“Photography is the easiest medium with which to be merely competent. Almost anybody can be competent. It’s the hardest medium in which to have some sort of personal vision and to have a signature style.” – Chuck Close
Robert Frank - Pedestrian Crossing Center White Line on 34th Street, NY, 1948.
The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” ― Chuck Close
Speaker 1: OPENING
Rubin: Hey Suzanne.
Suzanne: Hey Rubin.
Rubin: How are you doing this morning?
Suzanne: Doing really well. How are you?
Rubin: I'm good. Um, today we have a very different show and I'm very excited to introduce to you Jefferson Hayman. Hey Jefferson (Hello). So Jefferson, I mean, let's see how to introduce you properly. I, uh, you know, I grew up with this collection. My father, you know, has been collecting stuff since I was young, but um, around the late nineties, I guess it was the beginning of 2000, um, uh, new artists showed up in our, in our work. And I remember kind of putting these pictures into the database and they were haunting and um, really, uh, magical. And I saw the name Jefferson Hayman and like everybody in our collection, I just assumed it was like a dead guy from the turn of the century. They had, everybody thinks they have a kind of a Stieglitz, um, pictorial quality, some of that early 2000 stuff.
Rubin: Uh, anyway, I didn't know who it was and I really liked it. And then there's this moment about, I don't know, five or six years ago when I was at apad in New York and met you, I was like, "oh my God, you're alive."
Suzanne: Which has gotta be the craziest thing for someone to say to you when they first meet you.
Rubin: Yes. Yeah. You're living, you're still alive. So Jefferson, I love your photography and youre in our collection, but your, your work in the past bunch of years is sort of qualitatively different. The, the pictures feel very similar and they have the same kind of hauntingness, but you've done something that I've never seen anyone else really do. And that is this pairing with framing, with the frames. Can you, so who are you and how did, where did you come from and what are you doing and all that? Can you, can you talk about that?
Jefferson: Absolutely. First. I totally forgot to say thank you. I'm delighted to be on and talking with both of you. This is, this is really thrilling for me. Um, and I always enjoy talking about my work and Michael, I just, uh, I have to say before I forget, I just absolutely adore what you're doing, you know, just everything. It's really inspiring. (Thank you very much. Um, you know, we all love photography. Come on.) We do you think that's the common thread? Absolutely. So, um, yeah, so just to touch upon what you said earlier, you know, I consider the guys like Strand, Stieglitz and Steichen, the, the old masters on photography. I always, always, always returned to them as a source of inspiration and that, and frankly as a knowledge base in terms of a way of seeing, like I, I don't think that they really followed trends as much as they just had a strong way of seeing the world light and shadow and composition and it informed everything, you know. Um, and like I said, I always go back to them. They're always, um, something that I can find as a, as a source of inspiration and renewed interest.
Rubin: Um, and I, and I feel the same way. There's something about that work that's so inspiring. It's so elegant and it's not like conceptual photography, it's just beautiful photography.
Suzanne: What's interesting about both of you though too, is you both have a de Saturated Palette and so there's kind of this timelessness to both of your ways of shooting and what your, or what you're shooting and what you're producing.
Rubin: Yeah, yeah. Anyway, sorry, Jefferson, continue.
Jefferson: Oh, no, that's quite all right. So, and to answer your, um, the second part of the question about my frames is what I became intrigued on earlier on in my career was ways and mechanisms and methods to make my addition of prints, whether they be additions of nine, 12, 25, more of a unique statement within that addition. And what I eventually came up with after kind of years of kicking around ideas was to use the frame as that mechanism. So, um, I would buy antique frames at flea markets and online and then I would hang them on my studio walls and my apartment --empty--and they would inform, um, the longer I looked at them, what they should hold, the cityscape, a seascape, still lives or portraits. And then I would take the sizes of those frames to the darkroom with me because at that time I was, I was analog only, um, and I would print my prints to fit that format and crop them. And then what you'd have is something that was kind of a unique statement within an addition. Like W I would still call in addition to have nine or four of nine, but collectors started to realize that hey, this is really something interesting and I have to be honest. Then also helped with sales because you know, collectors would see this and they would realize that the next one's going to be different and if they wanted it and really had that desire to live with it, then they needed to jump on it. Right then.
Rubin: That's so interesting. It's interesting to me because so many photographers, fine art photographers struggle with honestly. How do you, how do you sell your work? How do you get noticed? How do you get collected? I've seen wonderful photographers just give up at sub point where they just, it's just so hard and I feel like you have really um, found something cool and brought new life to two already. Wonderful photography. But I can't get over how amazing the pairing of the frame and the image. It's like sculpture meets, meets the photography and so I liked what dot Jefferson was saying that they are truly unique combinations and it tells, it even tells more story. That's, and your pictures. Tell me about the pictures. I mean they're, they're isolated and simple and sometimes it's just a, a shot of ocean water or who hat or like there was one that was just three blueberries on the tea on a table or something. And again, you'd never think of putting up a picture of three blueberries. Like what, what is that? But in the, this sort of white frame at that feels almost like a Maine countryside day and it probably back to collecting blueberries in May, like in a way that a picture wouldn't have done.
