A good photograph is something that you can’t stop staring at, or at least for Joshua Gordon it is. The photographer turned clothes designer is becoming somewhat of a rising star both at home and abroad for his striking pictures and cutting-edge design. His blog and label, FucknFlithy, along with his work for numerous fashion spreads, has pushed Gordon beyond the realm of hobbyist and elevated him to a standout figure of today’s Irish subculture.
Currently based in Manchester, Gordon emerged on the scene a few years ago like a creative bang in a barren Irish wasteland. Not only boasting a portfolio of photography, which includes work for clothing labels such as Lazy Oaf and stores like Urban Outfitters, Gordon, with FucknFlithy, is also a glorified next-generation businessman.
One could reasonably argue that this is an age of commercialised photography. For the beanie clad hipster, an SLR camera has become as intrinsic to his identity as the cup of black coffee and cigarette in his hand. A proliferation of not always the most inspiring kind; it can be difficult to find amongst the precocious images something of worth or longevity.
When it comes to today’s plethora of aspiring photographers, Gordon is nonchalant in his response: “Maybe in a year they’ll start and then they’ll just give up, and it will just be the people who were at it already. I don’t think it’s a massively big deal. All the people running around with SLRs aren’t very good anyway.” Gordon is certainly one of the few that has managed to take his photography to the next level.
Beginning as what could be termed a rolling page of photographic inspiration, Gordon’s blog developed into a forum for art, featuring and discussing the work of iconic photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark and Jürgen Teller. It’s a tribute to some of Gordon’s biggest influences.
The inspiration Gordon draws from these iconic names can certainly already be seen within his photography, but is about to become all the more pertinent as the young Irish native is looking to turn his lens towards documentary work: “I’d love to do some documentary photography projects. I want to do something on the sex industry, taking pictures of escorts and their homes, and really weird, seedy stuff.”
Now Gordon is undoubtedly seeking to push away any titles of fashion photographer, as he says: “I don’t really like the title of fashion photography; it tends to all be really cheesy photos of badly dressed girls in abandoned houses. I like taking portraits of people.” For the time being his focus lies firmly on what he knows best: friends, parties, and day-to-day life.
Gordon’s work is certainly striking, containing an urban rawness that enables at times an eerie closeness between subject and viewer. For him this is the majesty of portrait work, encapsulating a person’s qualities in an instant. “I just really love taking portraits. Trying to capture someone’s personality and what they’re about in one picture. I just find it really interesting.”
This isn’t about a social message by any manner of meaning. For Gordon his responsibility lies in the aesthetics, while the interpretation is for the viewer to construct: “I’m more focused on taking really, really broad interesting photos, more so than spreading a message to other people.”
As for inspiration from his native city, Gordon is slightly more reluctant to attribute too much, if any, credit. “There isn’t really an Irish creative hub. If there is I haven’t really witnessed it. There’s a few key people doing interesting things but it wouldn’t be like London or New York or anything. It’s the same in Manchester, there isn’t a massive amount of people to collaborate with or create things with but I tend to just work on my own anyway.”
It’s important to point out that Gordon isn’t wholly disparaging of the Irish artistic scene as he emphasises that the lack of inspiration he received from home is not an insult to what goes on there. As he puts it: “There’s lots of interesting stuff going on [in Dublin] but I’d more so take influence from heads in London and people taking pictures in New York in the 80s, like Bruce Davidson and all that.”
While his retrospection in terms of other work is evident, Gordon admonishes a similar approach when it comes to his own work. “I’m just thinking about shoots I’m going to do in the future and not really the old ones.” It’s clear the photographer does not take himself too seriously. It can be difficult at times to make out what Gordon is saying as he strains to supersede the noise emanating from his roommate’s loud interjections in the background; these are the people that form the basis of Gordon’s current work, however are not so accommodating when it comes to interviews.
If Gordon’s ethos behind good photography is creating “something that you can’t stop staring at,” then perhaps he has already, at such a young age, achieved his aim. The Dubliner is far more humble in his own estimations however, insisting there’s much room for improvement: “I’m just trying to create strong, timeless photos, and I’m nowhere near that point yet. I haven’t been consistently working hard enough on it to get to that level, to the level I hope to take it one day, of just really strong, gritty, intense photographs that people can look at in 50 years and think: ‘Fuck, how did that image come about?’”