For as long as we can remember, the work of Brooklyn-based photographer Bobby Doherty has made us smile. Impactful and joyful, Bobby’s work, which largely comprises of still life work of everything from wobbling jelly to burgers encasing jewels, has meant he’s carved out a unique name for himself. On seeing an image by the photographer, or even sometimes another who attempts to emulate him, we often find ourselves saying “that’s such a Bobby Doherty photograph”.
As a result, you can imagine the It’s Nice That team’s excitement when we saw another favourite of ours, London-based publisher Loose Joints, had worked with Bobby on a book collecting together his works in a publication titled Seabird.
A doorstop of a book, Seabird is a compendium that puts Bobby’s photography at the forefront with no text and singular full bleed images on each singular spread. It’s a design choice that makes each page one to gawp at, whether it be an overhead shot of some suburban town somewhere or a perfectly composed picture of peanut butter and jam slices of toast. This vast mix of subjects makes it difficult to determine whether these photographs were orchestrated or chance happenings, and, on trying to find out the truth Bobby explains: “I get this question a lot, it always makes me feel so mysterious,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I guess it’s split down the middle? I’m not consciously trying to blur the line between what’s staged or what’s real, I think cameras just kind of do that.”
You see Bobby appears to know the camera inside and out. When it will work best, when to push up the contrast or what secret element to focus on. For most of the work in Seabird, which was taken between 2014 and 2018, he used a macro lens “which is basically like having a superpower,” he explains. “Looking at textures up close in photos feels a lot better than looking at textures up close real life. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s less effort or strain? Either way, people should really be looking at stuff more closely because it can be fun, gross, beautiful or cute.”
The work collected together in Seabird shouts this point of Bobby’s and will surely have many photographers hunting the web for a macro lens of their own ASAP. But aside from the actual logistics of what Bobby uses to photograph, his overall tone as a photographer is obvious from spread to spread. “I try to be funny and sincere in photography and in real life,” he says on this point. “I don’t really question my motives as a photographer too often. The times I’ve tried to sum up what it is I’m really trying to do with photography has only ever presented doubts,” he continues. In turn, Bobby admits that there’s no magic method to his photography work and as a result “it’s difficult for me to explain my style,” he says. “I’m just taking photos of stuff I like with as little hesitation as possible.”
With such variations and personality in Bobby’s portfolio of work to date, the photographer has also nestled himself in between both the fine art and editorial photography worlds. But, as Bobby rightly points out: “Art photography is such a difficult thing to categorise,” he says. “I think the fine arts like painting and sculpture are easier to identify as having a clear value as art objects, but with photography, it’s more complicated.” Consequently, Bobby sometimes has a tendency to worry his works “have nothing to say beneath their surface because they are so simple and therefore have less value as art. Which is maybe true – but that’s fine.”
And while we couldn’t disagree with this niggling doubt of his more, we do see the value in Bobby’s resulting creative stance: “I like making photos that get to the point. In most things in my life, I like to just get to the point." And, a point on artistic, eye-opening close-up photography Seabird certainly makes.
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