The work of New York-based artist Bobby Doherty, a former staff photographer at New York Magazine, is often associated with film, 35mm and vertical composition. But ever since he started taking editorial commissions, his focus has been on creating digital still lifes – often hyper-real and in lurid colours. “Now I’m known for doing super-digital studio stuff, which is cool because I like making that kind of work, but it’s nice to be able to step away from the studio and live outside,” he says. “It’s nice not to have to worry about the technical aspect and just go out with a camera and film.”
Seabird is a personal project – a book of moments – documenting everyday objects and landscapes. Doherty shot the images while wandering around New York City listening to audiobooks, and while on holiday in Japan, Mexico and England. In terms of method, he doesn’t like to overanalyse. “It’s hard to say why I took the photos I did,” he says. “I’d rather just take it and decide later whether I love it or hate it.” This means no re-shooting. The 29-year-old does tend to photograph the same thing “over-and-over”, though, and has “about a million” closeup shots of water drops on flower petals.
The First Picture Book (1930), a wordless photobook for young children, is what first inspired Doherty to take “straightforward” photographs. For this reason, every object in the series is presented as objectively as possible. The School of Visual Arts graduate says that when you take things that aren’t simple and try to redirect them into the frame of a photograph, you lose all their context and end up creating a new story for them. He says the series only gains “real meaning” when viewed as a collective; hence, the decision for a photobook and not an exhibition.
Even the seabird? Doherty says that when he shot that image, which is also the book’s title, the seabird was “hovering in mid-air” and “just felt special” – but the song Seabird by Alessi Brothers, which he was listening to at the time, is the main influence. I ask what emotions he hopes to evoke through his pictures, all taken on a Nikon F with either a macro lens or a zoom lens. “I hope someone looks at this book and feels like they know me,” he says. “I hope people look at the book and it makes them want to get on their knees and look at stuff.”
For more on Bobby Doherty’s work, go to his website. Seabird is published by Loose Joints, available from September, priced £35.