that I’m back here in Australia I should have some time to focus on getting my new work out there the way I want.
MA: Do you edit all of your photos?
JC: Yes, editing is a big part of the creative process for me, but I don’t really edit heavily. That’s the beauty of film, it already looks close to the way I want it. Tweaking tones, highlights, and contrast is how I usually edit.
MA: What are you currently working on?
JC: Well, I’ve shot over 50 rolls of film in the last six months while travelling through the Americas, so I’ve got a lot of sorting and editing to do. I’ve got an exhibition in the works, also a book. And I hope to be selling prints soon, too.