Jefferson: Right. I mean that's, and um, that's a great question because I think that, what am I about to say is a, is kind of a cliche for photographers and that phrases that I use the camera as a visual journal. Um, basically any car, any guys ever picked up a camera or girl can say the same. Okay. Obviously we're documenting our life on our travels in our existence, but what I want to do is a little bit more meta with that. Like the, like, I'm really, really, really just getting spa inspired by what's around me, the blueberries, the raspberries, uh, the series on apples. Um, my son, who's now seven, he goes through these phases where he gets a little obsessed over a certain foods and he'll eat them nonstop for a few weeks. And that is the reasoning behind those subjects. He was eating blueberries all the time. And you know, as I would get him ready to go off to school, I just, I'd see these blueberries getting hit by this morning, sunlight and think, well, Jeez, that, that's my next subject, you know, and off you'd go to school and I would take his blueberries that were uneven and form them into his fill life. Now that is where the artist comes in because I can't tell you Michael, how long it took me to arrange those three simple blueberries. So it was just so, I mean, like all the little compositional elements that, that drive me nuts sometimes searching for diagonals, spacing between the objects, you know, that's where the, um, the work really comes in. Uh, or I guess you could say the, the artistry. Um, and you know, you just keep shooting and shooting and shooting until it's right. Um, the same thing with my hats and my shoes. You know, the seascapes or all trips to visit my parents who live in Virginia Beach. Um, the solitary objects, like coffee cups or whatever, or my coffee cups, the shoes, they're all my shoes. I wear one pair of shoes until I can't wear them anymore. And then they become a still life objects, you know? And then it just kind of documents my time here on this planet.
Rubin: Wow. So all of your pictures are real, are real moments of your experience as opposed to you get up and you think, what can I shoot? Like I'm going to go look for, for a cool scene. You're actually finding in what is really happening, the elements that become your still lifes? Yes.
Jefferson: I would say about 95% of the time. That's true. I can't light sometimes getting totally inspired by an image that I see either a photograph or a painter and then having to essentially recreate that. Almost like a catharsis, tend to get it out of my system, if you know what I mean. Like sometimes I got, I can't even remember the last one. Um, oh, it was a, I was a painting that I saw by uh, oh what? I'm Joseph mccloskey, a California painter who specialized in painting, painting oranges [inaudible] and that was his recipe. He, he knew how to paint oranges like nobody and he made an entire career off of it. And Joseph are mccloskey, I think is his name. And I remember seeing a painting of his, and I thought, this is so amazing that I have to do this. So I went out and bought oranges and I went to my backyard and I took stems off of trees and I superglued them into the art just to make them look like real orange stems. I'm still waiting for that orange expert to call me out on that by the way, are not orange stems. Um, anyway, so I arranged it just so, and then like a, like a song that is stuck in your subconscious. I, I was able to get that, that painting out of my brain.
Suzanne: I love that metaphor of, it's kind of like a songwriter, you know, where you're just like, yes, at this beginning of a melody and you take that in, you're sort of working through it, working through it, and then you have that breakthrough and it's like, I'm going to take existing oranges and other branches and find the light, find the, I loved how you described the diagonals and things like that. Can you talk more about what you look for when you're making art?
Jefferson: Sure. Um, so I'm, I'm, I don't know if I ever told you this, but you know, I'm not a, I'm a self taught photographer. I have a degree in drawing. Um, and I studied a lot of art history and I did a lot of painting as well. I came to photography later in life. So, um, formal compositional skills were kind of, I'm eating into my subconscious by my professors and I'm so glad that that was the case because I actually think that composition is one of the great untaught skills in, in art school these days.
Rubin: Can, can I interject in there? So yeah, composition and teaching composition are sort of issues for me. And I'm always curious about how photographers approached this. Do you, um, subscribe to the idea that there are like formal rules of composition that students, if photography should learn or its composition and emergent property of organizing stuff and it, I mean, how do you think about composition? Is the rule of thirds important? Is a leading lines important?
Jefferson: Yes, all the above. And when I teach, sometimes I do a private one on one, uh, photography tutorials. And when I hear myself trying to teach composition, I mean you guys are probably the same. It's almost like it's a, it's a bizarre language that makes no sense. Because what I always find myself saying is, will in composition never do this unless it works? And, and always, always, always do this unless it doesn't work out because you always have that thing where like Michael, one of the images of mind that you mentioned earlier on that that solitary tree in central park, that's breaking the first rule of composition. You don't want to put something dead center unless of course it works, but you know, which it did in that case
Suzanne: actually that tree is in... Rubin put together a list of like the top 50 photos too, be that you should see and that you should look at to see photography differently. And that image is one of them.
