Josh Goldstein: The Art of the Bodega

So Josh, let me start by asking of all the beautiful things you saw on your roadtrip through the Southwest, what motivated you to start photographing chop suey parlors and 24-hour donut shops?

That's a good question and I never really thought of it like that. Here I have the most scenic natural splendor in the world and I'm taking pictures of old signs. There might be something wrong with me. I don't know though I just like big brash gaudy signs. Especially in that otherwise natural environment they really stood out.

How did you develop the idea to create sculptural urban photo collages?

It actually just sort of developed haphazardly. It was all in an effort to be able to make larger pieces in the small space that I was working in, with the epson printer I had. So using 8 1/2 x 11 printer and small pieces of wood gave me that opportunity. I could make large pieces but in a piece-meal fashion so that it could all be made in my small workspace. If I had to assemble a really large piece I would get all the small components done in my workspace and then rent out a storage locker for a few days to assemble it together. I think limitations make you work harder and see things in different ways.

Do you often talk to the owners of the bodegas you shoot? Who's your favorite character you've encountered?

I don't really get a chance to talk to too many. I've been yelled at by a few. My favorites were the old dominican couple who used to run the bodega on my block. They helped out in a sticky situation once when a lady in a car was attacking me with nun-chucks. I was with my 5-year old daughter and they got her out of harms way and thankfully I only ended up with a few welts on my forearms. It's good to know your neighbors. But they just retired and moved back to DR so from now on I'm on my own.

Did you ever imagine that you'd design a billboard in Times Square? What was that experience like? How long did it take you to design such a massive installation?

It was hectic and fast. They needed it done in like 8 days. And that whole time I was going to be in a cabin in the woods in Indiana with my parents and family. But it worked out actually because all I had to do was work, and my mom fed me very well, and my wife Rachel figured out all the programing and coordination stuff that I could never have done. I think I used every image in my library to make that piece. It was a lot of fun and it just so happened that they had just closed down Broadway at 42nd street to traffic, and put in tables and chairs right below my billboard. So I was hanging out there almost every night with friends, eating pretzels, knishes, and hot candied nuts, which I can never seem to get enough of.

Where is your upcycled Anna Sui X Josh Goldstein bag today?

All over the world. But primarily in my bedroom closet under a lot of shoes.

Have you created pieces from photos outside Gotham?

I made a piece for a friend who had grown up and/or lived in the West Indies, Hong Kong, DC, and NYC. His wife wanted all of those places represented in the piece. I always wanted to do a piece based on old lobster signs in Maine but haven't gotten to that yet.

Do you shoot in non-urban settings? Do you ever see yourself creating a nature inspired work?

Not really. If I did do it I think I'd zoom in close to certain natural elements and blow them up so that it takes a second for you to realize what your looking at. Like the veins on various leaves - they sort of look like a map of Paris.

What's the biggest obstacle you've overcame in your career?

Being technologically challenged. I haven't really overcome it actually, I just get my wife to do everything. Big shout out to Rachel!

Do you have a favorite NYC neighborhood for shooting storefronts?

Probably the South Bronx for hand-painted, old school bodega signs. For just New York craziness there are a lot - Flushing, Brighton Beach, Corona, Liberty Avenue in Queens, Hasidic Williamsburg, Chinatown. Also the 7 train as it rolls over Elmhurst and Jackson heights gives you a really great tour of rooftop graffiti. It's non-stop for a couple miles. I always wish I could tell the conductor to drive a little slower so I could really appreciate it- I'm sure everybody on board would appreciate that.

What's the best thing and what's the worst thing about NYC?

Best thing is definitely the grilled lamb sticks you can get on the street on 8th ave in Sunset Park. Just the smell alone is all I really need. The worst thing is that these carts aren't located below my window so I can get the smell 24/7.

What's one thing about NYC that most New Yorkers take for granted?

Potholes and hot candied nuts.

Artistically, what's next on the horizon for you?

I'm in a group show this June in Harlem called "From Motown to Def Jam." I was lucky enough to get to do a piece interpreting "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy. I've always been very influenced by the way the Bomb Squad made beats- taking little snippets of sound from all sorts of music and other recording to make something new. So being able to make a piece of art dedicated to this record was a lot of fun.

Opening is June 15. For more information, see HERE