Long Island native photographer Jason Nocito doesn’t only spend his time shooting photos of himself evil dead style, chatting on 8-ball radio, or shooting for Vice or The Fader—he’s an artist too. His Pud books series is awesome. Like his brothers Pud 1 and Pud 2, Pud 3 will be published by Dashwood Books and is actually more on point: it really focuses on puddles. Interestingly, that doesn’t make the book about puddles—says Jason—it makes it about feelings, depression and epiphany. Pud 3 releases tomorrow concomitantly with the 2015 NYABF.
Tell us about “Pud 3”?
That one is very different than the other puddles books. The first book I’d ever made “Loads” with Aperture was based off a website I did. My process of taking photos is like an emotional flow. A lot of photographers work like that, at least I’ve read that way: the ideas formulate after.“Pud” maybe more intentional, but I think the genesis of the idea kind of came out of a few different things.
The focus comes gradually, doesn’t it? “Pud 1” is not very much about puddles.
The first one came about a few different ways. The first thing that was like that was this photo of some nail polish that had spilled out on the street, and I had seen it and took a photo. A friend of mine brought up this book—Ed Ruscha’s “Nine Swimming Pools and Broken Glass.”—I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to make that book?” It sat in my head for a long time. I didn’t really understand the work fully. When I moved back from Vancouver to New York, I was like, “what the fuck am I going to take photos of?” Every picture has already been made of New York. At the time, one of the things I did was get obsessed with going back to grad school so I could train myself, and get into a structured situation that would enable me to make work in a different way.
...How to apprehend New York?
I had been working so much commercially, which I love, but I also have this really strong desire to make things for non-commercial purposes. I didn’t know how to do that. It was really hard to do both. I thought grad school would be a great thing for that, and so I got obsessed with going to Yale.
“It’s not really about puddles. It’s about feelings.”
Did you go to Yale?
No. I applied twice, had a couple interviews—didn’t get in. Through that process, I had met a lot of people. I talked to a lot of people about photography. I went to a lot of crits, and listened to their thing.
When was that?
2011 or 2012. The first interview was a disaster. I got really depressed after I did that. I applied again; and that summer I was like, “I’m going to make pictures. I’m going to do it here, in New York. I’m going to walk around.” This is when I tried attempts at taking pictures of puddles around the neighborhood. One day, I rented an 8x10 camera, and walked outside with it, and took a photo of a puddle. I’d never used the camera before, never done anything. A lot of the time I spent in New York, especially at the time, being really depressed about not getting into grad school and being let down, was walking around the city, looking down. You know how it is when you live in the city; your gaze is always, “look down, move forward, keep on going.” Looking into the grime, the street. Taking street photography literally about the street.
It’s about puddles, but it’s not really about puddles. It’s about feelings. It’s just me making pictures at the end of the day of stuff around my neighborhood.
What time of the day?
I usually like it early. 5:00 AM, 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM. There are days where I’m riding my bike, and I see something, and I run home and grab the camera, and run back out and try to get it. If it’s midday, it’s a little easier because the light is straight up above. It’s tough making stuff in the dead of winter outside. The puddles are all frozen, and it’s just cold out at 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning, walking around with a giant 8x10 camera—I did it, and my hands almost froze off. A lot of the stuff in this book was at 5:00 AM or 6:00 AM.
Is it about finding beauty in the ordinary?
The idea about beauty is really important because I definitely always felt like I’ve not tried to make beautiful pictures. That’s because I’m attracted to something that’s a little more off, or weird. It was never really about beauty, but the puddle books and the puddle pictures definitely had more of that intention. My attempt at making something beautiful is still cynical, comedic, sort of making fun of myself, making fun of photography in some way. In my mind, that’s what it does.