In his series I’ll Turn to Stone, Texan photographer J. Alex Goss chronicles an unremarkable spring day in his life. From his morning piece of toast (burnt) to his evening activity (rollerblading) and everything in between, the beauty of his images lies in their familiarity; we’ve all been in those bedrooms and cars and seen that light across the water.
An exploration of youth and the dissolution of friendship, the series captures a pivotal—though seemingly banal—period in the life of the 20 year old. We spoke with him about his early experiences with photography and his exploration of other mediums.
PORTABLE: When and where were the pictures in ‘I’ll Turn to Stone’ taken? What camera did you use?
J. Alex Goss: Most of these were taken in the spring of 2010, either near my home in Houston, or in a town about ninety miles to the west. I was shooting almost only 35mm on a Contax point-and-shoot then…I think I was tired of missing things.
We see these images to be a disconnected representation of youth. What are you trying to communicate with this series?
Even in all the good, crazy times during those months, I was always aware that it was already over with the people in my life then. We were all splintering away into our separate paths. I wasn’t sure who I was taking these pictures for. I felt kind of greedy at times. But I needed these pictures. The series that came together later that fall cleared up a lot for me about what was important though.
Do you remember the first picture you took or the first one that made you think, “I’m good at this”?
My dad showed me how to use his old Canon EF almost six years ago and I thought it was cool. He was very encouraging at every step I took. I remember him driving me to an funky junk shop in North Houston and I remember there were these metal stars that I was really into. I liked enough of what I shot to keep going. I tried experimenting with anything I could get my hands on for about three years until I realized photography had become more than a hobby for me. I think it’s like doing the dishes these days.
When is your favorite time (of day, of year) to shoot? What do you look for in subjects or locations?
Sometimes before it gets dark everything around you feels golden. Not that it always makes great photographs. It just reminds me to thank someone.
You create sculptures as well as photographs. What is different in your approach to the two mediums? What is similar?
Every material is just another way for me to save a memory. Sculpture is very powerful in that it can be such a concrete and fallible expression of memory. Sometimes there’s no way to take a picture, no way to write it down, no way to travel back to that place or that part of life. I like that a mental picture—the most fleeting, nagging, slushy, yet crystal picture—can become something I can hold after fighting with and, eventually, submitting to the material and process. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve tried in my life.