Jefferson: Oh God, I'm honored that it's in the 50. Um, yeah.
Rubin: But okay, Jefferson, I'm going to go to the mat on this one.
Suzanne: This is the third. Isn't it different than saying I was like, oh, Rubin's gonna flip...
Rubin: You know, I just don't buy it. I don't, my argument is that it's not helpful to photography students to think about, to have in their head these ideas like leading lines and rules, rules of thirds because uh, in reality that isn't, I don't think that's how you compose a picture. You and the reason why you say here's a rule, but until it doesn't work, I think that's actually sort of Monday morning quarterback and you're sort of saying do what works. And sometimes it, it fits this and sometimes it doesn't. And so to me, the composition is really about taking the objects you want to put in the frame and moving them around in the frame effectively until, you know, what can I say? There's a harmonious thing happening there in some way. It doesn't mean you're putting the subject or that you can even isolate a subject. Your pictures are very simple, but for most photographers, they are, do not have the luxury of an isolated object in a neutral field where you can put that object to anywhere in the field. The reality is it's you have a bunch of objects and you're moving them all, you buy perspective. And parallax to occupy different parts of the frame until they, Ikebana-like have balance and harmony and something, right. Isn't that a better way to teach beginners then to tell them to put a subject at a one third point in the frame or to look for a line?
Jefferson: Absolutely. Again, to get back what I mentioned to about, uh, the term ways of seeing, um, I think that's what needs to be taught and there is, there is once you get a composition, um, you just get it and you'll be able to realize that's something just works because it works and that's what you run with. But I am totally in agreement with you Michael, about rules of third and um, the golden section. They can be quite limiting. And I also think that they can provide a false confidence. I think that, um, students will say, oh, it has to be good at, it's on the rule of thirds or this is the golden mean proportion. So there I'm done, you know, and then not say like, uh, it does this really work. I mean, and the interesting thing about this is years ago I was at Christie's and um, uh, I, I would assume everyone's a big Robert Frank Fan.
Jefferson: So obviously I've adored Robert Frank since I could, uh, uh, understand about photography. And Lo and behold, on the wall was a contact sheet by Robert Frank and it was a mind blowing experience for me because I saw the image that he chose, but the rest of that role of 24 or 36, we're the ones that he decided not to go with. And they were very, very, very close. And when I saw the one that I knew, I would like, wow, now you get inside of Robert's brain and you understand that why he chose that composition because it had a more dominant diagonal and there was also a little bit of motion blur on the, on the subject. And it was, it was just enlightening. And um, and you get to see like that's what, that's how the grapes thing, that's how they make their decisions.
Speaker 2: Huh. Oh, I wanted to ask, I'm like, what is your contact sheet look like for the blueberries? Well, it's, it's a lot more than 24, 36. I have to tell you, how long did it take you to get that shot?
Jefferson: Oh God, that was only maybe three or four years ago. Um, I don't know how to answer that because I only use natural light and I have a front porch that is, um, filled with antique window panes on three sides. So the light changes and shifts every 15 minutes as the sun moved. So, um, I just kind of roll with it. I set up my camera on a tripod, I shoot with a bounce, you know, like a piece of foam core. Basically. It's all very simple. And then I come back and 15 minutes to shoot again and to rearrange and, and then it goes to the editing process, kind of, you know, the same thing that we were talking about with Robert Frank's contact sheet. You, you almost get a second shot that's around to write for the editing process. And then for me, I actually get a third round, which the frame sometimes dictates a final composition.
Rubin: Interesting. It's so funny because I have two kind of competing thoughts. So first, Robert, frank, um, so you know, my father got a bunch of Robert Franks and uh, one of our favorite pictures was, is called street line. I don't know if you remember this picture. It's a vertical shot and uh, there's a person walking across the street and there's just this long line down the middle of the streets. We get to support. Yeah. Okay.
Speaker 2: It's a cool shot. But, um, the picture that we own is not the, like I googled it once to sort of, because I was putting it into this database and I googled it. And the picture that is famous isn't the one we have. It's the one that's famous is I think the frame or right before it. And the one that we have, he only made a couple of, and I don't know why he only made a couple of them because I, I mean, maybe because I grew up with it, I like it a lot more than the one that's famous. But that's so interesting to me that compositionally just very subtly different. And maybe he was wrestling, I mean like a lot of photographers, you'd probably printed both of them and stared at them for awhile until you decided which is the one he wanted to I don't know, putting the show or something like that or sell to somebody actually.
