Interview With Photographer Jim Nooney

What is it about a camera image that tends to pull us like a magnet? I have some theories. Here are a few of them:

The word 'capture' is apt. The moment is recorded in living color (or black and white) and can be revisited at will.

It is one thing to be a live spectator, and another thing all together to see what we may have missed, or to see it from another person's artistic spin or point-of-view.

An image is a window into worlds we may never physically travel, but through the photographer's lens, we are given a glimpse of understanding.

Though we may not know the whole story behind an image, pictures carry meaning without needing words.

When we are anticipating beauty, and the photograph does not disappoint, it is a positive experience. It is a visual high.

The work of Photographer Jim Nooney is definitely a visual high.

Jim Nooney

The Pain Passes But the Beauty Remains

How long have you been working in photography?

I bought my first Nikon in 1985 and got pretty serious about photography soon afterwards.

How did you get into photography? What was your "Ah-hah!" moment?

I think the main reason I got into photography was being exposed at a very young age to the brilliant images in LIFE magazine. My parents had a subscription and I remember eagerly waiting for each week’s new issue to arrive in the mail.

My “Ah hah” moment was probably when I got the first roll of film back from my Nikon. While none of the photos were particularly great I remember being thrilled that I could permanently capture on film a scene that in some way spoke to me.

Is there a favorite camera type you use? Other favorite photographic equipment or software?

I currently use a Nikon D70 and an Olympus E-P1 camera. I can’t call either one a favorite because both have pluses and minuses but both produce great photos.

If I had to choose an essential piece of equipment I’d have to say Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is almost as important to my work as my cameras because so often the files from the cameras are just the initial starting point for the final images that I’ll produce with Photoshop.

What do you like about participating in photography as an art form? How does photography serve as self-expression for you?

I like to think of photography as the art of creating images. Creating my images makes me feel alive...creating my images makes me feel a connection to the world...creating my images makes my soul smile.

This Must Be What Paradise Is Like

Looking at pictures like “This Must Be What Paradise Is Like” as an example, I noticed that some of your pictures are color and some are black and white. How do you decide which way to go? How do you think the visual message is affected using black and white versus color in a photograph?

Except on very rare occasions I shoot all my work in color and then decide which way to go when I’m editing the images. I’d say black and white has a more timeless feel while color often feels more contemporary. For my work color often seems to have more energy while black and white says “tranquility”.

An exercise I like to suggest to people is taking a favorite color image from their computer and converting it black and white (or vice versa). I’m always amazed how the two different styles can convey totally different feelings and moods from the exact same subject.

What do you think a photo needs to make it 'good'?

A good photo should always provoke a reaction from the viewer. You may love the image or totally dislike it but if it makes you feel nothing then I have failed to make a “good” photo.

What makes you see the potential for a photograph as something needing to be recorded visually?

A lot of things can make me see the potential for a good photo. After all these years I sort of run a subconscious checklist through my mind when I look at a scene. A few of the questions might be: Is the subject doing something extraordinary or something very ordinary? Is there a quality to the light that demands attention? Is there a pattern or combination of colors, textures, shapes , etc. that caught my eye and demands to be photographed?

Eleanor Rigby

When I viewed the photo “Eleanor Rigby,” I thought this was a very striking image. Leafless trees, massive church, cemetery stones. Then I read the description you wrote underneath, which I will here quote verbatim: “ This shot was taken in the graveyard at Trinity Church in the spring of 2005. Located just a few blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center, Trinity Church is an oasis of tranquility in the frenzied blur of lower Manhattan life.” The actual place gives the photo some extra poignancy. Would you mind talking about what you felt when you took that photo in terms of what you wanted to capture?

That day in the Trinity Church cemetery I was very conscious of the proximity to Ground Zero. I think I was in some way trying to capture the inescapable bond between life and death and how a place like Trinity really drives that idea home.

Do you set out on photographic expeditions, or do you take a camera with you everywhere just in case you see a picture you want to take?

Most of the time I have a destination in mind but sometimes when I reach my destination I will just wander around and let the images develop spontaneously.

Is there a particular subject matter you find yourself drawn to when you photograph?

