We had the good fortune of connecting with Joseph Moreno and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joseph, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
A few years ago I was asked by my first photo instructor, “What is the purpose of photography?” My immediate thought was “to tell a story”. I had no idea how deeply that response would be rooted in my work. By the terms’ end I began to ask myself if photos cancommunicate stories, what stories can I tell? What stories are mine to tell? Exploring this has been nothing short of magic.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In broad strokes, I want each frame I create to take the viewer from the logical and common world they inhabit and place them in one that is more vivid, more alive. My hope is that the individual taking in my work can suspend the way they see the world and question their understanding of it, wonder about the possibility of another perspective. I think the ability to share in this deeply personal way is what I’m most proud of.
There is a particular quality to my work: subjects, often male, are in a dialogue with wardrobe or a space they inhabit. I want the viewer to forget, even if it’s in the quickest moments, that they are looking at a photograph and step into a world that can be read and felt. What is art if not an opportunity to escape our own reality in exchange for the understanding of another. The core of my work is portraiture, capturing the emotion of an experience in life. The images I create are exactly that: created, staged, planned and produced. Yet these performative photographs convey some sort of dramatized emotion, emotion that it is impossible to communicate by way of semantics.
The photographic road up to this point has been both exciting and challenging. I’ve been shooting now for a few years. I’ve realized my work has an audience and can impact others. That’s HUGE; to know my work is not only being recognized but resonating with people. It’s rewarding in a way that’s nearly indescribable. I NEVER considered myself an artist. However, when I really started to focus on taking photos with intention, I was surprised at some of the creativity and ability within me. Seeing that continues to propel me forward. I am continuously stunned when I look back at some of the images I’ve created. Over the last year, things have progressed sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. I’m just grateful to keep moving forward; doing the work and stepping through the doorways that open.
The road as an adult and young adult has been many things, though none of it could ever be considered smooth or easy. Coming from a fractured home, trying to find my place in the gay community, and all of this peppered with substance abuse has created a great well of life experience.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Anyone who knows me , knows I love to eat….and since breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, we’d take a tour of some of my favorite spots; Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, The Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel and Malibu Kitchen at The Malibu Pier. Some shopping would be in order, There’s no place like Melrose for people watching and some vintage T’s, then of course Melrose place for some great little designer pieces. Afternoons at Museums like LACMA, and the Getty are a requisite experience while visiting. Let’s not forget there’s some great little galleries that can not be missed; Fahey/Klein, Hauser and Wirth and of course Tag, Some musts for anyone visiting Los Angeles are a show at the Hollywood Bowl, watching the sunset from the Griffith observatory and a drive up PCH.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Over the last couple years several instructors have been critical in the development of my point of view. However, without question one of the greatest champions of my work has been K. Ryan Henisey. Last year I submitted some of my work for an exhibition at Tag Gallery, an artist cooperative, on Wilshire Blvd. My work was submitted past the deadline for entries. Frankly, I didn’t think I’d hear from the gallery. The next day I was informed by Ryan, the president of Tag Gallery and an accomplished artist himself, a couple of my pieces were chosen for the show. Subsequently, one of the pieces, I know Alone; a photo from a series created in response to the isolation many felt during quarantine, went on to receive a place & honorable mention in The California Open. Ryan has also recently developed an online publication, Queer Quarterly. His magazine showcases new, local talent. I received the great fortune of being asked to provide the cover for the issue as well as given a feature article in the publication. Henisey deserves to be recognized, he has been a providential boon to my success over the last year.