Suzanne: Actually Jefferson, I'd love to know a little bit more about your background, obviously with photography. Um, that has one sort of aspect of being an artist in a, in a visual, a creator or visual maker. But as far as this sort of foray into combining photography and the visual image with almost sculpture with these frames that you're finding and sourcing and making that connection between the two. Is Sculpture Part of your background?
Jefferson: No, it's not. Um, drawing, painting and art history. Our, our, um, our, our, what I studied in school and I came to photography later in life. Um, I, I hadn't done that much sculpture, but I will say a little word about the framing and, uh, it just kind of, some of it came to me and kind of a very serendipitous way was that when I was early. Um, early on in my career I would want to get my work framed, whether it be my photographs or my drawings. And if you walk into a frame shop, um, you know, you're starting to look at something that's like $100 just to start, but I could walk into the Chelsea flea markets in New York City and find an antique frames for $5. And that frame came with its own size that I would have to work backwards into. But it also came with its own story and its own character and its own personality and sometimes even its own family photograph placed inside of it. So I could know who owned it beforehand. And a lot of that, um, can influence and inform my work.
Suzanne: Oh, that's so interesting. So if you buy a frame and it has a family photo in it, um, what, like what does that lend itself to that you wanted then put inside? Can you give an example of a piece where you've done where you've done that?
Jefferson: Sure. Well, um, it just kinda lends a magic I have to say is if I know I'm that undefinable term, right. If I know or see an image of the family that you know, once owned this frame and possessed it 120 years ago, um, it just, to me, it makes it a little bit more special. And I remember that like, I remember all the frames that have come through my hands. Um, and like, here's, here's an example is one frame that I took apart recently. I, um, you know, how the back of the frame people will use newsprint or basically whatever is around to kind of fill the space in the back of the frame. So I was taking the frame apart and there was a little girl's homework in there from 1896 96. Yeah. And she was doing arithmetic and she was doing, um, penmanship and her handwriting was impeccable.
Jefferson: I mean, it was stunning, absolutely stunning. And this little yellow piece of paper was an actually pretty good shape because it was kind of, um, not completely hermetically sealed, but it was, it was in case. So, uh, I found this page and I hung up in my studio wall. And it just, things like that are those little magic moments that you can find. Um, I also sometimes you find the handwriting on the back of the frame or newsprint, um, that they use to kind of cover the art, really fascinating kind of a, of a provenance of each piece.
Suzanne: Can you just kind of the frame that had the little girl's homework in it and then what piece of yours you ended up putting in that frame?
Jefferson: Sure. Um, it actually, um, it led me to think that I needed to put something special in it. So, uh, I had figured that this girl was in a rural area because a lot of the terminology she was using were, um, farming a measurement. Like, uh, I can remember a Bushel and pack like I have. Yeah. From guys and dolls. Yeah. Oh, I see. I never, I heard of a Bushel, but I never heard of pack is a unit of measurement before. Anyway, I'm a lot of these farming on agricultural terms were on this page, so I thought it fitting to include a landscape in this. And now I'm a little bit of a frame historian. So, um, the date on the homework was, I believe it was either 1896 or 1892 and the frame was that same exact period. So I, I knew that this was, um, you know, special and I knew it was, uh, um, you know, belonging to them.
Rubin: And what did you put in it? The landscape?
Jefferson: I put on a very subdued and serene landscape.
Rubin: Wow. I mean all your stuff is kind of subdued and serene. That almost be the, the terms I'd use to describe. Okay, wait, you do these limited editions, like you might do six or eight or whenever you were saying there, but if each frame is unique and it sort of dictates what picture goes in it, how do you navigate that? Because he might have that blueberry picture, but that's not going to go in every frame or is it, does it transfer?
Jefferson: There's so much variance in my work. Um, not only does each piece gets it and get its own frame within the addition, but size is also very within the addition. Um, so I can make a postage stamp sized print if it's readable in that size and I can also make it as a 30 by 40 or 40 by 60. Um, if it works. So there is um, there's, there's a variance there and I have to admit that I enjoy doing that because what it allows me to do is I price my work based mostly on the size of the print and then the frame, the rarity of the frame also has a little bit in secondary influence on the price. But I like being able to offer a lower priced and smaller print, to people who could not afford a 30 by 40 because what that allows for me to do is to allow anyone the ability to acquire my work. And I really enjoy that because I don't, I've never believed that art is, is like an elitist thing. I think that everyone should be able to afford it and live with it in some manner.
Rubin: And photography in particular is a, is a popular started for many, uh, not only can anyone own it, but almost anyone can do it and decorate their own home with it if they were so inclined.
Jefferson: Correct. Yeah.
