Many of you know Adam Goldberg from his recent run in the Fargo TV series, or maybe in a little movie called Saving Private Ryan. You know, the “I wanna dance!” guy from Dazed and Confused. Yes, we mean the OG Adam Goldberg, not the sitcom guy of the same name. You’d definitely recognize him if you saw him. Did you know that on top of acting and directing, he was also an accomplished photographer? No? Well, now you do, and you can thank us later.
Equal party artsy, moody, and neurotic, Goldberg takes his work full circle by using digitally native Instagram to showcase not only scans from his collection of retro-cool cameras and expired films, but his filmmaking chops as well. His latest project is 15-second clips of abstract video set to clips from musicians, such as this one:
Read on to check out our interview with him on his unique take on Instagram use, then head over to our own account @thedailybeast to see his weekend takeover. Who says Instagram isn’t art?
Everyone knows you as an actor, but how did you get involved with photography?
I always had a camera as a kid. I was a bit of a photo student, but after nearly setting myself and darkroom on fire when I was 14—still not sure what kind of brew I managed to concoct to sent me fleeing the room in a cloud of chemicals looking like Pigpen—only recently did I begin developing film again. I’m also a director and have always experienced the world visually, seeing things with a detached photographer’s eye. It doesn’t necessarily make for the most mindful living experience, but it turns out some decent photos. I was always a big instant film photographer, obsessively keeping a “real world blog,” formally known as a journal, for many years. I’d paste my Polaroids into the pages of these large journals each night before I wrote.
I put down my favorite film cameras when digital began to emerge as an ostensibly viable alternative, but I really began to lose my passion for photography. Then a few years ago I picked them up again and along with that, expanded my arsenal, or my hoard, as my wife might refer to it, and began shooting a variety of larger formats: 120, 4x5, 8x10, with an emphasis on (now) expired instant films for those medium and large format cameras, as well as some of the Impossible Project stuff for my integral Polaroid cameras.
How do you use Instagram? Has it influenced the way you shoot?
Initially I began using Instagram the way most people do, which is to take incidental photos and treat (edit) them, sometimes for comic purposes. I had a series called #…..face where I used a third party app to superimpose my face on various objects, usually beer. At one point I was using this crazy third party app called InstaCRT, a “real world filter” which sends your file to some room in Sweden and it gets photographed off an old security monitor or something, then gets sent back to you, all in about 30 seconds. I liked the idea of it begin a tangible thing, or at least turning the digital image into something like a tangible thing. I definitely had fun with the filters for a while, but it was a slippery slope to those over processed photos that left me feeling icky. Eventually I got past it, and mainly I now post my analog photos. Since so many of the photos I take are instant, I’m often posting them the same day anyway. Polaroids, after all, were the original instant photo experience. Seems fitting. Occasionally I will post, like, a picture of my camera or something. But, in spite of my Instagram bio “mainly pictures of lattes,” no overhead shots of lattes.
Do you see a correlation between your acting and directing and your social media use?
Oh, yeah. Yeah I do. I keep trying to bend social media to my somewhat avant, arguably pretentious, experiments. I’ve had it with that word getting a bad wrap—I’m pretentious and proud! Sometimes the format bends with me, other times it snaps back and hits me in the face.
Vine was as close to I got, in those early days, to a sort of mainstream audience digging the short visual and aural experiments I have been messing with on some level since I was a kid. I would employ devices in those Vines that I had employed to an extent in music videos or even the feature films I had made. My flirtation with Internet fame didn’t last, which was inevitable once the app got more popular, particularly when people were no longer hindered by not being able to upload stuff, etc. But it was strange funny chapter for me. My wife and I concluded that I was most palatable in six-second doses. And ultimately not really even that. Maybe split second doses. Instagram is good for that.
As you note, many of your Instagram posts are film scans. What do you think film’s place in the photo world is, and does it have a future?
I can’t imagine it not having a future. I mean, I just find it so hard to believe that artists, at the very least, won’t continue to see its virtue. Both aesthetically, which I think is undeniable if you compare, but also in terms of how it creates a necessary structure or even impediment. When I have only 10 6x7 frames to shoot, I’m really careful. This is not to say I don’t experiment, but I’m so much more thoughtful. The ratio of digital images I shoot to those I like is absurdly disproportionate compared to that of the film I get back from the lab, particularly when it comes to medium or large format. Sometimes I’ll find nearly an entire roll of 120 usable or “postable” in some fashion. I am just more considerate when shooting film.
Same goes for filmmaking. I just made my third feature, and my first shot digitally, on the Red (camera system). It felt like I spent more hours trying to get that thing to look like the movies I had made on film than I did shooting the movie. I don’t know. The future looks bleak indeed for film lovers and users. But there is a stubborn community of brilliant film shooters out there, as well as these great companies making new film—like Cinestill for instance, and Film Ferrania, plus New 55 (a new 4x5 Polaroid with negative coming out), and certainly Impossible Project, that give one faith.
A lot of your images are very surreal. Why is that? What are you usually trying to convey with an image?
My inner life maybe?
Regarding my music (The Goldberg Sisters), and probably my photography too, I have been asked about my drug use. It consists largely of IBS related products. I’m way too fucked up to begin with to do hallucinogens. That would pretty much flip the switch, and “see ya’ Adam.” I’ve always felt I experience a kind of psychedelic uneasiness as well as, though not as often as I would like, a beatitude which I like to try and convey through a variety of mediums.
Also, at the risk of continuing to sound like a pretentious douchebag, I just like things that look pretty. Sometimes that’s a face on the street, often it’s my wife’s gorgeous one, sometimes it’s a nightmare; sometimes it’s just a color palette. I don’t really put that much thought into it. I think there’s a lack of cohesion in my stuff, for better or worse, because of it.
Who are some of your favorite Instagram accounts?
Hard to choose, and I don’t want to offend by exclusion. I’ll go with one per “category” I guess. Ben Parks, who has become a good friend, is a brilliant film photographer. We’ve been collaborating a bit. His stuff is like no other. There are so many great film people I follow, I’m afraid I’ll leave somebody out, so I’ll leave it at Ben. On the other end of the spectrum is my brilliant bizarre friend, Steven Erdman. An artist, designer, musician, showman, collector of obscure pop culture history and things, and an absurdist above all else, his social profiles need some love. His Instagram account is appropriately ridiculous and funny. I’m a tattoo collector, most of mine done by the gorgeous grey and black fine line artist, Mark Mahoney, but he doesn’t have an Instagram account. I do follow his shop, @shamrocksocialclub, and also three brilliant artists from the shop: the legendary @freddy_negrete, his son, @booboonegrete, and @dr_woo_ssc, whose modern take on super fine line stuff has become something of an Instagram sensation.