The Guestbook: our interview with Josh Kern

The Guestbook is a photographic column that highlights the take over artists who animate the Collater.al’s Instagram profile.

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18 March 2019

Josh Kern is a Dortmund-based photographer, whom we had the pleasure of talking about earlier here, who creates images with a strongly biographical content. His works reveal a great emotionality, which is always manifested in a very spontaneous way, raw and real, but at the same time poetic.

Us at Collater.al have asked Josh a few questions about his and his work:

When did you take your first picture? Did you immediately realize that this was what you wanted to do in your life?

I guess the first time was when I was about 12 years old. We were always out skateboarding and filmed and photographed each other. But it was something completely different then what I do today and I always preferred to skate rather than to be behind the camera. It took a few years until I started to carry a camera with me all the time.

Even as I entered university to study photography, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. It was really a long process, but I’m happy that it took so long. Because of all the doubts and uncertainty I always had, I’m really grateful now for having something that I want to dedicate my life to.

But don’t get me wrong, I still have so many doubts when it comes to why I’m doing all of this and if it’s even worthy. But at least, now I’m sure that I will spend the rest of my life as near as possible to photography, with all its difficulties and pleasures.

Why did you share exactly these images with us?

It’s almost impossible to answer this. I also could have chosen nine completely different images. But I’m always torn to photos that make me feel something and that I can identify with. And since my mood changes a few times a day, the images that I feel connected to change as well.

Is there a message behind your photos?

I’m not really sure. I could project a message to them afterward, but at the moment when I take them, I just follow my gut feeling and curiosity. It’s really up to you to see whatever you want in my work. But I would love if people would see a hint to live their life in an honest way. To be true to their self and to bring out what is inside of them, despite all the expectations and what everyone else is doing.

Now you could probably ask what has drinking alcohol until you puke to do with being true to yourself. And I really don’t know. I’m always interested in people losing control over their body and mind, probably because I’m myself so afraid of that. Maybe there is a connection. But maybe it’s also something completely different. 

“Fuck Me” is the name of your photobook, how important is it for you to document what’s around?

I’m very obsessed with documenting the world around me. But I wouldn’t say that the act of documenting itself is important to me. It’s just a way to express myself and a try to make the people around me understand what is going on inside of me.

For me, it’s way easier to do this by creating something visual rather than talking about it, as you probably have noticed in my writing. I guess I often sound paradox. Please don’t take my words too serious I don’t do it either. Chances are high that I disagree with this tomorrow.

 If you had to choose a photo to which you are particularly attached, which one would you choose?

Right now, I would choose picture number eight. Till sitting in my room after he was lost the last night and shortly before heading to Holland. I don’t know why but the photo makes me feel a lot. I love to photograph Till because most of the things he does are kind of an expression of how I feel inside but don’t have the guts or worry too much to act in that way.

Follow Josh’s take over on @Collater.al Instagram profile!

I have this thing inside of me, but Im not really sure what its about. Somehow its love and somehow its melancholy, but its definitely stronger than anything else I know. And it wants to get out of me so bad. If I keep it inside for too long it will destroy me. It will destroy everything. So I try to talk about it. But how small and average these words are that I came up with.. they have nothing to do with what is going on inside of me. But I still try again and again and every time I end up feeling disappointed and disconnected. I feel like there’s no hope at all to make someone understand. And finally I remind myself that I just need to finish my roll of film and develop it. And that will be more than enough. Maybe no one will see the thing that I’m talking about. But it doesn’t matter because I’m seeing it. I know that it’s there. And by sharing it I know that Ive done everything in my power. Thats the only way to relieve it and it makes me feel at peace.
I’m visiting Till and Marie for the first time since they moved to Bremen. Last night was exhausting but right now I’m completely excited. And I’m not even sure why… we don’t even leave the apartment. We order food, read books, smoke cigarettes and talk about watching Harry Potter, and then we don’t watch it, although it seemed like a good idea …or more like “they” are doing these things. I’m hiding behind my camera and notebook, being completely happy. And the only thing that would make this situation better, is if I were invisible. or if I could make these two forget about me being with them until I decide to appear again. I don’t know, but I feel like I could do this for weeks, just hanging out with a couple and loosing ,myself by observing their intimacy.
This is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken because for me, it truly shows a moment of ecstasy. Turning moments like these into something I can hold in my hands, something I can share, is and probably will always be my main motivation.
Ive struggled a bit to pick a photo for this category, because for me, there is no difference between a bad decision and a story worth telling. But when I think about it this night was really a bad decision. I took this shot of my friend Aston on Heiligabnd and it was one of the craziest nights I ever had. But I missed the family dinner because I was completely gone the next two days. I mean Its still a story worth telling but I would have rather had dinner with my fam than being fucked up for three days.

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