Master Shots: John Goodman

Photographer John Goodman interviewed by Sharon Kitchens

Breakfast / April 1987

What were the most important things you learned as a photographer’s assistant?  What does your work have in common with Mr. (Minor) White’s?

Minor White was a brilliant mentor who taught me the difference between seeing and looking.  Our work is extremely different in that my subjects are people, bodies, movement and time.  Minor worked as an abstract expressionist using primarily inanimate objects, forms, light and composition to create his images.

After studying with Minor I began to shoot for the Real Paper based in Cambridge Massachusetts.  I never worked as an assistant and learned by doing. I developed my way of seeing by experimenting continually, spending most of my waking hours thinking about photography as a means of self-expression.  Minor had taught me how to see and my task was to figure out what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

What is your earliest memory of photography?  How did it come to you or how did you find it?

As a kid I was fascinated by a Polaroid camera, a gift on my 10th birthday. I loved the immediacy, the instant gratification it provided and lived with that camera by my side.  It all was very exciting for an impressionable young boy. All the wonders that had been experienced in the darkroom were now part of the picture taking process, right there in front of you and your subject.  I knew then that I wanted to be a photographer.

What (project) do you want to do next?

I am working on my next book which involves editing  30+ years of imagery. It is an expansive time of self discovery as I go through my photographs, thought processes, see what I had chosen and what I overlooked.   I had an exhibition this past year at Yezerski Gallery of color images from the mid 1970’s.  Kodachrome and extachrome slides that I had just put away one day 20 years ago and just recently discovered and printed for the first time.  It has been very gratifying to edit myself in another mindset.

What is your most personal image?  What is the story behind it?

It’s impossible for me to pick “my most personal image” or my favorite.  They all are such a part of me emotionally as each one was it’s own unique world of events.  A special moment for me was when I saw The Times Square Gym for the first time, took a picture, crossed 42nd Street  and entered a world that changed my life as a photographer.

How do you reconcile yourself when creating an image and the final is not what you first conceived?

The process of photography should be a discovery and you have to resist the urge to control and let thing be and breathe.  If you know exactly where you are going photographically you are probably not going anywhere.  The contradiction is that your best images ultimately are the easiest to take as they present themselves to you. Think on your feet, listen, look, see and follow your instincts. The process of being a photographer requires you to stay in touch with all those forces, a healthy endeavor.

Quincy Gas / 1973

La Grange Street / Boston Combat Zone / 1975

The Schlitz Boys / Boston Combat Zone / 1978