Adam Spiegelman is a New York based artist whose work focuses on the effects of isolation, loneliness, and fear within contemporary urban landscapes. His work is largely confessional in nature, and implicates his experiences with trauma, mental illness, and addiction.
How did you get interested in photography in the first place?
I first became interested in photography in middle school. Growing up, I was a very isolated child and spent a lot of time alone in the house. Photography felt like a bridge to experiencing the outside world. It served as a kind of proxy for interacting with places and people, and gave me a sense of purpose with which I could overcome some of my anxieties about not belonging. I kept it up through high school and college habitually and only recently realized that it was my passion.
You live in New York. Do you think the city reflects in your work?
In some ways, yes, but for the most part I don’t think the fact that the city I’m shooting is New York City matters to my photographs. While New York does offer a great quantity of the noir-ish nooks and crannies I gravitate towards, it is not my intention for any of my photographs to read immediately as a documentation of a place. I think that I am more interested in the emotions that urban landscapes are charged with more than recording the beauty of their architecture or their inhabitants. The focus is mostly on absence.
Would you say your work is very personal? In which sense?
I think that my work has to be inseparable from myself and my experiences, or else I wouldn’t have the energy to make it. My series, Exit Only, features photos that I have created using my own body as a prop and as characters and has a lot to do with my experiences with mental illness and addiction. I think the photographs you take are a reflection or yourself and your identity regardless of your intentions or attempts to distance yourself from them.
How do you decide who to shoot?
I primarily shoot people who I know very well and who I share a mutual sense of trust with. These people generally operate visually, anyways, and have a sense of what will look and feel compelling in a photograph. Much of the time I don’t specifically plan shoots (poses, props, lighting etc) with people because I like for them to maintain some agency and aid in the creative process. Ultimately, the photographs I want to take are photographs which express the joy and also the potential pain of connecting intimately.
Since your work is a lot about urban landscape and humans in it, is there a city you would always love to visit and work in?
Even though I have been there once and hated being there, Los Angeles certainly has no shortage of surreal elements to photograph. I think it might offer a nice daytime counterpoint to my photographs of New York after dark. The striations of visual language accumulated over decades is very apparent and, combined with the weather, has a destabilizing effect on your sense of time and place. Very noir and somewhat nauseating if you ask me.
What will you be working on next?
I plan on continuing to develop my series, Thin Places, which is composed of urban landscapes, and Exit Only, which is an exploration of my own psychological past and future. I have also begun experimenting with text and image and am moving in that direction for my next series, which will feature my own writing and photographs.