Suzanne: Well I think what's interesting too from like the consumer point of view is it's two fold. One is if you're buying a print or you have a Brenton, how do you frame it to be what you want. But with this it's like you get the artist's intent. Like this is truly what they intended, the complete artwork to hang on your wall. Um, it's actually a perfect segue to a question we love asking. What is a photograph that you have hanging on your wall that is just your favorite or truly inspirational to you? Could you describe it? And then we'll ask you to send us a photo too so we can put it in our show notes.
Jefferson: Oh. Oh boy. Okay. So you've really stumped me now because we're in the middle of a home move. Um, so everything is kind of in boxes and moving around. Um, as I'm doing this, I'm looking around to see if there's anything. Um,
Rubin: and we usually, um, by the way designate two images. One that's one of your pictures that you have up. Like what's a picture of yours that you have displayed on your own wall and what's a photograph? These are photographs that someone else has done that you keep displayed on your wall.
Jefferson: Oh, okay. Well, um, for the one that's my photographs, um, this one is a slightly larger than usual work. I'm looking at it right now and it's called Together and it shows two vintage hats. One is a top hat and one is a bowler hat and they're sitting on top of each other. And um, yeah, one one's on top of the other and it's called together. Is the Bowler on top? Not that on top of, yeah, the, the bowlers on top. Yep. And um, the title is important, um, as I described the story because, um, and also I must say, I'll send you an image of this, but the image is, is, is it truly looks like it's a 19th century piece. I really pulled out the stops on this one in both toning the print and finding a frame that was majestic and really important. So I can recall that the origin of this piece, I can recall, uh, watching a video clip when New York state, uh, legalized marriage equality and governor Cuomo was trying to gather the final vote that would allow this. And he was either at a table or a podium, I mean this is, this was many years ago, but he was banging his fist trying to try to get his guys on board to pass this legislation. And when he did, he was, he was just elated. He shouted into the microphone. New York is now a marriage equality state. And I was watching this going, wow, this is a real moment in history. So then I thought like, well, how can I incorporate this into my work? So I took two symbols of, of masculinity, basically masculine object or a bowler hat and the top hat, I've put them one on top of the other on a white background and I called it together and it's a very kind of subtle thing. Like, not everyone gets it unless I really tell that story because it just looks like a pair of men's hats. Brilliant man. But there's symbolism behind it. There's current events behind it and um, I'm able to use that, incorporate it into my work while at the same time producing an object that looks like it's from 1864 or something.
Rubin: It's, I mean, again, uh, Robert Frank and digression, my fit. I think my favorite photo in the ever that I have ever owned is Robert Frank's a picture called The city of London or The Banker. Oh yes. And it's a guy in a top hat walking down the street in London, drenched in fog and it feels like it's from the turn of the century. I believe he shot it in the 50s, but it has that same feeling like that must be a hundred years old. You know, it's just magical. But yes, I am looking forward to seeing your picture. I've um, what's the one that is not by you That's up.
Jefferson: Um, okay. Let me look around. Um, so those, that, those, the little girl's homework, does that count? Does it up? You gotta grab it? No, it's not a photograph. Let me go down to my studio here and uh, look around.
Suzanne: They should have like a walking there. Can you describe your studio? What is your, what is your studio like?
Jefferson: Sure. All right. So it's a pure mess as any artist studios should be. Um, because I'm a framer and a photographer, both worlds collide in my studio. So there are boxes of glass and there are broken apart frames and there are frames that are partially restored and being, um, coated with oil and Shellac. And then there's the whole other side that has stacks and stacks and stacks of prints. Um, my latest book is, is out here as well, stacked up. And um, I have a chair to meditate in. I meditate every morning. Excellent. To kind of get my focus down. Um, and then there are all these objects. There's a sailor hats and a vintage shoes and vintage cameras and old wine bottles, um, dug up from the earth. Uh, there is a comb that used to belong to my father. Um, all these little things that mean things and that I've kind of shown my path through the years as an artist and as a human.
Rubin: That's cool. I was inspired by the way you isolate these family objects. A picture that I did around that time that I saw your early, this work, um, was an object of my fathers, uh, did I did at, um, just to when he had died and it was, it's a worry grinder. It's a strange object that he and my mom found an Iowa in the sick in the fifties or sixties, and I photographed it the way I think you might've photographed it and hmm. Uh, I think of you whenever I actually, I mean it's in that I can see the inspiration in that, uh, that isolated cool objects, but it's different than if I just found something at a flea market myself. It's important because it was my parents object and that I grew up with it.
