Spotlight on Jason Fulford

Fall Line Press is a big fan of Jason Fulford. An Atlanta native, he started J&L Books in 2000 with Leanne Shapton to produce books of rarely unseen works by contemporary photographers. Jason generously helped stock our bookstore with lots of J&L titles, and they’ve been a big hit! Check out this interview Jason did with publisher, Bill Boling.

Bill Boling: Your work as a book maker and publisher seems to be fully integrated with your work as a photographer. How do you see these activities coming together for you?

Jason Fulford: It’s like a braid. Various lines that alternately overlap and move away from each other. Each role (photographer, editor, designer, publisher) practices different skills and ways of thinking. I take things from one, and apply them to another. And hopefully they all grow stronger together.

BB: Has the increasing convenience and ubiquity of digital images and the platforms for sharing changed in any respect your practice and stance as a photographer?

JF: For sure, but the question is too broad for me to answer completely. I can say though that I enjoy my darkroom time more than ever. I’ve been listening to the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins games on the radio, in the dark, and playing with negatives, objects and filters. The whole experience is so pleasurable that it feels indulgent.

BB: How do you think of about your archive of photographic work that by now stretches back many years? Is it something that you intend to revisit and what if anything do the unpublished and unexhibited photographs mean for you? How do you think about or respond to the projects and pictures that have been published or exhibited?

JF: There are basically four types of pictures in the archive.
1. Pictures that have been published or exhibited.
2. B-sides or sketches for number 1.
3. Early seeds of something that has not yet fully formed.
4. Pictures I made simply to remember something.

I don’t spend much time looking back at 1 or 2. But when a new idea starts to take shape, I often go back through the archive to look for number 3. Number 4 I like to think of as pictures I want to show my mom.

BB: Why do you still work with film and older darkroom processes?

JF: I suppose there are practical as well as psychological reasons. Practically, I own all of the analog equipment, and it still works. Psychologically though it’s a longer answer. Simply put, it feels good. Loading and unloading the camera, having a limited number of frames, waiting to see the contact sheets… And the darkroom experience is still thrilling for me — walking around for hours in the pitch dark, turning the knobs, watching the light expose the paper, waiting for the print to come out of the processor.

I’m not in denial though. I have a digital camera, and I’m fluent in all of the software. Common sense tells me that very soon the analog processes will be gone for good (color at least), so I guess I’m relishing in them before they disappear.

BB: Much of your work that I’ve seen has the feel of what I’ve come to think of as “lyrical documents”.  I’ve read in some of your comments that you like to have a kind of “openness” to your work. However described, your photographs, artist books and other work has a refined and beautiful aesthetic. Who are some of the artists or writers that don’t work with photography that you feel an affinity for or think may have influenced your own sensibility?

JF: Bruno Munari, Flannery O’Connor, The Fall, Sonic Youth, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Agnes Varda, Jerry Reed, Michael Hurley, Soren Kierkegaard, Don Delillo, Daniel Spoerri, Raymond Queneau, Pylon, Raymond Scott, Sonny Terry, Martin Kippenberger, Ellsworth Kelly, Ernie Kovacs, Harpo Marx, Gyorgi Ligeti, William James, Paul Sahre, David Reinfurt, Walker Percy, David Bohm, Buckminster Fuller, oh boy this list could go on and on…

BB: As a photographer you’ve made handcrafted artists books like “Turning Goodwill Into Greatwill” as well as several commercially printed photobooks like “Crushed”. “Turning Goodwill Into Greatwill” is limited to an edition of 15, is composed of wirebound prints and has a handcrafted feel. The others are larger editions, and are of course ink driven and have a more traditional photobook aspect.  How do you account for the position these two approaches to “books with photos” occupies in your work? Is there a difference for you between an “artist book” of photographs and a photobook?

JF: My handcrafted books are less “artist books,” and more works-in-progress. Usually I make them to try out combinations of new pictures and look at them in sequence. They are printed and bound at home with actual C-prints or laser prints. I’ve made many books like this which are now sitting in boxes or on bookshelves here.

Once a bigger idea has formed, I try to publish a larger edition and put it out into the world. For example, three of the images from Goodwill eventually ended up in The Mushroom Collector. The larger editions are made with more durable, less fussy materials (offset printed, Smythe sewn and hardcover).

We have Fulford’s photobook, Crushed in the bookstore, and our intern Beau Torres is a big fan. Here’s what he had to say about, “Crushed”.

While looking through our collection here at Fall Line I picked up Jason Fulford’s Crushed. As I flipped through I found a photograph of sailor statues in Reykjavik that I also have photographed. This connection led me to read through the rest of the monograph. The book itself is a wonderful publication from the color plates on the front and back covers to the beautiful reproductions inside. What I love most about this book is that the titles are printed separately from the images and makes the viewer see the image for itself without any bias from a title. If you like the photographs of William Eggleston, Alec Soth, and Stephen Shore Crushed is a title you should also enjoy.