Earlier this week, I was excited to be able to question Jason Fulford about his work. He and his partner, Leanne Shapton, run J&L Books, a small publishing company they started in 2000 that supports emerging artists. The dynamic duo have also curated an exhibition currently on view at Seattleâs OK OK Gallery. Jason Fulfordâs own solo show can be seen at Quality Pictures in Portland until 28 April 2007. For more images, go here.
Your photos are more than just great images of small details and ordinary things, they have a very strong graphic senseâas if the things you photograph were designed rather than found. How would you describe your work?
I think about balance a lot, not just compositionally, but about balancing extremes or balancing contradictory things. And I love opposites especially when they happen simultaneously or in one person. My life involves lots of these kinds of relationships, like wanderlust vs. settling or respectability vs. disregard. I see these types of relationships everywhere now, like when I used to drive a Pontiac Sunbird and would always see other Sunbirds out on the street.
What lead you to start publishing books?
The simple answer is that Iâve always loved printed matter and Iâve always had the compulsion to make things. Also a naive dissatisfaction at the time (late '90s) with art books Iâd see in bookstores. I wanted to publish books so I could have them on my own shelves. Another reason is that I was traveling so much and really missed a sense of community. Publishing helped me find a community of people, tied together with overlapping sensibilities.
When youâre putting together a show of other peopleâs work, or when youâre deciding on whose work to publish, what are you looking for?
There are exceptions to this, but generally speaking I look for three layers. First is a physical beauty that makes me want to stare at the work. Second, a connection to the subject matter that activates my own memory and imagination. Third is a question thatâs raised by the work but left unanswered. This last layer is the most important for me. If a work has an open or hovering quality, it tends to last longer. I also look for a sense of humor, and the artistâs motivation also affects the way I judge a work. You can often tell right away if the motivation is genuine. Of course sometimes this is irrelevant.