TSC: You’re a geologist, artist, cartographer, and cyclist living in Western Massachusetts. What fascinates you about geology, and where did it all begin?
Joe: It’s twofold: I’m deeply, deeply affected by “place” and physical landscapes—they can bring me intense joy or put me at deep unease. Geology, among many other things, is a great discipline by which one can more deeply listen to and connect to the landscape. I really love how the land contains, and is in itself, evidence of a grand, epic, past on nearly inconceivable timescales and a reminder that human history is the most ephemeral of blips in a much grander saga. That being said, the (new) evidence that indigenous peoples had been living North America for at least 30,000 years, coming from established Pacific Rim fishing cultures that persisted for 80,000 years, blows my mind. It was a truly different planet back then from what we know today and we, as a species, have instilled cultural & biological memories of that time. How we’ve lived during the past 8000 years is so alien to most of our species’ history, and it’s the history of the land prior to that time that fascinates me the most right now—my work with map-art of river floodplains (which is an idea we’re all stealing from Daniel Coe) is what got me into this: the maps are a snapshot where, at least in New England, the most recent 12 - 18,0000 years of history can be seen in a single image.
As for the beginning: my parents were pretty awesome about taking us on day-trips to local national parks, going to the local Science Center & aquarium, nature centers, etc…so I was exposed to geology repeatedly from a young age. I fell in love with the outdoors while in college and needed to choose a major lest I lose my financial aid. I couldn’t keep up with the reading in trying to be an English major so geology was a logical choice. Privilege facilitated the rest of that journey.
TSC: There is a deeply intimate and unhurried affection that comes out in your photographs and maps. How do you approach a subject?
Joe: Shucks, thank you! The short answer is that I try to imitate other photographers whose work I love. There are too many to list, but: @anjaschutz, @bicyclettes_grand_luxe, @cyclolala. The longer answer is that I live with intense PTSD+ depression+chronic illness which I’m pretty open about. Much of my experience of the world is marked by a very strong affection for it coupled with a deep and unyielding grief. At the risk of sounding religious, I firmly believe that we’re already in Heaven: this is it. I try to document what we’re likely losing forever with respect to the natural world: moments in my (admittedly pretty great) everyday when something is so perfectly illuminated through the fog of that sadness that I lose myself in that moment: when that subject’s inherent divinity can’t be ignored. Bicycles also just make fabulous visual anchors for landscape shots.
TSC: How quickly do you….?
Joe: LOL I don’t think I’m capable of doing anything quickly right now, except jumping to wildly inaccurate conclusions.