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A Brief Interview with Justin Clifford Rhody

SM: Who are you?
JCR: A low-level employee in the warehouse of life, shuttling office supplies and cardboard boxes out the back door while the boss is on break.

SM: What are you?
JCR: In love, but still bummed out.

SM: When are you?
JCR: April 28th 1984 to the present moment.

SM: Where are you?
JCR: At the studio in Oakland California.

SM: Why are you?
JCR: “Gotta Be” b/w “For the Kids”

SM: I am interested in the photographs that you refer to as “recent random work.” Recent and random feels like the antithesis to much of contemporary photography. The photographs themselves from your selection are recognizably American—detailing the road, advertisements, tension, and open spaces. But more compelling is how you group them in contrast to other projects that are categorized by a specific theme and span of time. I think photography works well to subvert both theme and time, yet we as photographers are often compelled to focus our work by theme, aesthetic, or narrative. While one can perhaps not escape influence—what one chooses to photograph is a reflection of one’s interests and/or convictions—it is worthwhile to sometimes let go of those constraints and see what connections can be made, what new definitions we can create. Perhaps you have categorized these images as random as a means to share work that does not yet fit a project. But if you would share a bit about how you understand our seeming need to classify and define and if photography helps or hinders that effort.

JCR: That page on my website is simply a place to show work from outside the larger series that I sometimes work in. It’s a space where context is not invited and so the images are able to converse amongst themselves in a more fluidly interpretive cipher – or stand alone in the crowd, silently. In my personal experience, this letting go of those constraints is really the only way to get anywhere. Brion Gysin’s cut-up technique taught us that “When you cut into the present the future leaks out,” of which photography plays great example to. Time of course is the ultimate subject of all photographs and since most of us still operate on a linear understanding of it, it makes perfect sense to categorize work as such (compared to “theme” which can be a much more shifty and oblique focal point). 

JCR: In the game of categorization vs. generalization, motive and intent can be the key players. I sometimes find it seemingly impossible to escape this infiltrative schema of influence/interest/conviction that you’re talking about, but it’s a crucial and constant excercise to view from outside of the goggles fashioned by upbringing, systems of belief and a personal everyday sense of doom. It’s the small space that exists between definitions that interest me and seem to hold the most potential. Life’s indifference to human understanding; tomorrow’s another day.