All images by Josep Fonti. Used with permission.
We came across Josep Fonti’s work in a rather unorthodox fashion. To let you see behind the curtain (as they say), we often get sent work or find it through extensive research. But with Josep, we saw his photography on a laptop he had left open at a camera store in New York. Taking a quick look, we found ourselves saying, “This is some good work here.” We made contact, and Josep was thrilled to hear from us. This pleased us: we wanted to know more about his creative exposures. We needed to understand his relationship with New York and how it fueled his energy to create impactful photography. Let his marketing be a lesson to all photographers, because now we’re together and Josep is about to tell us about his thoughtful series, Numberless New York. Here we go!
Phoblographer: Hey Josep! How did you first fall in love with photography?
JF: When I was a kid my father would take pictures of us all the time, and that was fascinating to me. Then on my 8th birthday, I asked for a camera. He gifted me a very simple point and shoot (Halina Vision C XMS, I still have it). That’s when it all started. My first photographs were at my birthday party, my friends and all the presents I got that day.
“The technique I wanted to use was not easy, but I got excited experimenting and figuring out how to make it work.”
Phoblographer: You wrote that when you first got to New York you were overwhelmed. How did this impact your ability to be your best creative self?
JF: At first, that overwhelming feeling was keeping me from being productive, but after a while, I understood how to use the city’s everlasting energy to my advantage: overthink less, act more, and act faster. In the end, the two years I lived in NY turned out to be the most productive time of my life. I’m now planning to move back this year.
Phoblographer: Where and when did you get the idea to do a project with double exposures? What excited you about this approach?
JF: Right after I arrived to New York, I found this Call for artists from Red Hook Labs. The deadline was close, but I really wanted to shoot something new. Double exposure was something I experimented with in the past but never really found a concept or project that could suit. Then, suddenly, I had the idea to do Numberless New York, and it turned out to be the right project. The technique I wanted to use was not easy, but I got excited experimenting and figuring out how to make it work.
Phoblographer: Tell us more about this technique. Are we right that you used a lens cap during the creative process?
JF: The technique I used is based on this principle: when you do a double exposure, what is left black in the first image you take, remains unexposed. Taking this into account, I would shoot a roll with the left side of my lens covered. This way, only the right side of every frame was being exposed.
“Going back to what overwhelms me the most about this city is to think about all the realities that coexist, all the events that unleash at any given moment, and the magnitude of it all.”
Once the roll was done, I would put it back in the camera, very precisely, always engaging on the exact same sprocket hole. By doing so, I ensured that the frames I shot in the first place would coincide with the ones I would shoot the second time. Then I would shoot the whole roll again but covering the right side of my lens, therefore “filling up” those dark/unexposed parts of each frame. What I used as a lens cap was actually the lid of a jam glass jar (cut in half) because it was the same diameter as the hood I had on my lens. I used a hood because if I placed the lid directly onto the lens, then the gradient transition between left and right images was too sharp, too focused when what I wanted was for it to be very smooth.
“The technique I used is based on this principle: when you do a double exposure, what is left black in the first image you take, remains unexposed. Taking this into account, I would shoot a roll with the left side of my lens covered. This way, only the right side of every frame was being exposed.”
Phoblographer: Tell us more about your reasoning for the pairs you created? Before presenting them to the public what impact did you want them to have?
JF: Sometimes I would try to pair them on purpose so there could be some sort of narrative between both images. But that was difficult because this is a street photography project as well, so I had to adapt myself to whatever I may run into in the streets. What helped me was to take notes and do little sketches of each frame, to remember what was already exposed, so I could have an approximate idea of how the whole final picture would look like.
Going back to what overwhelms me the most about this city is to think about all the realities that coexist, all the events that unleash at any given moment, and the magnitude of it all. And so I wanted to express that using my camera, and I wanted people to somehow experience that when they would look at this series.
Phoblographer: What camera and film combination did you use for this project?
JF: A Canon EOS A2E and Portra 400 film.
Phoblographer: Finally, how did this project impact your relationship with New York? Did it bring you closer, or push you away?
JF: This project was a response, a reaction to how this city made me feel in a particular time of my life. It is the expression of an emotion, and somehow a collaboration between the city and me. So I guess yes, it brought me closer.
You can see more of Josep’s work by visiting his website.