Conversation with John Waller

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John Waller

Currently residing in Phildelphia, PA, John Waller looks for the beauty in the every day. His photos capture the overlooked, the discarded, the evidence of interaction. We got the chance to talk to him about punk music, living in Philly, and Jaws.


How were you first exposed to photography?

It’s hard to say exactly when. My mom had a Minolta SLR that I remember messing around with as a kid. I was fascinated by all the numbers on the camera and hoped that someday I would understand them.

What inspires you?

Doing things. It sounds too simple, but I think the best source of inspiration is doing work.

What do you think photography does that other mediums can't?

It can fix time permanently.

I was really drawn to your project Around the Way. What is this series about?

That project started as a simple examination of my neighborhood, but when I was editing, I started to see some connections between the images. I think the series touches on ideas of alienation and decay.

Camp Mooch focuses a lot of discarded articles, overlooked moments. What did you learn from the experience of taking these photos?

I was interested in the location because it’s a place where people make improvised use of a neglected part of the city. At first, I wanted to make photos of the people I found there, but over time, I became more interested in the evidence of their activity.

Your photos in Lighting Test are subtly beautiful. What was the idea behind these photos?

Those are a part of a long-form series I’m working on entitled The Fisherman Farmer, which deals with the idea of inheritance.

I really love that series. Tell me more about the ideas behind it.

For this part of the series, I’m thinking about the uncanny relationship I have with these inherited/found objects. I’m interested in objects, especially when they take on meaning other than their design. It’s the first installment in an ongoing project. The next chapters will deal with geographic place and memory.

What has your experience with creating Permanent Drift Press been like? What compelled you to start this project?

I’ve always loved zines and DIY culture, so it was natural for me to incorporate that into my photography practice. It’s been a bit bumpy so far. We had a false start in 2014 but we’re resolved to do big things in 2015.

What sort of big things are you planning on doing with Permanent Drift Press?

There will be a book for Camp Mooch and the first part of The Fisherman Farmer will be printed. There’s at least one collaboration in the works and in September we will be traveling to Japan, where we will meet some new friends and exchange work.

How does living in Philly inspire your work?

Philadelphia has a really great photo community that seems to be growing every year. Right in my neighborhood I have every resource I need, from workshops to galleries to labs, all within about a square mile of each other.

Do you find that any music or particular films influence your work?

The movie Jaws had a profound effect on my life. It was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard, where I was born. They employed a lot of native islanders, and watching that movie with my family is like having the most personalized DVD commentary track you could ask for.

What's your Saturday soundtrack?

For the first hour at least, it’s the sound of the coffee machine. Then maybe some podcasts, or if I’m in the car, local college radio.

Describe a moment that you'll never forget that changed the way you see things, artistically or not.

In the summer of 1985, when I was 9, I rode a skateboard for the first time and my cousin gave me a stack of punk records. That basically put me on the path I’m still walking. If that moment hadn’t happened, I’m sure my life would’ve been very different.

What's your favorite punk album?

Bad Brains – ROIR Cassette

Define beauty in your own words.

If I could adequately describe beauty with words, I’d have to stop photographing and become a writer.

If you could be anywhere in this moment, where would you be? What 3 feelings does this moment conjure up?

I always want to be on the road, but rarely am. I love the feeling of being lost. The simultaneous sense of adventure, fear, and discovery is really invigorating.


Check out more of his awesome work on his website.

Liza is Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Atwood Magazine, which bears her middle name. She is a collector of quotes and a lover of all things weird. She is currently in school studying photography and the history of art.