Jamie Goodsell is a photographer living in Nashville, TN. He shoots portraits and concert photography for Third Man Records and has been documenting the local scene for a long time. Read our interview with Jamie on his influences, tools, creative process, where he goes to escape, and some tips on getting the perfect shot. Keep up with Jamie on the internet at jamiegoodsell.com and @jamiegoodsell.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jamie and I’m a photographer. I spend a lot of my time looking for rare surf records and I try to be on a skateboard as much as possible.
What’s your role at Third Man? How did you get there?
I do lots of different things at Third Man Records; luckily one of them has been doing in-house photography for the past five years. I interned back in 2012, so I could get credits for college and thankfully I’m still there doing what I love. I’m grateful for the experience and I’ve learned a lot working there.
Who’s been a memorable subject since working there? Is there a particular shoot that you’re most proud of?
There have been so many people that have come through there and I know how lucky I am to have access to that kind of thing—I definitely don’t take it for granted. I love music, so it’s been really incredible to be able to fuse that with photography. I think one of the most memorable experiences was getting about five minutes with Eddie Vedder for a portrait session and it’s definitely one of the shoots I’m most proud of.
When did photography pique your interest? How did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
I’ve always had a camera around since I was a kid, whether it was taking pictures at the beach, or documenting my friends in high school. It’s always been a tool for me to remember the importance of my past. It brings me a lot of joy to go through old pictures and remember how different things were then. I think it’s important to hang on to the past a little bit—not too much—but at the very least respect where you come from.
As far as wanting to do it for a living, that happened when I was a little older. The first time I was exposed to the masters of photography was in my high school darkroom class—that opened me up to people like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mary Ellen Mark, William Eggleston, etc. I saw photography differently, thanks to that class, and definitely had the realization that it was something I would want to pursue for a living if possible. The idea that you can translate whatever you have in your brain through a camera, onto a print, and maybe eventually into a gallery was a new concept for me at the time. It really blew me away and I’m forever grateful to that teacher for opening me up to a whole new world.
What’s your background? Did you study photography in school?
I joined the Navy right out of high school. I really wanted to go to college but didn’t have the funds to do it, so that was the way I decided to get there. I earned my BFA in Photography in 2012 from The Art Institute of Nashville, TN.
I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without going to college, but you don’t need a college education to be a photographer. I think you just need to work hard, love taking pictures, and try to learn about it as much as you can. Most of the successful, working photographers that I know, never stepped foot in a classroom—but I imagine that if they had the opportunity, they’d take any chance they could to learn, because it’s what they live for. That’s what it’s all about I think.
Film or digital?
I think its just preference. I love both for different reasons. I love digital for the ease and turnaround time on professional jobs, I love film for the ability to slow down and think about what you’re taking. There’s validity to both and in my opinion you can’t really compare them. I will say, there’s nothing like being in a darkroom.
Have you been experimenting with any new techniques? Anything you’re curious about experimenting with?
I finally got back in the darkroom earlier this year (the last time I was in one was high school). Re-learning how to develop black and white film was so gratifying and really pushed me to start making more work again. One of my next goals is to develop color film—that would be super cool to be able to do that.
Which is your trustiest camera?
Trustiest? I’d have to say my Canon Mark III. I use it for most of my professional work and it’s been an incredible workhorse—it’s produced some of my favorite images for sure. Favorite camera? My Yashica Mat-124 that was given to me as a graduation present by one of my amazing instructors/friends. It’s a twin-lens reflex camera; meaning that one of the lenses takes the picture and the other is used for the viewfinder—which is at the top of this particular camera. I love the square format and the fact that some of my heroes used this same style of camera (Richard Avedon, Gordon Parks, Vivian Maier). Like I said before, film really allows you to slow down and think about what you’re documenting, think about what’s really in front of you, and why it’s important enough to use one precious single frame.
When do you know you’ve gotten The Shot?
Sometimes I don’t to be honest! There are certainly times when it feels like I got it and then didn’t—that’s always a bummer, but you learn from it the more you shoot. I try to treat my digital camera as much like a film camera as possible—which is hard sometimes—but it helps me slow down and really think about what I’m taking. It’s easy to just shoot off hundreds of shots at a show, but I think when you’re actively reminding yourself to slow down and just be in a moment with what’s going on around you, then you can really capture something beautiful.
Who are some of your influencers? Anyone we should know about?
I could talk about Richard Avedon all day. To me, he’s the greatest portrait photographer to ever live. When I was in college, I was really inspired by Rob Howard’s work—and I’m still very much inspired by his work today. I met Rob when I was shooting Bonnaroo back in 2011. His photos definitely gave me the inspiration to take better portraits and I have to give him credit for that. There are so many photographers out there that have so much talent. I’m always attracted to Neil Krug’s work—I know that’s a well known one that wouldn’t really surprise anyone—but if you haven’t seen his work, do yourself a favor and go check it out. I have a whole page of links to different photographers on my blog that’s become a good resource to go back to for inspiration.
What’s the story behind your vintage Sidewalk Surfin' series?
It all started on eBay—as many things do, I guess. I was looking up vintage skateboards and came across an old image of what looked like two sisters standing on this old Penny board. From there, I just started to collect anything I could find that had the same kind of warmth and character. These images reminded me of what it felt like to start skateboarding as a kid and I just kept picking them up whenever I could.
Where do you go to escape?
Honestly, my record room. There’s really nothing more satisfying than looking through them and just putting on whatever I’m feeling in the moment—latest jam is the Mississippi Records: Blind Owl Wilson compilation. Anything Numero Group does is solid gold too! I would also credit the darkroom as being an escape for me—it’s certainly a peaceful space.
Do you have any favorite galleries or secret spots you go to for inspiration?
I travel for inspiration. Leaving Nashville is very inspiring to me. Not that I don’t like it here or anything, but getting out of the city for me is the most inspiring thing ever. Heading out to the country, smelling fresh air, and especially visiting my family in Upstate New York, makes me happier than I can even describe here in words. I’d love to have a piece of land some day and just be far away from the city. Nashville has been really great to me, though, there’s so much to do at any given time, but most importantly for me it’s the relationships that I’ve built while I’ve lived here. There is so much talent living here and I’m so grateful to be surrounded by that right now.
Anything coming up that you’re looking forward to?
I’ve been documenting local artists here in Nashville with my Yashica Mat on Ilford black and white film. I get to learn about them, see where they make their work, and then go process and develop the film I took of them. Seeing pictures show up on a roll of film is magical every single time, so I really can’t wait to do more. I’ve got a couple of things down the road and can’t really talk about them just yet, but I’m very stoked to put them out into the world.
Where can we see more of your work?
Thank you Jamie for your words and art. All photos by Jamie Goodsell.
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