Photographs Rush Jagoe
Rush Jagoe is a New Orleans based editorial photographer. Clients include The Wall Street Journal, Time Inc., Nike Italia, Rolling Stone Italy, World Vision Report, MSNBC, The Kellogg Foundation, Smart Luxury Travel Magazine, Proctor and Gamble, Julep, Edible New Orleans Magazine, Glamour Magazine and The Food and Farm Network.
Was your first workshop experience with ADP in Mississippi? I remember seeing your work there, i think you showed up to hang out and help cook for the week, right? You had been making strong images, just starting out in school, but by the end of the week you seemed to be making different images.
Yes, I was a freshman photojournalism student at Western Kentucky University. Jim and Carla Winn were running ADP back then and at the last minute their cook fell through, so I volunteered. I had been a dishwasher for two years, so I (thought that I) was qualified. Im just happy that I didn’t make anyone sick.
I don’t really feel like I was making different images, but I was making images that I liked a lot. I only took a few photographs through the whole workshop and most of them were on one roll of film and were never processed for critiques. After cleaning up from dinner in the evening I would go hang out with local juke joint owner Nan Golden (no relation to the photographer) down the street where I only took five pictures but liked all of them. David Degner let me use his Leica M6 and I shot color negative film.
How do you feel that being in an atmosphere saturated with so many different photographers and perspectives helped your work progress? Is it important to also have a filter in those situations?
I think they gave me confidence. Some of my intuition about what I needed to do in order to make successful pictures was being suppressed in school. Being around so many different shooters gave me the confidence I needed to follow my intuition and be confident in knowing that there is no formula. Today, the intuition about how I should be producing work changes constantly and I’m finding it more of a struggle to follow that intuition. I see so many photographers placing themselves in little boxes of “personal style.” To me, these styles seem less and less personal and seem increasingly driven by the desire to make photos stand out to editors and art buyers.
What do you do to keep that need to follow your intuition in check?
Keeping intuition in check I think is more than anything just a matter of continuing to shoot while staying rooted in the things that inspire me. I like to spend a lot of time with the people I photograph. I like to listen to stories more than shoot pictures and I think that is a good thing. I’m definitely someone who misses a lot of good frames because I’d rather store them in my head and let those moments affect the other photos I take. All the wisdom we gather as photographers goes into every frame we shoot thereafter – so sometimes I just like to think about that, and then shoot a photo.
Do you feel that this approach has helped develop the themes that come up in your work?
It has completely steered the themes in my work. I don’t come up with a project, I tend to come into them. I am always shooting, but when I find someone or something that I really connect with, I know that it is something worth exploring.
The Stony Creek work feels very in tune with the way you like to work, what is your relationship to the farm and family? How has that series developed?
I lived at Stony Creek Farm. in the five months that I was living there I hardly took more than two hundred photos. But now when I go back it is more to document the things that are there than to just be part of it. Having spent that time getting to know the place let me see the things that I really found important. It gave me a sense of purpose to convey those themes.
How does coming and going from a project like Stony Creek, being actively involved with the farm and actively photographing it, affect your work and process?
Physically coming and going from a place is essential in understanding what I am doing. Time changes things and it gives you the opportunity to grow up and see things differently. Your subjects change, you change. And the space between coming and going is where wisdom is grown. Im not implying that the photos you take first aren’t important, just that you can understand better what was there in time.