Jefferson: Exactly. Yeah. That you just reminded me of, of something that I, I hope I don't get off on a tangent. You go for it. I'm the photographer. I'm Ralph Gibson. Has a theory that, I'm kind of paraphrasing here, so forgive me if I don't get it completely right, but he has a theory that the artist I, the artists, I activate an object and I know that that gets into a little bit of the metaphysical realm. But I think what he is saying is, is that because an artist is looking at a subject or letting it pass through his, his mind and I that in some way it lends a little bit of that indescribable magic to that object.
Suzanne: How is that making sense? Absolutely. Yeah. It's just kind of, yeah, I'm really taking that in and mine sort of blown. It's like the idea of an artist is able to activate an object or even a person with their gaze and if they're capturing that moment, then the, that's how they share that activation with the world.
Rubin: Interesting. I think of that. Um, I, I've often felt that when you're looking through your pictures, you're trying to find the great one. Like you know, the street line from Robert Frank or all that. You look through all of your pictures and you say, this is the iconic picture, this is the gorgeous picture that's going to, that's way better than the rest. And sometimes I might argue they're all great. It's impossible to discern any difference. It's like two roads, partying in the woods from Robert Frost. There are identical and yet by choosing one that's made all the different scents. And I would say that when you choose a picture to print and make that the print that you've chosen that imbues it with this specialness.
Suzanne: But even the straight line, as you said, there's multiple prints of this. There's multiple frames that he's chosen, right? You have a different one.
Rubin: I do have a different one, but, but it's not like you're trying to find the great picture. You make it the great picture by printing it and deciding it is, I think that's a version of what Gibson saying in some way. Yeah, the magic from the process. It's not a merchant of the object.
Suzanne: What I liked about what Jeff said earlier to, sorry, we're talking over you. I'm just like what he said, but you, you sort of described your process in three phases. Like one is taking the picture when he's editing the picture and then one is a further edit when you're pairing it with the frame, it's multiple rounds of almost activation or process curation.
Jefferson: Yes. Yeah. And I also have to say that at each round, failure can occur and you know, failure is, is right around the corner and how you can get to this third stage. You know, like, I'm so close to my work as all artists are that, you know, I think I have this great union of image and frame and print and all together and I send it off to exhibitions and it comes back, you know, um, and it keeps coming back and nobody wants to live with it. And then what I have to do is kind of re-examine it. Like, did I not do this right or should I reexamined this or, or whatever. It's just, it's such an amazing process.
Suzanne: Did we get to actually do the other photo that wasn't his, oh yeah. What was the other picture?
Jefferson: No, we didn't. Um, let's see. You know, um, I am, I have to admit, I'm drawing a little bit of a blank on that.
Rubin: You can't look around. There's nothing on your wall. You can look up at it and say, oh, that one. Well, and to be fair, he's moving. It's all in boxes.
Jefferson: Yeah. That's why it's so hard. MMM. Um, you know what, um, yeah, here, here is one. Um, there is a photograph. It can it be a photograph just not mine. Yes, absolutely. That's the point of me. Yeah. Um, so we live on a historic street. Uh, we live right outside of New York City and this area was a very important during the American revolution. And, um, you've all heard of the American, a trader or Benedict Arnold? Correct. Okay. So Benedict Arnolds conspirator, his liaison was a British spy named Major John Andre. And I'm Benedict Arnold got away, but Major John Andre didn't, he got caught with the plans that Benedict Arnold gave him hidden in his boot and he got caught around here and they caught him and they tried him for treason and the local tavern, which is, um, I can see it outside my window and they, um, they found him guilty and they marched him up, uh, in front of my house in the year 1780 and hanged him and buried him there. Wow. And, um, his existence on this planet and the fact that he got caught with the secret plans is basically the history of this country. Like had he gotten away and never been caught, we would have lost the war. It was, there was that pivotal, that important. And the fact that I'm looking out at his monument right now out the side of our house window is, is really amazing. So over the years people have known that, uh, we live right near this historical marker and they have sent us little momentos little postcards and books and everything about, um, Major John Andre. And, uh, that's what I'm looking at right now on my wall, a, a vintage postcard of the monument.
Suzanne: Cool. Great. Sorry, I have goosebumps to be honest. That's really cool. Um, I have another question. Your work is so powerful almost in its subtlety and beauty and sort of stillness. I find myself looking at these images with them, seeing them on Instagram or whatever, but much longer than I look at other images. How would you describe your work in one word?
Jefferson: I describe my work. Boy, that is a tough one. Um, I would have to go with peaceful. Hmm. Yeah. Or now that I said that, now I'm going to change it to meditative.
Rubin: Okay. I find it ironic that your photographs are the, I mean I, I think of you as a photographer even though they are these sort of multi, uh, mixed media creations really with the frames that um, they're so simple, you know, like three blueberries or an empty thing. And yet I feel myself looking at them for a long time in the way that you would normally think. You look at a picture that has a lot of complexity that there's a lot going on and, and you're, you want to print it out to kind of feel then all the little nuances in there, but your pictures are so simple and yet they still command that kind of, um, falling into them and spending time with them. Experience, which I find so ironic.
