Photographer: John Roche's Minimalist Analog Instants

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A first look at the photographic work of John Roche gives one the impression that he or she is viewing earth’s last records. A muted color palette with a minimalist aesthetic results in what might be described as “post-apocalyptic serenity.” (Perhaps it is time we started to consider “post-apocalyptic serene” a serious photographic genre!)

This aesthetic is further served by the softness inherent to instant photography—when combined with minimalism, it gives something reminiscent of color field abstract expressionism. And, indeed, like the works of the abstract expressionists, his more minimal photos feel sublime bordering on ethereal.

The introduction of objects into this minimalism doesn’t seem to disrupt it. Roche often frames the shot to either make objects serve the abstraction, or strips them completely of context. The result gives the impression of trying to remember what life was like before the more abstract images.

With the surrounding abstraction giving little to no reference for judging an object’s size, the viewer is left to speculate. In this way, it feels more like the photos construct a world rather than represent ours. And, these photos often seem to represent a fractured, small part of the whole. (keeping in line with the now coined “post-apocalyptic serene.”)  

The muted palette of expired film often helps the objects to blend into their background, helping the photos maintain a somewhat sublime aesthetic.

As Roche’s photos become less abstract, they are served further by the imperfections of expired film. Faded edges giving notions of unsure memories. His color palette remaining largely unchanged, we are pushed deeper into the feeling that we are getting a glimpse of the last vestiges of a lost civilization.

His choice of scenes feels homogenous with the more abstract photos. I must admit, normally I wouldn’t be so quick to accept the representational with the abstract. But, in this case, they play together like memories play with emotions—the former giving context to the latter, and the latter justifying the exploration of the former.

A chair sits next to overgrowth, no longer being equipped to serve its purpose; an old mattress next to refuse, which has only dim light to ay on it; the skeleton of a billboard, advertising only memories to a wasteland.

Then we have his works featuring people. In the context of the rest of his photos, viewing these feels almost like a privilege—as though one is granted, finally, a glimpse of the memories of an individual from the world which the artist has created. These are the people to whom the billboard once advertised, perhaps; those who sat in the chair; those who, eventually, had no more use for a mattress..

Working with an already small medium, his choice to sometimes place people as small parts of a larger scene might seem counterintuitive. But, this just furthers notions of “memory” within his work. Both proximity and imperfections from expired film seem to define the strength of each memory.

Born in Ireland to an Irish father and Spanish mother, John moved to Spain at the age of 7. In Barcelona, John was introduced to instant photography by an instant film photographer who happened to own a store in the city. After purchasing his first polaroid camera at his friend’s store in, John fell in love with the medium and has been addicted to instant photography ever since.  

Perhaps his history living in very different countries and cultures is what has allowed him to see the world so uniquely through his photography. And, thus, creating for us a complete world of his own. The artist does not look at scenes within their larger context, but uses the decay of anonymity to provide the opportunity to tell ageless and untold stories.

John seeks to capture the simplicity of natural scenes, often focusing on subjects that appear to be isolated in the vastness of the surrounding environment. and does so successfully. In introducing subject, he furthers this by capturing the poetry of seemingly banal scenes and subjects while maintaining a space’s obscurity.

He considers his portraits incidental talismans of personal moments shared with his wife, Hazuki, and their five-year-old son, Sean. Furthermore, these portraits are never staged, never abstractly planned—giving the viewer a true intimate glimpse into the artist’s life. This fits perfectly with the sense one is given on an initial viewing of these photos. “Incidental talismans,” in fact, seeming to describe the rest of his photos as well—serene memories in what might otherwise be considered the mundane.

Connect with John Roche and see more of his photography on Tumblr!


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David Allen dropped out of school to start a video production company. Then, he went back to school to become a strength coach. This led to a Masters degree in mathematics. He now lives in Toulouse, France where he moonlights as an art photographer.


Community News: The 12.12 Project's Monthly Photo Contest

"Nostalgia" by Claudio Gombolii, winner for May 2017.

"Nostalgia" by Claudio Gombolii, winner for May 2017.

The 12.12 Project is a photography collective that is the brainchild of photographer Penny Felts. It was created in 2013 as a way for Penny to challenge herself and grow as a photographer, but also as a way to court inspiration. We are all aware that the Muse can be fickle at times. And so Penny’s idea was to invite eleven other photographers to participate, each person choosing a theme, and to create photos that involved those specific themes: Twelve photographers, twelve themes, twelve ways of seeing. Penny was hoping others would like the idea and that the synergy of being a part of a group would continue to generate inspiration for her and for others as well. The idea was a huge success. Since 2014, there has been 12.12 Project for women and for men, each group chooses its own themes. 

This year, the 12.12 Project decided to do something a little bit different, to bring the photographic community into the game, creating a monthly contest that is open to anyone who shoots instant film. The public is invited to create photos using the same themes that the women’s and men’s collectives explored that month. So what is the incentive to play? The winning photo from each month will be featured in the book that the Project puts together at the end of the season, along with photos from 12.12 Project members. The winners will also receive a printed copy of the book. Who among us doesn’t want to see our work in print? 

And so we, here at PRYME Editions would like to help promote and support the 12.12 Project and its monthly contest. We invite YOU, our readers,our friends, lovers of all forms of instant photography, to submit your photos for the October contest on the group’s Facebook Page. The two possible themes to explore this month in your work are “Ephemeral” and “If this were the last photo I ever took.” As long as instant film is used, any photograph representing your version of one of these ideas is fair game. If you want to take things a step further, you are also invited to use some kind of creative technique on the photo you make, such as an emulsion lift, using transparencies, multiple exposures, abusing or manipulating the film in any way you choose. 

The monthly photo contest will continue through March of 2018. You can refer to the Facebook page for regular updates and information.

You can connect with the 12.12 Lady’s Project on Instagram, with the 12.12 Men’s Project on Instagram, and with founder Penny Felts, also on Instagram. You can connect with previous winners feature here in this article: Lela Gruen, Claudio Gomboli, Randy Jennings, Sofia Bucci, Cory Wilson, Benjamin Joseph Rains


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Anne Silver is an instant photography aficionado who lives in Paris, France and is a member of the 12:12 Project. Connect with Anne Silver on her Website and on Instagram!