Interview with… Patrick Joust

Photos by Patrick Joust

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Patrick Joust is a 32 year old photographer living in Baltimore, Maryland. Born in Oroville, California, Patrick has gone back and forth between both coasts of the United States, before settling permanently in Baltimore in 2006 where he works as a librarian for the city library system. He started to take photography seriously about 8 years ago, but it wasn’t until he lived in Baltimore that he finally started to regularly capture and convey something close to what he wanted. Within his own city and in his travels, photography has helped Patrick to place reality within context. The complex nature of a photograph, of how it can be both truthful and false to its subject, sometimes at the same time, is part of the reason why he finds the work so fascinating. He mostly shoots film and enjoys playing around with multiple cameras in multiple formats and he enjoys following the work of others.

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1) When did you start to think about photography?
I started to think about photography shortly after college. I wanted a means of capturing and exploring the cities in which I lived, both San Francisco and Baltimore. I started off with a Canonet QL17 and a Canon Rebel 2000 film SLR, but it was the Canonet that I enjoyed using most for several years.

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2) What does it mean photography to you?
To me photography is a way to slow life down… to take a moment and freeze it. It may reflect a time, a person or a place, or it may just be a fleeting blip that has a seemingly insignificant connection to anything, but it’s a marvelous thing to have some evidence of an experience in 1/500 of a second. It’s a means to mark time and make the present richer.

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3) Which kind of photography do you like more?
I enjoy a lot of different types of photography. I enjoy the instant gratification of digital or Polaroid and I enjoy the mystery of film and having to wait to see the results. Over the last year and a half, I’ve found that using a medium format TLR has been one of the most satisfying ways to capture things. I like putting what I see into a neat little box.

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4) When you take a portrait, what is important for you?
I like natural light, and how that is reflected on the skin, even if it is seemingly less than perfect in a given situation. I don’t seek to capture the essence of a person I but I hope to create an interesting impression.

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5) Do you think it’s important to follow a school to learn how to shoot?
I don’t think it is important to follow a specific school of photography, but I think it is important to be open to learning from others and it’s important to critical of your own work. It took me years to take pictures that were anything close to what I wanted. It took years to find out what I wanted. One of the best things I did is to start using prime manual focus lenses on my digital camera. This helped me dramatically in taking better pictures. As it is now, I much prefer a fully manual camera camera and using film. I like to think about the whole process and I like the combination of the technical with the artistic. But with all that said, I think anyone can take an interesting photograph with any kind of camera. The great thing about photography is that it frees anyone with a creative notion to make something special and beautiful. It often takes practice and technical skill to make a good picture, but you can also give a cheap throw-away film camera or point and shoot digital to almost anyone and they might come up with something truly extraordinary.

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6) What’s the photo you want to take and you never did?
I lived in San Francisco for three years before I moved to Baltimore. I wish I had been a better photographer when I lived there. I worked for a time in the Tenderloin district and saw many things that would have made great pictures. I don’t dwell on this, but I do wish I had gotten into photography at a younger age, so that I might have been better suited to take the pictures that I now want to take.

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7) What’s your photo-mission?
It’s my desire to really capture some sense of the city in which I live and all the places that I visit. One photograph can not tell the whole story. I want to take as many good photographs as I can, so that I can build a body of work that I can look upon with pride and share with anyone else who may be interested.

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Comments 3
  1. Having lived in Baltimore my entire life I am amazed at Mr Joust’s work. He turns what could be straight documentary/ photojournalism into high art. As a photographer myself I can appreciate his achievement, and it is not a small one.
    Baltimore is lucky to have him out and about with his camera.

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