Suzanne: You are using a word earlier before we started recording about this idea of drift. And I felt that that was a great word for his work where you sort of just drifted in and it felt like almost like time sort of move was still moving, but it was very slow and you got sucked in
Rubin: drift. I was point, I showed her, I shook Jefferson, I showed her the picture from about 2003 maybe. I'm certain it's New York. It's like a building and a blimp. And the building. Oh yes. Quite vertical in the blimp is not quite horizontal. It, whenever I look at that, it's like I remember it all the time ever. In fact, every time I see a blimp I think of it. But um, yeah, it just is, it's like a leaf in a still thing of water, but it's not still, it's just move. It's just moving a little bit
Suzanne: was like, I stare at the pictures of hoping something will change, like a shadow will shift slightly or the way we'll move. Like I just expect that to happen.
Rubin: Well, think about Fred Barnes stuff. Remember we interviewed a photographer a couple weeks ago and he creates animations out of his still images, but they move slowly. It's like he's doing what you do, but with video, like he's trying to create that and using real motion to make it happen and you're doing it in a still image, if that makes any sense. Oh, I love it. I'd love to see his work. Well it's a couple episodes ago. We will connect to you. Yes. Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I love that spark to Michael. Okay. Oh sorry. I love that term drift by the way. Love it. Do you, do you, does that resonate with your, like as you think about your, I mean I don't see the drift maybe in like the blueberry picture, earth earth. Some of them they, but they again, they, they pull you in. Maybe the drift is not, it's not literal.
Suzanne: You are using it as like a literal, like a, an alignment, um, word. But then the way I interpreted it was, and I was like, Oh, I love that word for him. Cause it was almost like my ex, my feeling as I sort of fell into it and I was waiting for again, like that little bit of motion. Like you're drifting.
Rubin: Yeah. The tiny, tiny like Brownie in motion, you know, the, yeah, kind of movement. Um, can you tell me a little, so you photograph all these still objects. I don't think of you as a portrait photographer, a landscape photographer in any kind of classical sense. Maybe, maybe you're a still life photographer and yet you have this other set of pictures of your children and yes, they're just gorgeous. As you would imagine, they would be from a wonderful photographer who has a sense of drift. I guess you just been shooting your kids, like your daughter's become a supermodel from this, is that right?
Jefferson: Yeah. Um, yes, they're a constant, constant source of inspiration and I eventually plan to do a book, um, showing all these years of works of me documenting their, um, their, uh, their lives and everything. Um, but yes, my, my daughter, I'm oddly enough, um, my daughter named Harper. Uh, she's 10 years old now. Um, she was our first child, so I was, you know, this new creature, this new being is in our lives all of a sudden. So I'm photographing or constantly, and um, she, uh, has super blonde hair. Like, I mean, it's almost like silver. She looks like a, like, you know, the queen of dragons from today's, I was going to say she had tar Gary and [inaudible]. She's a tiger and yes. Um, anyway, so I was photographing her and just kind of posting these images on social media. Hey, here's my daughter and next thing you know, somebody finds it and picks it up and forwards it to someone who owns a modeling agency. Uh, that was, uh, let me think about this. That was six years ago, uh, when she was four and we get a call out of the blue and can we meet you and your daughter? And next thing you know, she's a, a professional model. And, um, and now she does it with, um, you know, a lot of regularity for some, some, some big brands, Tommy Hilfiger and, um, uh, let's see what else? Um, uh, Anna Anderson and, uh, uh, Zappos and uh, yeah, she's working on a lot of different projects right now, but yeah, my, my children are a constant source of inspiration for me. Uh, my son to Beckett, we named them after authors. There's Beckett, uh, named after. Sam Beckett and Harper and named after Harvey.
Rubin: What do you think of, um, photography on social media? Instagram in particular?
Jefferson: Oh boy. Well, this brings up a question that I could literally spend three or four other podcasts on. Maybe you should do that, that we can have. That is basically the state of where we are. Right? And I'm sure you both have thought about this a great deal as have many others. Whereas, um, where are we right now in the history of this medium where if you have, let's say two to $3,000 that you can, um, that has disposable income, you can arguably possess gear that is very, very close to what the professionals have an own. So anyone can have that level of technical competence or um, or, um, potential, let's say technical potential with this gear. But then obviously it takes so much more than that. So we're overrun with everyone having a camera right now, but not everyone being a photographer. And I, it brings me back to a quote that I just heard from Chuck Close yesterday was that photography is the easiest of all art forms to become technically competent in what the hardest to find your true voice.
