Two years ago, Josh Malik didn't think much of photography at all. He lived in a small town in California and was concerned with the mundane world of high school. After being turned on to Flickr by a friend and attending several in-person meetups, Josh taught himself to use a camera and became a DIY whiz at Photoshop. The now 19-year-old photographer recently dropped everything to move to Los Angeles and follow his passion.
His low-lit conceptual photography is haunting and moody, and he only shoots in the waning minutes after sunset with the encroaching dark of night. If you’re interested in his style and want to learn more from him, be sure to check out the links below for photography workshops this summer and fall.
Josh recently came up to San Francisco with his friend Steven Maycock and visited our new Flickr offices, where he shared his insights in this extended Q&A below. We hope you enjoy!
What inspires you to create your photos?
I’ve always struggled with a way to express myself artistically. I love to write, but that was basically it. My junior year of high school, a friend asked me to go meet a photographer named Brooke Shaden in Chicago. After looking at her work online and realizing how talented she was, we loaded up my friend’s car for a day trip to the city. There we met up with Brooke and many other talented artists. She has still had one of the biggest impacts on unearthing my creativity, and I will always be grateful for the foundation she helped set at the very beginning of my career in photography.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you use to shoot your photos?
I am originally from Indiana, but currently am living in Los Angeles. I am 19 years old. I have been taking photos for a little over two years now. I currently use a Nikon D800 with an 85mm f/1.4 lens or a 50mm f/1.4 lens.
What types of photos do you like to shoot?
I love to shoot fine art photography, though it would be a dream of mine to work with fashion designers and start shooting for a magazine or something along those lines. I have always been so in awe with how beautiful and planned-out fashion shoots are, in contrast to my shooting style of going out and doing whatever comes to me.
Do you have a favorite photo of yours or a selection of favorites? Can you explain why you like them?
This is probably my favorite image. I remember nearly throwing these files out after getting home from exploring with Kyle. Never had I done something so difficult, and I hadn’t the slightest clue how to fix it. After spending a lot of time in Photoshop trying to get around the situation (I had stood behind the rice that I was pouring, so my leg was in every single frame), it finally worked out. Now it is one of my favorite images because it helped me learn the program so much better than I had known prior.
What impact do you want to have with your photography?
Ideally I want my photography to inspire others to express themselves however they want. It was so difficult for me at first to find a way to tell a story. My drawing skills lack crazily, so of course that was out of the picture. I hope that my photography not only speaks to people, but also helps them see that there are ways to tell the story that they have deep inside, whether it be from a past event, or a fairytale they delve from within. If there is anything that I would hope my photography does, it is to help be a catalyst for someone to discover the creativity that is deep inside of him or her.
How has your experience on Flickr changed your photography?
It has helped transition the way I am growing as an artist and has really pushed my limits. I always see beautiful images go through my feed, and it is so inspiring to see the visions of so many others. By being around those who are so great at creating photographs, it really helps make the quality of my images develop.
Do you have close friends you met from Flickr? What kinds of adventures have you had with them?
All of my friends are from Flickr, basically. Even my roommate is from Flickr. The Flickr meet-ups that we have are definitely my favorite thing in the world. My roommate, Katie, and I always have crazy adventures and go out to shoot. She’s such an awesome model. Just yesterday I had her in our bath, soaking in almond milk and painted black. She did not even question it when I asked. Flickr has also allowed for friendships not even constrained to this country. Two weeks ago, Alexander flew in from Germany, and we traveled all over California exploring the beautiful nature that it has to offer. There would be no way that I would have been able to meet someone so far away if it was not for this platform.
What did your parents say when you told them you were going to move to California to pursue your dreams? Did they understand?
Well, it’s not that they did not understand the move, and it was a little more than me just telling them I was going to pack my bags and move across the country. They just did not understand how an eighteen-year-old would be able to make money off of something that had not previously yielded an income.
Were they freaked out by the prospect?
They’re still a little wary of me traveling all over the place for book covers and teaching, but they are realizing that it is benefiting me, not only financially, but also in experience!
How has that turned out?
It has turned out lovely! I absolutely love the lifestyle of the west. It’s much more relaxed as opposed to back east. The freedom it has given me allows for even weirder photographs.
Which Flickr members have influenced you the most? Who would you recommend we look at?
Oh, you know most of them, I am sure! Sarah Ann Loreth is one of my favorites. She is always so awesome and loves to chat! Her insight is amazing, and if I ever have anything to talk about, she is right there listening.
Joel Robison and his always-positive outlook on life is another one of my favorites. He is so good at expressing his views in his work, and I just love it.
Jenna Martin is another. She and I have been putting together workshops for this summer and fall. It is going to be so fun to work with someone who knows so much about creating and teaching. We are going to make a great team by blending our knowledge together. We will be traveling around the United States. Currently this July, we are hosting a workshop near Las Vegas!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Regardless of the lack of creativity that one may feel looming over their head, always push through. It is so easy to fall into a rut, causing entrapment, and endangering the overall growth of creativity. Not only will it feel much easier to create after fighting this battle, but it will also be easier to get out of the rut in the future.