Jim Golden Q&A: On the Making of the Beachcomber Print
With an artist's eye and what seems like an endless amount of patience, Portland-based photographer Jim Golden creates mindful and meticulous compositions using items that most would overlook. From Relics of Technology to the Scissors Collection, it's clear to see that he takes the meaning of organization to new heights. His one-of-a-kind works capture everyday objects in their purest form: inviting the viewer to find beauty in a subject's simplicity. An inspiring and gifted individual, he also happens to be the creative behind our beloved Beachcomber Print. Below, Jim gives us a behind the scenes look into his creative process and the making of Beachcomber.
Could you share how you started as a photographer? Have you always been drawn to your craft?
Photography has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father always had a camera in his hand, and we would have family slideshows of fall foliage, soccer games, and vacations. Around 11 or 12, I got a hand me down Canon A-1, and I was off to the races. It started as pictures of graveyards with ominous trees, old weathered barns, and the like. Eventually, it became snaps of friends skateboarding and snowboarding. I spent a lot of time in the darkroom in high school.
From college-days to working in the fast-paced advertising world in New York to now living in Portland, how would you say your aesthetic has changed throughout your life?
The backdrop has changed, and my aesthetic and photo practice has changed, but I'm still working at the same goal: taking the everyday and making it extraordinary. I aim to make images that stop the viewer in their tracks, even if only for a brief moment, to process what they're seeing and form an opinion. It could be a shoe, a saltshaker, some garbage from the beach.
"I'm still working at the same goal: taking the everyday and making it extraordinary."
Many of your photos evoke a nostalgic feel. What draws you to an object? Sometimes a memory, other times the form. Nostalgia does play a role, but I also see things and think, "Wow, what an amazing whisk or a beautiful handmade mug." I want to share that vision with the viewer. A lot of my photo subjects have come from thrift stores or picking something up on the side of the road. In the instance of my Beachcomber collection, it was the color palette of detritus on the beach, whether man-made or natural, that inspired me to make this photo. I realized I would be able to combine the objects to create a beautiful and powerful statement.
I grew up spending a lot of time at the Jersey Shore, so the beach is something I've always known and enjoyed. The sounds and smell, the awesome unrelenting power and grace. When I first saw the Oregon Coast, I was awestruck. I couldn’t believe how different the beach could be from what I knew. It was so rugged and mysterious and quite frankly has captivated me now for the 20 years I've lived here.
How did you come up with the Beachcomber collection? Could you walk us through the process from initial inspiration to execution?
I was initially taken by the color palette of all the garbage - the muted hues of plastics and metal worn down by the elements. I then realized how much of it there was, and it disturbed me as well. How could there be this much garbage on such desolate beaches? It made me realize that no beach is untouched by this crisis, and an idea started to form. How could I make an image interesting enough to make people stop, take a look, and then realize the beauty in the image is also a nightmare? I took some friends and my daughter to the coast on a Friday, and we collected a van load of stuff from three or four different spots and brought it back to the studio. We let it dry out over the weekend, and on Monday, we got to work making the image.
What message are you trying to convey through the Beachcomber Print?
First and foremost, I think it's a beautiful image. It stands as a typology of detritus that has amazing shapes and colors. The message is to think twice about all the consumption and single-use items in our daily lives.
"Think about how your choices affect the places you love that mystify and inspire you."
I also hope it motivates the viewer to do their part, pick up a little junk, and dispose of it. If everyone helped out a bit when they visit, it would be a big step in helping to clean up the mess we’ve created.
The pandemic has disrupted our lives in many ways. How do you see the current landscape influencing your work and where you draw inspiration from?
I've been making images much closer to home, mostly in my yard, using sunlight and available items. I made a series titled “Tools In Isolation,” which were things in my daily life that were helping me cope with the stress of being cooped up in a small house with a family of four. Just trying to go about our daily lives and stay sane. I've also been messing around with objects in my yard: bricks, wood, ferns, and making these balanced sculptures I'm calling “Yard Totems.” It has been a bit of fun to see if I can make a cinderblock balance on the tip of a brick. A distraction of sorts in this utterly bizarre time.
Finally, do you have any projects on the horizon you’d like to share?
I’ve been working on a project about the Oregon Coast titled “Going Coastal” for years. It's a more straightforward view of the landscape, structures, and people at the coast. I’m hoping to eventually edit this project into a photo book encapsulating my interpretation of this awe-inspiring and mystical place we have at our doorstep.