Watch the WNYC Street Shots Video-Joe Wigfall:
To watch the video you must join as a FREE guest member. This video describes Joe Wigfall’s working process and provides inspiration for all visual artists.
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Year and place of birth:
I was born a little over 50 years ago in New York City’s East Harlem.
That’s a good question. Since I was a child viewing pictures of people in newspapers, books and magazines, it has fascinated me how a photograph was taken and what the photographer did to make their shots look so good.
I use photography to take quick sketches of the images I see around me and to interpret that moment. I generally prefer black & white photography over color because I feel black & white accentuates the depth of character of most people and environments I shoot.
I started photography using film more than 25 years ago, but chose street photography as a vehicle of expression only five years ago. Although I would much prefer to draw or sketch what I see, photography is far quicker at drawing the slices of life before me. The advent of digital photography catapulted my ability to edit and customize my photographs to say exactly what my heart did at the moment of the shot.
What is the role of photography in your life?
I’m a visual artist. Photography—street photography has become a spontaneous and exciting way of expressing my own creativity by shooting (and interacting with) what I see in the instances of life I come across. It connects me with these myriad moments and makes the ordinary become special. I know that it has become a bit of a passion for me because when I stay away from it too long, for even just a break, I feel there’s a part of me missing.
Where can we find your work?
One of my more intriguing shots is called VENOM. It had been a long time since I’d gone shooting in the subways of NYC. I was actually taking the train downtown to drop off some film for developing and there were still a few shots left on the roll in the camera. I was using the inimitable Konica Hexar AF, and as those who use it know, it has a super quiet shutter button and the camera is very unobtrusive.
I walked into the subway car to take a seat before it filled with people from the approaching express train on the other track. I immediately noticed these three people seated right across from me. The camera was in my lap and its lens cover was still off. I was curious to see whether the 400 ISO film in the camera would cleanly pick up any images in this darkened section of the train car. There were a few more people milling around us and hanging onto the straps when I felt that it might be a good time to get off a few shots before I put the camera away. What I didn’t realize was that even though I was seated in shadow, as I fiddled with the camera’s controls, this guy was scrutinizing every move I made.
I nonchalantly re-examined the controls on top of the camera while I got off a few shots. Unbeknownst to me, this guy had watched the lens shutter open and close each time I took a shot. I replaced the lens cover on the camera and slowly looked up to see whether the lighting had improved. To my surprise, his eyes met mine. He wasn’t pleased, but I still wasn’t entirely sure he saw me do anything. In fact I thought he was upset with his girlfriend seated next to him, so I played it off. He kept staring at me. People holding onto straps above him swayed in between our view of each other, but his expression remained the same. After a while, I just ignored him and quietly got off two stops later at my station. Fortunately for both of us, he didn’t make a scene.
It wasn’t until I developed my contact sheet that I realized the full vented ferociousness of his stare. His expression made my skin crawl, but it was worth it.