Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson’s radical approach to photography has shaped the field, broadening the medium’s possibilities. The Chicago-based artist talks about shifting attitudes toward photography and the creation of some of his game-changing works included in "Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Kenneth Josephson’s radical approach to photography has shaped the field, broadening the medium’s possibilities. The Chicago-based artist talks about shifting attitudes toward photography and the creation of some of his game-changing works included in Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography.


I like the way photography can create something that really isn’t there. That . . . it’s really magical to me.

I was taking my camera for a walk and came upon this unusual scene of an automobile with its snow shadow. I thought it was a readymade for the explanation of the negative-positive relationship in photography. It just explained it right there.

I started various series that I’ve continued to add to: The idea of evidence through Marks and Evidence, the Images within Images series. History of Photography. The Archaeological Series. And the Archaeological Series deals with archaeology before the fact.

It’s mostly photographed with that meter stick. Things that will disappear, in time. And when the United States is ripe for a dig, over thousands of years in the future, probably the photographs won’t have survived, because they’re on paper. So it’s like a fool’s errand, almost. I enjoy doing this, creating archaeology before the fact.

I love working as a documentarian—I love the pureness of that. I’ll use that. Because I think I can create a very strong image, where you very selectively photograph something, and explain it very thoroughly and naturally.

When I started actively being a photographer, photography wasn’t very well-recognized as a fine art. And it took a long time before that happened. And it was about 1970 that galleries started showing and selling photographs. People, including me, just did it for the pure pleasure of creating art through photography.