Q&A with Bucks County Landscape Photographer Josh Friedman
Gettysburg Cannon at Sunset (Sept. 2021) by Josh Friedman
Interview by Taylor Smith
Natural beauty is all around us, but how often do we press “pause” to find a change of pace, a new frame of mind, or inner peace?
Bucks County-based photographer Josh Friedman has developed a following for his painterly photographic portrayals of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Here, Friedman offers some insight into his own creative process and encourages everyone to find an activity in which they achieve a “flow” state — something that is immersive, yet effortless. An opportunity to lose oneself in an activity while enjoying a fulfilling creative experience.
What is your photography background, and how did you begin your practice?
From about the age of 8, it seems I often had a camera in my hand. In middle school I built a pinhole camera. By the time I was in high school, I was shooting with an SLR, and I converted a storage closet in my parents’ basement into a dark room. Friends and I developed black and white photographs. In college and graduate school my focus was on psychology. I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and I have a private practice in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
I always had a passion for photography though, and about 12 or 13 years ago I started learning through online courses, live workshops, extensive reading, and taking loads of pictures. Having grown up in the film era, I was initially skeptical about digital photography. Now, however, I shoot 100 percent digitally, and I love the creative control that it gives me.
About 11 years ago I started selling my photographs online, through Etsy, and this has grown steadily. I’ve shipped my prints all over the world. Additionally, I’ve sold images to be used in books, magazines, and various commercial uses. Periodically in recent years I’ve given presentations and workshops on different photographic topics such as composition and HDR (high dynamic range) photography.
How does where you live influence your photography?
I feel fortunate to live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which has a combination of natural beauty, history, and changing seasons and weather conditions. I primarily photograph landscapes, so local landmarks like the Delaware canal, covered bridges, and historic farms all work their way into my photography. Also, I have an interest in history, and I live a short drive from many historical sites such as the spot where Washington crossed the Delaware during the Revolutionary War, Independence Hall in Philly, and Valley Forge, and my home is a little over two and a half hours from Gettysburg. Every year, I go out to photograph the battlefield, the monuments, and the cemetery where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.
I also enjoy photographing college campuses and architecture, so I often photograph Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and other beautiful, historic schools.
I’m also a short drive from both Philadelphia and New York, so I love to photograph their architecture, skylines, baseball stadiums, murals, and other landmarks.
Who are some of your favorite artists or creative thinkers, and why?
Ansel Adams was the first photographer whose work I really admired. His black and white landscapes convey both beauty and drama. I also connect with his love of the outdoors, including our National Parks, and his desire to conserve our planet. His images wonderfully conveyed his personal experience of a place with the viewer.
Michael Frye is a contemporary landscape photographer whose work I greatly admire. His work has a beautiful, poetic quality. He has applied Ansel Adams darkroom techniques, but with contemporary digital tools, and he superbly combines the aesthetic and technical parts of his craft.
In terms of other visual artists, I’ve always been amazed by the work of Monet and other impressionist painters. They conveyed light and changing weather conditions in such a beautiful way. At the time they worked, they really pushed the boundaries of painting. Many people were initially highly critical of their work, as it deviated from the established norms.
I admire creative thinkers in a wide variety of fields, from Abraham Lincoln to the Beatles to Plato and John Muir. Truly creative people have a way to use intellect and insight in order to inspire others or move their emotions. They see things in a new or different way.
How can art be used as inspiration or meditation for those looking to try something new in 2022?
For me, personally, I experience art as both a creator as well as a viewer, reader, and listener. When I am working on a photograph — either in the field or editing on my computer — I find myself completely immersed in what I am doing. Psychologists call this a state of “flow.” I am challenging myself, very much “in the moment,” and striving to be creative. It’s an incredibly positive feeling.
I would encourage people to find an activity which suits their personality and interests. It might be a visual art form, like photography or painting or woodwork, but it also might be a sport, or cooking or gardening. Having an activity which gives you a sense of “flow” is a very joyful and healthy thing. I genuinely feel bad for people who find themselves frequently bored or feel that they are living on autopilot. My 97-year-old mom often reminds me that we only get one time on this planet, so we should try to enjoy each day and make it count.
Where can people find you online and/or order you artwork?
I sell my work through my online ETSY shop: etsy.com/shop/JoshFriedmanPhoto
Here are some other places that you can find my photographs:
Delaware Canal, Towpath and Footbrige in Snow (Feb. 2021) by Josh Friedman
Princeton Pine Hall Sunrise by Josh Friedman