In terms of subjects I’m definitely a generalist…I like to shoot everything. Landscapes, architecture, sports, portraits, abstracts and flowers would be a few of my favorites but I don’t think I could ever just shoot one subject consistently.

Would you mind describing your creative process?

The process varies with the image. Sometimes I’ll have a very strong preconceived idea for an image and will just work until I know I have what I want. Other times seeing one image on the screen of my camera will almost immediately inspire a whole series of related images. Sometimes a quote or song lyric will pop into my head and inspire a change in direction as well.

Abandoned Barn

When I was looking at "Abandoned Barn" I was struck by its remoteness and, of course, its state of ruin at the time it was taken. Why do you think pictures like that strike a chord with viewers?

I think viewers respond to images like this one because it reminds us of the ongoing struggle between a need for solitude and a desire for companionship. The ruined barn could be a metaphor for our mortality…or maybe people just like old decrepit barns!

Beneath the Kisses of Night

I noticed you refer to songs and poetry often in the descriptions. Your titles themselves tend to be very poetic, such as "Beneath the Kisses of Night." I am guessing that music and poetry have had an impact in your life?

Music is my other passion in life. I’ve always wanted to learn to play an instrument but so far I haven’t done that. In college a good friend once told me that I look like a guitar player. I do like working with words and images to try and find those that really complement each other.

Come Fly With Me


You seem to value nostalgia as a subject for some of your photos. “Come Fly With Me" and "Just Play It Cool Boy"and definitely "Carnival."There is definitely a sense of the past. Why do you think we are so fascinated with nostalgia in our culture? What do you think the photos speak to?

I think we are fascinated with nostalgia because our modern culture relentlessly tries to keep us in the here and now. I don’t think you should totally live in the past but you also shouldn’t discount your history. I think nostalgic images speak to a desire to simplify life…to get back to the “good old days”.


When you took the picture for "Snake" I wonder how close you actually had to get to the snake to get the shot you wanted? :)

Well I could tell you a tall tale but in fact that snake was behind a reassuringly thick piece of glass! I also used a zoom lens for that “in your face” feeling.

Bring On the Night

"Bring On the Night." There is something so stately about the building and yet it looks like it has been abandoned. It has a very mysterious quality. Could you tell about where this one was taken?

That shot was taken in Hoboken, New Jersey which is a city best known for hosting the first baseball game in America and for being the setting for the classic film “On The Waterfront”. Hoboken is just across the Hudson River from New York City and there’s a definite mixture of old and new throughout the town.

We'll Always Have Paris

"We'll Always Have Paris." There is the duality of a letter and a flower fused together so subtly. What made you think of the potential of using an envelope for a photograph?

I had seen images from some other photographers using the same idea. It kind of goes back also to that nostalgic yearning we discussed earlier. Handwriting is almost becoming endangered these days and using it as an element in an image is a subtle yet very effective way to add impact and appeal.

Are there photographers whose work you admire?

Absolutely. I love Lewis Hines’ work documenting the construction of the Empire State Building. For years I’ve enjoyed the results of Anton Corbijn’s dream job as U2’s main photographer. Just recently I discovered the incredible photo essays of David H Wells. Also the web is filled with fantastic work on sites like flickr, Red Bubble, Etsy and Google+.

Is there a 'dream place' you wish you could visit for a photo shoot? Why would you choose to go there?

My dream is to someday do an extended shoot in Ireland. I’d go there because I’m often drawn to places where the old and new are constantly in contact.

What inspires you?

That could be another interview in itself! A few of the things that never fail to inspire me are the first rays of morning light on Cape Cod beaches...Hoboken brownstones...gloriously overcast days...colors in motion...the magic of visualizing a perfect black and white image...the smiles of my wife and my daughter.

Thank you, Jim! I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about you and your work!

Jim Nooney is a lifelong resident of New Jersey and lives about 20 minutes from New York City. To see more of his work, visit his Etsy shop at Hillcrest Visuals or his Facebook page. You can also find him on his Google + Photography Page

All images in this interview are used by permission, are the property of Jim Nooney, and are copyright protected.

1 comment:

  1. I've known Jim through another online photo site for over a year now, and not only is he a "hoot", and a very sweet person, but I consider his work to be some the finest photography I've seen on the internet. Kudos on showcasing this talented artist!