Jessica Yatrofsky

Published by Elise Parkes on 21-Feb-2011 Interviews

Hi Jessica, tell us a bit about your new publication I HEART BOY?

I Heart Boy is my first monograph and it’s a collection of portraits taken of boys in and around New York City. It was sort of an adaptation of my blog, Both the book and the blog celebrate the male form and explore many of my ideas about male nudity, beauty and youth. In repetition, all of the subjects in the book convey something interesting. Weston Bingham of East Village Boys wrote the introduction, which speaks to the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of my practice.  The book was published by Powerhouse and is being released February 22nd, 2011.

So how did you get into photography?

I’ve been interested in art as far back as I can remember. When I was younger I trained formally in drawing and painting, and practiced all sorts of art before committing to photography. But photography was never this romantic encounter for me. My dad was a hobbyist who collected Super 8 cameras and projectors, and he sort of made me a photographer, even though at the time I thought it was kind of a drag to film every family outing. I was the family’s designated cameraperson by age 9! My father would always say I had "a good eye," which sounds like a compliment but I didn’t see the creativity in just documenting something. I saw photography as this really technical thing and the mechanics of it never appealed to me. But I did like getting prints back, and shooting Polaroid’s.  My mom would buy me disposable cameras that I had a lot of fun with, because I just cared about the pictures.

In many ways my photo work is infused with these older art practices, (drawing, painting sculpture, etc.)  And as photographer I am constantly employing my early influences as a painter. For me, photography is a fantastic medium because it allows for more freedom, and it’s a more accessible and practical way for me to study a subject. The camera objectifies by its very nature, unlike the paintbrush or pencil, which are more expressive, abstract.

Well, it seems redundant asking you this but what are your favourite subjects? It seems I have a preference for photographing men, haha. I think its because aesthetically they are just more interesting as subjects to me.  Fashion appeals to those same interests I have in aesthetics only in fashion its about both product and subject.

Where would you classify your photography, as art or commercial?

I feel like I always make photos from the same intuitive place whether it is for art or for commercial purposes. It’s a pretty natural transition between the two even though the intentions might be different.

Who has been your main inspiration as a photographer?

I am actually really inspired by performance artists like Marina Abramovic and Tino Seghal.  Performance artists make me want to be a better person and their work reminds me to always experience the world. I like to take that idea of experience into my practice as a photographer. I actually met Marina Abramovic once and asked her if I could take a photo with her and she told me to sit on her lap. It was fantastic, and hilarious!

Do you aspire to move into the direction of the performance art or do you use it as a starting base?

I enjoy moving between mediums. I like to work with the intention that an idea is what determines the medium I use for any given project. Things feel more fluid that way. And a camera is not always a solution in my case. I frequently work with performance and film.

What do you think about the current state of fashion photography?

Whether we look at it regressing or progressing its still a forward motion, and I like the idea of being inspired by the past. I think what matters to me is to have a fresh approach to any project and to work organically within the perimeters I set for myself as an artist.

Are there any projects you are currently working on?

I just completed my first feature length film SUN IN MY MOUTH. The film is about a young man who calls a phone sex line and finds himself in a long conversation with an unseen girl. As their conversation unfolds, questions about his sexual identity are explored and discussed. The entire film is this dialogue, which is largely improvised. The main character, played by Artem Shcherbakov, isn’t a trained actor, but brings a great naturalism to the role. The conversation was shot once, straight through. The female character, who is never seen in the film, asks questions and he answers with real stories. There are some graphic nude scenes with no body doubles. I would classify it as experimental fiction, I’m really excited about it! I have several events coming up as well, including an author book signing at the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair in New York City on Saturday March 5 from 3-4pm at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea and an upcoming exhibition of my work at BRIANRILEY1PROJECTSPACE in SOHO that runs from April 10th through May 22nd.

I don’t think we need to ask this but you shoot on film right? I

shoot medium format on a Mamiya 645 and I also love using my Contax as a backup. I frequently take Polaroid’s and those sometimes become part of the composition during a shoot.

What do you like in fashion & what do you dislike?

Fashion is always evolving and changing and that keeps it interesting and exciting for me as an artist, but at the same time the pace of it all can be challenging!


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