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Interview

Photographer and music critic Jesse Pollock talks books

Jesse Pollock has taken some interesting photographs of scenes like urban landscapes in San Francisco, and scenes on the road. He’s done a lot of work for fecalface.com and has a music blog, too. I asked him about his photography and reading.

See some of Jesse Pollock’s photographs at www.unpiano.com.

READERSVOICE.COM: First up, could you recommend a few books, whether novels or about photography or anything else, and maybe say a bit about why you liked them?

JESSE POLLOCK: I’ve been on a big noir kick lately. I think I’m up to about four or five with Dashiell Hammet and about two with Kyril Bonfiglioli. I should have read them a long time ago (especially The Thin Man), so I’m just making up for lost time. Also, someone just gave me the new David Sedaris in hard cover which was very nice of them because the library is always out of stuff like that and I mostly wait for the soft version to come out. He has the ability to make me cackle which very few authors are capable of.

I also have a really bad problem with always buying art/photography books which are always way out of my price range. I just got Tomi Unger’s Fornicon and Kohei Yoshiyuki’s The Park which mostly just sit in a big stack with the others.

RV: When you go out walking around San Francisco taking photos, is that usually when you’re taking photos for Fecalface.com and see things on the way, or do you always carry a camera around, or do you go on special photo-hunting trips?

JP: My camera has been staying home these days. I have been trying to make a concerted effort to leave it behind so that I can take part rather than document. I always have the struggle of being able to participate in something that’s happening because I want to take photos of it so bad. I’m still working on it.

Also, these days (especially in the city) everyone’s got a digital camera so there’s always these flashes going off, and every photo you take has four other cameras in it. I find most of that annoying and so I’d just as soon not be the fifth flash in the room.

As far as photo trips, those definitely happen from time to time. I try not to force it though. I’ll just plan on going somewhere really interesting or fun with someone, and have a camera around if I need it. Sometimes it can be pretty annoying if you have a clunker, but it pays off more often than not.

RV: Do you have any favorite areas of San Francisco that you like taking photos in?

JP: There’s always good hills and overcast light in San Francisco, but there’s a lot of the same photo settings floating around these days so I’ve been trying to get out of town on trips more.. The pacific coast has some great spots to check out during the summer.

RV: You had a black and white photo in the May 2008 issue of Juxtapoz of some old houses with old stairways and garbage cans and a street at night. Can you recall how you came to be there and where the picture was taken from?

JP: Back when I lived on 24th and York Street in the mission district, they were shooting that Will Smith movie The Pursuit of Happyness right out in front of my house (they actually even paid us to put lights on our roof). It was great for photos because they basically set up the lighting for me and I just shot away.

I know it takes some of the intrigue out of it to know that it was a movie set, but you work with what you got.. I can’t go back in time and shoot 70’s era cars.

RV: On your website unpiano.com you had a striking picture of railway tracks on a kind of prairie, disappearing into the drizzle in the distance. Where was this taken and what were the circumstances?

JP: I managed to catch the Golden Spike in Utah on a nice looking day. It was on the way to see the Spiral Jetty and I knew our rental car might not make it so I was shooting everything I saw.

RV: Have you got a philosophy behind your photography, like wanting to preserve pictures of things before time destroys them, or what is your motivation, if that’s the right word?

JP: There are people who are good at using words to be descriptive and I am not one of those people. Most of the time I can’t even talk anyways so I need a way to communicate. Being more visual than anything else, most of the time photo is the best medium I can think of for that scenario.
The other strong factor is that I have almost no long-term memory due to an assortment of reasons. I think I’m drawn to capturing images so that I can use them later to try and relive those memories I lost. It’s sort of a scary thing to have happen to a person and it’s comforting to know that I have a link to that event.

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