Interview with Joe Hocker by Will Schwaller

W: So would you say that you’ve shifted from documentary photography to something different?

J: I’ve been trying to move in a direction of making things that can’t really exist outside of photographs so making it more about the photograph itself, to give these things their own environment that shifts what they look like and feel like versus some actual thing.


W: Can you explain why you began making these objects? Did you feel like in order to prevent yourself from being a landscape photographer you had to do something to the land?

J: That was definitely a part of it. So they started out as a way to sort of document time spent at a place because the images look like I could have pulled up my truck, gotten out, set up the camera, taken the shot, gotten back in my car and left; but I was spending a lot of time doing these things and I wanted to figure out a way to really represent time, so I was making these things that took time, that couldn’t just happen meaning that it took five or ten minutes to make the little thing it still took that time so they started as I guess little time capsules or time keeping devices I’m not sure exactly what to call them but that’s what they started as a sort of representation of spending time there and they have shifted from that quite a bit.


W: And so what are they doing now?

J: Well I knew I was building these things as representations of time, but they really as I thought about it more and the rest of my life was going on that they were representations of fragility and more about life and toeing the line between life and death. A lot of them are these really fragile structures that aren’t held together with anything but friction and they really don’t stand a chance of lasting more than in some cases minutes. So that they have this life cycle that I’m more interested in, so I guess that’s what they are more about now rather than figuring out a way of showing that I spent time somewhere

W: In an ideal world would you have more resources to work on a larger scale?

J: I don’t know that I want resources to use machines or other people because there is something about to me that is figuring out how to make this thing by myself with just the things at hand, there’s something about keeping it very naturally made and very I guess primitive in its construction…


W: Is the location where you are making these things and the landscape that you are in a significant factor or in an ideal world would you be working in different locations?

J: In an ideal world I would be working in different locations. I’m interested in the places that I’m going, most of them have been in New Jersey, and to my knowledge almost all of them have been parks converted from sand mines, I think that’s kind of interesting, I’m trying to figure out how to work with the history of these places, which I think is the next big step for this project.


W: Would you say that you have a romantic view of nature?

J: Definitely, yeah it’s definitely a romanticized idea of these places because knowing that most of them were sand mines like 45 years ago so they all have really strange growth that occurs when the land is trying to recover itself, and so some of these places the highways are not far away but I’m able to push past that and get the feel of this dense forest, and the ability for me to go to a school in a major city and be able to disappear into the woods is a luxury and definitely romanticized.


W: But are you interested in the speed in which these environments change? Or would you prefer to work in a forest where you couldn’t hear the highway?

J: It’s a little bit of both. Ideally I would love to be in deep, dense, rich forest, that was completely secluded, but there is something interesting about being so close to the thing that I guess I am trying to escape, because there are little notes in the images, sometimes, of old staircases that are covered in vines and leaves that were at one point a major part of this place and are now just a piece of furniture in it, so that sort of adds to this idea of wanting to slow down. When you are in a completely secluded forest everything has to slow down because your only option is to be slow but when you are that close to the highways and cities you have to consciously make the decision to slow down.