10 minutes with Adam Golfer

Interviews with Photographers June 15, 2011 8:43 am
When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

I didn’t really reach a point where I said, “THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO.” It happened more organically. I went to art school in Baltimore and entered as a graphic design student. But my first year I turned all of my design assignments into photo projects. I quickly became obsessed with photography because it was a very direct way to react to and process the things going on in my life. That quality everyone always speaks about — there isn’t as much separation between what you see and the photographs that come out of it, at least compared to painting or drawing. You can toy with the degree of separation.

In college my dad got really sick, and taking photographs was my way of dealing with the terrifying experience of losing him. It was my way of staying sane amidst a period of immense uncertainty. The camera acted as a buffer between what was actually happening to my dad and my ability to continue functioning during everything. Photographing my family was an act of self-preservation. I was creating memories that I knew would mean a lot to me down the road.
Photography has an ability to be extremely personal and intimate, or detached and voyeuristic. The gray area in-between is what interests me the most.

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

 

How can an editor be most helpful when giving you an assignment?

I like the assignments best where an editor recognizes the way that I work and sends me to go do that. The majority of the assignments I work on have been portrait sittings. I’ll get sent to someone’s living space and have this incredibly personal few hours where I am suddenly given access to their most private environment. Practical information like lighting, time of day, the size/scope of the locations are really helpful to know ahead of time.

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Tell me about your project, Kin*. What prompted you to start it and how long were you in Germany?

kin* is a long-term photo project I’ve been working on since 2008. It is an ongoing investigation into the unique relationship between myself — the Jewish grandson of Holocaust survivors — and Germany as a people and culture. The photographs focus on the German youth of my generation and the shifting face of the landscape, both representing an ever-changing idea of what Germany is in the 21st century.

I was always curious about how this history influenced me and shaped my identity. When my dad passed away I realized that he knew very little about his parents’ experiences, except for the most basic information. A very close friend of mine from school was German, and one day we sat down, just talking about life and our families, and she told me that her family had some very serious Nazi involvement in WWII. She told me how strange and conflicting it was to grow up knowing this. At that moment I realized how close I felt to her, just for sharing this with me. It was as if we had crossed a generational divide and could now move forward. This has been the impetus for my project — a mixture of personal and historical curiosity about how I fit into the equation and how I relate to young people in Germany.

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

 

Who is your dream subject or place, or both?

I am doing research for a long-term project in Israel, but it is too early to talk about it. After working in Germany for so long, I am ready for a completely different environment. One which is certainly related to kin* but will give me some perspective. I have a very conflicted connection to Israel and I think working there will be eye-opening.

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

Adam Golfer

What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?

I would’ve told myself to work and work and work. To read everything and entertain every curiosity and get out from behind the computer. Photography and writing are so intertwined, and I know that all the photographers I admire most have had really adventurous lives and experiences. One of my friends always says if you’re thinking about doing something, stop talking about it and do it. I like that.

(Adam is based in New York. See more of his work, here)

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