Art Interview Interview

California-born photographer Jerry Buttles may have graduated in Art at the California State University, but it was only after moving to Europe and working behind the scenes at Paris Fashion Week that he cemented his love of photography. Raw and distinctive, his aesthetic is built from his travels through diverse cultures and his new photo book, Almost Home, presents work from these global journeys.

Exploring the juxtaposition of love and loss, and also destruction and faith, the New York-based photographer’s latest publication comes together as a visual record of his experiences, from LA, to Thailand, London to Japan.

Having been spotted by Japanese designer Daisuke Obana – founder of N.Hoolywood – Buttles was invited to present his images at the designer’s Mister Hollywood stores in Tokyo and Osaka, marking the photographer’s first personal exhibition in Japan. In anticipation of the event, Buttles talked us through the inspirations behind Almost Home.

Stefania Deiana: How and where did you get inspiration for your visual diary Almost Home? And what made you want to turn the photographs into a book?
Jerry Buttles: Almost Home was inspired by a steady compilation of photographs taken over the course of a few years. I noticed a pattern of what I was seeing and shooting. I thought that a book would be the best way to display the content. When it came time to layout the book the imagery flowed in such a way that using somewhat similar images that were charged with different emotions really came to life. 

Stefania: You said that your intent within this book is to exhibit the juxtaposition of love and loss, can you explain it?
Jerry: By using imagery that can be read both ways. For example, a color photograph of flowers can convey love and happiness and a desaturated image of flowers can show loss, sympathy, or death. It all depends on the mood or composition of the photograph and how it is used. 

Stefania: What is the message you wanted to send via these images?
Jerry: Reality. I wanted the viewer to feel like they were present. To feel the emotions that the subject matter inflicts. Love, Lust, Fear, Loss, Death, Hate, Pride, Emptiness, and so on. How life can be hard but also beautiful at the same time. How as humans were are so caught up and lost in emotion and thought. How these emotions and thoughts run our lives. These images are a reflection of me being present. It is a meditation. 

“[It’s about] how as humans were are so caught up and lost in emotion and thought. How these emotions and thoughts run our lives. These images are a reflection of me being present. It is a meditation.”

Jerry Buttles, 'Almost Home'

Stefania: How have your travels influenced your work? Is there any particular place where you felt more inspired and productive?
Jerry: All have been an influence. Not one particular place inspired more than another. They are all so different and have their own uniqueness. Being able to see and experience so many different cultures is a blessing. I believe that it has had significant power in shaping my perspective on life. It is very essential as a human to experience what life is like for others. It keeps one humble and curious. 

Stefania: Do people in different cultures and countries react differently to you photographing them?
Jerry: Yes and no. A lot of the time depending on the shot I don’t really ask for permission. And when I do it seems to backfire. Some people are honoured and are super into it. Others don’t even budge on the idea. This can be frustrating at times but maybe some photographs are not meant to be taken.  

Stefania: Were you inspired by any other photographers work for this series?
Jerry: No not really. The inspiration for this piece of work was mainly inspired by everyday life itself. And by my interpretation of what I found interesting. 

Stefania: You have created a limited edition t-shirt with N. Hoolywood, how did that collaboration come about?
Jerry: The T-shirt is something that N. Hoolywood does with every artist that has an exhibition. They usually only print them for the Osaka store exhibitions but this is the first exhibition that they are doing it for the Tokyo store. So they will be available at both locations. 

Stefania: You will show the images in Tokyo and Osaka, can you tell us about the set-up? How did you want it to reflect and showcase the images?
Jerry: I wanted to keep the display consistent with the imagery. Raw and straight forward. The space is very interesting, it is a converted attic at the top floor of N. Hoolywood’s Shibuya store which is a house. It’s on the smaller side so the show will be more intimate and I have plans for the layout that will help with the flow of the imagery.

Jerry Buttles, 'Almost Home'

‘Jerry Buttles: Almost Home’ will be on display at Mister Hollywood, Tokyo from 8th April–9th April and then at Mister Hollywood Osaka from 15th April–16th April