The Collector: Jim Golden, Portland, Oregan, USA
The Collection: Images of collections
The story behind the collection...
I’m a professional photographer based in Portland, Oregon. Photography is my business, but also my art and lifelong passion. I started taking photos when I was a kid, mostly of my friends skateboarding and graveyards, old weathered barns, etc, typical high school photo subject matter. My dad was a fairly serious amateur photographer and would shoot slide film and I remember a fair amount of slideshows when I was a kid, so I guess that rubbed off.
These days I work out of my studio in Portland, commercially, I shoot a lot of footwear and sportswear for clients like Nike, adidas, Keen, Giro, some agency work and some editorial, some portraits. One the personal side I like to make portraits of people, still life (ie the collections), I also love to photograph cars on the street and vernacular architecture.
I suppose I'm more of an a archivist than a collector of 'things'. I collect images of collections! I used to collect a bit more, but I don’t have a lot of room these days, so I try to keep it paired down. Lately I’ve noticed my drawer of defunct technology objects getting more full, I’ve started calling it my Technology Museum, this is my latest collection of interest.
A lot of these items are special to me or the person that collected them, so I feel they deserve an elevated treatment. It also starts to make the objects interesting on a more basic level - patterns, color, shape. Most of the images take on a life of their own when printed larger, say 1-2 meters, then you can really dig in and take a look or from a distance they form interesting patterns. I've been photographing objects from above commercially for years, so this is a logical extension of that work into my personal photography.
I suppose they all 'tools of the trade' so to speak - whether work or leisure. The scissor collection is amazing to handle, you can see all the wear and tear on the items. Same with the hunting/rifle collection.
One of my favorite things to do, photographically, is to elevate an ordinary (singular) object into an extraordinary object by making an exquisite image of it. At the same time, making the images solves my curiosity to get really close and handle interesting objects, to get more of a sense of the character of the object as well and portray that to the viewer.
The chainsaw is all oily and dirty in the larger print and you see that patina, you can almost smell the wood being cut and the hot oil from the chainsaw. Same thing with firearms on black, they look beautiful, and menacing, but have interesting shapes and patterns on them too.
I try to photograph the objects as straightforward as possible as to not distract from their character. I use one light source and keep any post to a minimum. For the items on black, I use a high quality velvet as a background, it eats up any stray light. Again, I use one light and use fill cards as needed to subtly sculpt the light, then paint the multiple exposures together in photoshop. I try to keep the post to a minimum, I really want a strong image out of the camera.
The collection images are photographed with camera overhead, with one strobe, bare bulb, from overhead in line with the camera or slightly offset if I want the shadows to fall to one side or the other. In some instances, I’ll bounce a strobe into the white wall or ceiling in my studio to great a more diffused shadow, so the shadow will not distract from the objects (ie the scissors and the locks).
For some of the collection images, I work with a collaborator, my friend and stylist Kristin Lane. Kristin and I did the cameras, camping, rifles, musical instruments, beachcomber and houseware images together, among others. She has a great eye for selecting objects and the patience of a saint to arrange them all.
I never really thought of them representing a slower paced life, but there is a good bit of nostalgia in most of the images – I think this is one of the reasons to why people relate to them as well. I do enjoy the shoots as the pace is very slow building the compositions, much unlike my commercial work which can be a bit more harried. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty either. I’m a terrible gardener and a mediocre carpenter but I will always give it a shot. I worked on cars a lot as a kid, I can do that fairly well. If I get in over my head, I call in the pros, I learned that a long time ago from the photo business.
When I was in New York, I wasn’t shooting commercially yet and my personal photography was much less focused. I was very busy working as a retoucher, so I needed some space from photography. I mostly photographed architecture and landscapes when I traveled and a lot of NYC from the street, more like a diary than anything else. All film or Polaroid, I was heavy into the SX-70. Portland and the Northwest have influenced my photography, but not really from a lifestyle aspect, more from it being such a different landscape, weather, etc.
I have a bunch of different projects ongoing at the moment too. I’m continuing my series of collections, I have tin toys, vintage bike gear and a few others on deck. I’d also like to get the collection images to move somehow, whether stop-motion or a cinemegraph. I’ve been working on a project about the coast of Oregon and Washington for the past 3 years, that’s forming into an interesting body of work, some of it is on my site. I started a project last summer about churches in unconventional spaces, i.e in a house, a strip mall, warehouse, etc, there are a lot in Portland. I’ll be picking up that project again now that the weather is getting a little nicer. I’m always shooting cars I see on the street, that is a series that I love and get excited about when I run in to a cool car.
You can visit Kristin's website here
all images © Jim Golden and used with his kind permission