by Max Schulman
The world is stingy with its meaning, and photographs are another form of silence.
When I look at these photographs I sometimes wonder how the tumult of open streets can hide so quietly behind paper or my computer screen. Of course, it is hiding in my head, in memories of having walked around New York City day after day in the days I lived there. As pedestrians we are vulnerable to each other in the way only strangers can be, fearful for our nakedness and our time. Some people look at other people, and others do not, as in any city. When I look at someone looking at me, I wonder to myself: Will they remember seeing me? Will I remember seeing them? Are we sneaking through the world, hiding from each other?
In so many of these photographs there is the essence of curiosity, but more than curiosity, there is acknowledgment. When Josh takes photographs he acts beforehand and moves toward the photograph until he becomes a part of it. There is an uncommon dignity and brazenness in this act of stepping a bit nearer to people. We feel this clearly in the physical proximity and the returning looks of people in the street. More so we feel this in the privileged photographs that take close notice of what is going unnoticed, or that stare directly at what is being ignored, for what is ignored is too often seen but not looked at.
Sometimes when I look at these more delicate photos I feel like I am peering into a mysterious soft space, a daydream, maybe, and other people daydreaming too. And these are spaces in plain sight, in the middle of the city. Somewhere between form and content, Josh photographs events, and in these photographs there is a richness in wondering what happened before, what happened after. Time is not mortified, it is celebrated. As with my favorite art, my mind is thrown back into the world. I am eager to walk outside.
I look at these photographs and I am reminded that behind the camera there is a person standing among people. The camera embodies the cameraman and becomes a tool for self-portraiture. And, even so, every photograph becomes a portrait of ourselves when we look at it. Photographs are silent objects, and yet we listen to them expectantly. And when they speak, they speak in our own voices. When I look at these photographs, I hear myself speaking to strangers, and speaking tenderly.