The Thin Line Project by James Luedde will be on display at the Rialto Theatre from January-February. Gallery reception on February 23rd. More details here.
What drives your creative process and motivates you to create?
From a general sense it started in an innocent way picking up an old film camera when I was in high school. A camera that my dad left with my mom through their divorce when I was 6 or so years old. Fast forward to today and the meaning of what I do runs deeper than I could have ever imagined. I grew up and as I matured so did my photography work. When you’re able to connect your work with some purpose on how you live your life I would say there’s a natural motivation associated with that. It seems to become necessary.
How did you begin photography? Were you trained or self-taught?
I am a self-taught photographer. I’ve always gravitated toward candid photography. Almost 10 years ago during a trip to San Francisco I discovered the excitement and freedom of shooting on the streets. Early on it lacked meaning, it’s not like that when I go out and shoot today though. The photos and meaning are often equal parts about the subject in the photo and the photographer. I’ve learned that if you let it happen it will, sometimes the meaning sinks in later.
Speaking of style and direction, what inspired your creative process?
Through most of my adult life I seem to feel as if I’m walking a thin line between relative greatness and to what I would describe as total destruction. The overwhelming internal dialogue creates an intense pressure and I feel like that was real driver and inspiration for this project. You can put whatever label to that. Getting out in the streets with my camera became my way of coping with life. It became a cycle almost. I didn’t know it as “the project” started, I just went with it, and I had to. I was able to create and express myself and in the process connect with others who I often felt like were saving me, ironically in some cases. There’s a realness about it all, an ability to connect with others for a second while taking a deep dive into yourself. There are elements of despair, darkness, light, connections and curiosity depicted here.
What is the story behind this exhibit?
A realization struck after a photo and conversation with a man named “George” one early evening on March 12, 2017 in Downtown Tampa. George asked me if I was a tourist, asked about photography and whether I was going to develop the photos I was taking. He wondered what I was doing wandering around with a camera that day. He talked fast and rambled with excitement. I saw his good spirit but also saw his mind maybe doesn’t work like yours. And you just wonder how the brain can do this or how our world doesn’t have fixes or sufficient support for these issues. And whether that will be me. It took me days if not weeks to process my thoughts after that interaction. The Thin Line phrase or idea came from my own thoughts and feelings of walking that line with George being on one side. With help, through the following weeks and months I would learn more about my motivation with respect to my personal photography work. With help, I eventually discovered links to my personal work and my subconscious mind. Learning the balance required to keep going…. I realized sharing my story is important and helpful. Through this work I hope to foster transparency in myself and others, raise awareness for mental health issues and to simply tell some of my story. The thin line is the whole game.
Do you have a favorite piece in this show?
My favorite photograph in this project was shot in NYC on September 10th 2017 shortly after it got dark. The trip to NYC was a solo trip with the only purpose to wander, shoot and challenge myself by myself. I found myself gravitating toward children as subjects in many of my photos from the first few days during my trip, something I hadn’t done before. One night I was riding a bike back to my room and I rode up a relatively quiet street to see a man and young girl sitting down eating on the step of an apartment or condo building. Lit only by the interior lights I turned around, by the time I was set and shooting the girl was playing with a basketball while whom appears to be her father cleaned up the leftovers. I fired off a few shots and away they went into the building. The impact of the photo and why I even stopped to shoot it didn’t sink in until the next morning as I came to tears digging deep into its meaning and the overall theme from the trip. An eventual connection to my subconscious mind. Something that only happens when you let go.
Outside of creating, what else brings you joy? What are some of your hobbies?
Outside of personal work I also do commercial, marketing, sports and event photography. I have a nice balance with exciting plans to keep building up and out. Ultimately, I’m here for my kids who are both soon to be adults. I also value and love the network of friends that has blossomed over the last few years. I met so many talented people, it really inspires you to do more and get involved.