“I never thought about shooting street photography or even street portraits until I found myself living in Mexico. I started seeing pictures materialize in front of me in a manner I wasn’t used to and it wasn’t until I picked up a camera and took to the streets that a light turned on. I wanted to show people this different way of life, these ordinary moments that were going by seen, but unacknowledged; simple day to day activities that were brought to the light by simply paying attention to them.
Ever since those first few months of daily walks throughout the streets of Mexico City I’ve found that I like capturing life. It’s as simple as that. I like taking engaging pictures. Whether it’s in everyday life or through people posing, my camera is the connection between the person and the narrative that captivates me.
And in the glimpse of a single moment, I am allowed to capture stories.”
I discovered Jacob via an Instagram story. There was a photographer in NYC giving away hand printed images for free. All you had to do was make a donation to a charity helping out in Mexico after the devastating earthquake there earlier this year. I’d already been following the news of the earthquake (I’m a geographer and I like to keep track of these things) and was touched by the stories coming out, especially about Los Topos, a group of civilian volunteer rescuers. I made donation over and contacted Jacob who told me to pick an image and he would print it and send it over at his own expense. I was touched by such genorosity and by the humanistic nature of Jacob’s photos and needed to find out more about him. When I did I knew that I had to share with the world his fantastic and ever expanding body of work.
RP: Hi Jacob, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey Robert, just want to start off by saying thank you for the opportunity to be on your blog and talk about photography with your readers. My name is Jacob Murphy, I am a street photographer based in NYC and I exclusively shoot film for my personal work.
RP: what inspired you to become a photographer?
I would say it’s a combination of things that pushed me in the direction of photography. As a kid I was always involved in art but never felt the right connection. However growing up I was fascinated with light and ended up in theater for awhile working on stage crew, lighting sets and musicals and really missed doing that when I went to university to pursue another major. While I was there I spent a lot of time photographing things when I should have been studying and ended up switching schools the next year to get on the fast track to becoming a photographer.
“light and life”
RP: What/who inspires your photography?
Oh man, the question that always has an evolving answer. The short version is light and life. The long version is so many things. I live in NYC which is a photographers playground with no shortage of inspiration. I say that I’m inspired by life because any time I may run into creative block all it usually takes is going to another part of the city, there’s always something going on. But besides that I’m constantly inspired by my fellow photographers both old and new particularly things in print, I always flip through books or go to exhibits when I’m feeling lost. The exhibitions Diane Arbus: In the beginning and Henri Cartier Bresson: India in Full frame were huge inspiration boosts for me, exactly when I needed them. And I’m constantly revisiting my books from Martha Cooper to Sebastiao Salgado to Jun Abe and back again.
RP: I believe you’re working on a project in New York right now, what can you tell us about that?
I am working on a few projects at the moment, but my day to day project is about the New York City experience. What is it like to live here. NYC is a city that gets photographed and visited everyday by thousands of people but ever since moving here I feel like there is a side that never gets shown. Everyone knows about the tourist hotspots but I’m hoping that I can show the daily ongoings of NYC residents. So I’m currently pulling images from the last two years for my first NYC zine, and once I’ve figured out the design issues I’m running into, it should be hopefully being printed by the beginning of 2018.
“Photography is a lifestyle. A choice that’s larger than life.”
RP: What does photography mean to you?
I’m still young so I’m learning the answers to these questions as each day goes by, but to me photography is a lifestyle. A choice that’s larger than life. It’s knowing that I’m participating in something that may not accomplish what I want for years to come. To me it’s my only way of truly communicating what I’m thinking, feeling and seeing and I’ll always be forever grateful for what it provides me.
RP: What cameras do you shoot with and why?
I actually only shoot with one camera my Leica M6 with the Voigtlander 35 2.5 and usually bulk loaded HP5. It’s a great camera for starters but besides that it’s simple, it never gets in the way of me capturing exactly what I want to photograph. I spent the last year getting used to Leica rangefinders and it’s like a point and shoot at this point. I’ve recently been playing with an old Leica mini II with color film but I’m not sold on whether or not it will become part of the daily setup.
RP: Any anecdotes you can share?
This is gonna sound like a cop out but I don’t really have any anecdotes or stories that I can tell. I guess maybe it is because I approach photography in a way that is non-confrontational or I try to remain discreet when I’m taking pictures. Maybe in the years to come I’ll have a great story I can tell.
RP: You’ve recently been giving away prints in aid of the Mexico City earthquake appeal, want to share what this was all about?
Yeah, Mexico City went through a pretty bad earthquake and it happens to be the country that my wife and her family are from. Right after I graduated from photography school I spent six months in Los Angeles before I moved to Mexico City with my wife and lived there for three years. Mexico City was really the place that showed me how and what I wanted to photograph, so it holds a really special place in my heart and I wanted to help in anyway I could and I think every photographer would use their photos help if they could.
“Just keep shooting things that you love”
RP: What are you looking for in a photo?
I’m constantly looking for that connection to a photo, for it to be a really great photo it’s has to make me feel something. Emotion is something I’ve been really trying to capture lately and incorporate that into a larger storyline.
RP: Biggest regret relating to photography?
That I didn’t start pursuing street photography and the projects I wanted to work on sooner when I lived in Mexico. I’m honestly not sure when I’ll get to experience that culture on a day to day basis again and it certainly won’t be with the fresh eye I had back then.
RP: Any closing comments?
I could pass on some final thoughts it would be to just follow your instincts when it comes to photography go for what feels right and pursue it no matter what. And in the end just keep shooting things that you love eventually it will pay off.
December 30, 2017 at 1:00 am
Excellent interview. Learned tons and enjoyed the read.
January 21, 2018 at 7:31 pm
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. There is a new interview live today on the site. Rob