Suzanne: That's a great quote. Wow. I love that. I think, do you think it has to do with the fact that it seems like the tools are so, especially the tools we have access to now or on our phone that we carry with us, but these tools are so sophisticated that you have to, you know, that you're like, you get to a base level of medium pretty quickly, but then to truly be great if it's so much different than picking up a paint brush, I can see when someone's an awful painter, but so it's clear when they get really great, you're like, oh wow, they're excellent at photography. There's still that medium level that is reached so easily.
Rubin: Well, I mean the technology democratizes all this stuff like it. It used to be a lot harder to be a writer or a, an artist of kinds of filmmaker, a music maker, and the technology lowers the barrier to entry. Everyone can be a marginal writer or marginal musician pretty easily, but you still have that, I dunno Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours in, right? It's still hard to do. I think one of the things that I'm always, um, am I saying, what am I neo modern soapboxes is that just, I feel like there should be a renaissance in creative photography now that everybody has cameras. It doesn't mean that everyone's a photographer, but people can get, learn to do it and get better at it by doing it. It just doesn't come by just taking a lot of smart phone pictures. You really need to work at it, but you can, and I'm hoping there's like a renaissance in creative photography because so many people have cameras in our exploring this, do anything.
Jefferson: There will be, I do agree with that and I actually think it comes down to, uh, uh, a mere understanding of numbers. The more people that do possess the technology, the greater number of people who are really going to devote themselves and go with the Malcolm Gladwell Gladwell rule of, of logging in those, those 10,000 hours to become something more than just someone who, who photographs the blank stare.
Rubin: Do you think it hurts photography that everyone's doing it? I mean, a lot of people say photography is dead because everyone's got a camera and it means nothing anymore to take a picture.
Jefferson: No, I don't, I don't believe that I've heard that argument and I don't subscribe to that. Um, I still think that the people will shine. The great ones will shine throughout the, uh, the, the rest of the people who are just kind of like doing it half heartedly. And I don't mean, I don't mean to say halfheartedly, not everyone needs to be an artist. Of course. You know, um, again, this is why I thought first off the bat that this is such a deep subject. Um, yeah. I, I don't know. I don't know where.
Suzanne: Okay. I'm thinking it's definitely another, uh, another episode. So I would love to have you back. Um, but before we kind of closed the show, you mentioned that you've, uh, you've written a book, you've a bunch of copies in your studio. Can you, do you want to plug the book?
Jefferson: Oh, sure. Yeah. The book is called a things I saw without you and it's a thank you. It is A It's divided into different subjects, a still life cityscape, uh, ocean scapes. Um, and a few pictures of my children are in there as well. And um, I am, it's my first self published book and I'm, I'm really enamored with it now and I want to do a new book every year. Um, in fact, um, this, this, uh, book has a subtitle that's just called one because my next book is going to be wait for it two, I see where you're going to be a, it's going to keep going and keep going. And um, yeah, it's printed with, um, uh, addition one out in Berkeley, California. I'm a great company with a great team and making the book was, was incredibly enjoyable. And a I will, I'll send you a copy.
Suzanne: Oh, I'd love to see it. You wonderful. It'd be really cool. Um, where can they purchase this? Um, online?
Jefferson: Uh, if you go to my website, which is Jefferson, haman.com, um, you can, um, see the availability and send me a request. We will put it in,
Rubin: in the show notes. It sounds, sounds awesome. Um, Jefferson, this has been fantastic. I could talk with you all day. Um, I feel like your family, I mean I've known you only for, I don't know, 15 years. Likewise, even part of your part of my family. So I, uh, I love your work. Um, I, I can't wait to show people some of your images because I think they're going to just be stunned. Again, it's not just the images, the image frame combination, uh, like Stephanie from the other day. It's not always just the image. There's so much about context and what's near it and what's around it. Uh, you know, neo modern is a framing business and we tell people it's about the picture and it's not about the frame. Like, you just want a classic, simple frame to highlight your photograph. And then here you are with this amazing different kinds of framing combination and you know, prove me wrong. So thank you.
Suzanne: That definitely next level. Next level. Thank you so much. Absolute pleasure. Everyone listening. Go buy his book. I want to make sure I get this title right, things I saw without you. Is that correct? Correct. Yeah. Wonderful. Um, the first of many books or show was recorded and produced in San Francisco. Go to neo modern.com/podcast to get show notes, see photos and post comments, leave reviews and ratings on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you subscribe. And don't forget to tell your friends
Rubin: we get new visitors. Are you telling everybody in spreading the word? If you know someone who might get something from us, please send them the link. Thanks to Mitchell foreman for our theme music, Jefferson, for joining us and all of you for hanging out. We appreciate your attention and hope you've given me some things to think about and tell him next time.
Suzanne’s Instagram (@sfritzhanson)
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