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Noah Emrich / I've Got Nothing to Say

The menswear photographer issues his first photo book, and it's not quite what you'd expect.

Interview By John Dugan, June 17, 2013

Book images from I've Got Nothing to Say by Noah Emrich, all courtesy of Done to Death.

If you've been following men's fashion in recent years, you know Noah Emrich's photography and blogging. Only in his early twenties, he has shot lookbooks for the likes of Gant Rugger and done commercial work for the New York Times, Esquire, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Emrich is currently studying Integrated Design at Parsons, but that hasn't stopped him from putting together his first photo book, I've Got Nothing to Say, which isn't about fashion at all. We emailed Emrich to find out more about the book and the current direction for his photography.

Noah Emrich

I've Got Nothing to Say is your first collection of photographs in book form. What kind of themes were you thinking about when you put the book together?
It's this dichotomy of urban or artifice (artificial, man-made) vs. nature. I grew up  spending the summers hiking in the Adirondacks or canoeing in Maine. We'd spend weeks at a time in the wilderness almost entirely isolated from anything that was touched by mankind. I also grew up in a small town in central Massachusetts, so living and going to school in NYC now presents a similar experience. It's hyper-sensation and hyper-culture or society vs. what I grew up with, which was more laid-back and free, so that feels more natural to me, even though I've always been drawn like a magnet to the city.

The images in the book have a bit of a shooting from the hip feel to them as opposed to composed/posed. Is that accurate in terms of how you created the images? Are you always carrying your camera? What are you shooting with?
I have a camera with me most of the time. I wouldn't say they weren't composed, but I tend to like things not so perfect and tidy. So there's a looser or maybe more unsettled feel to a lot of the photos, but they're almost always considered to some degree. I don't really wanna make work that looks like it's already been made by someone else. There are a few cameras right now that I'm using, a 6x9 and 645, a 35mm SLR camera, and a digital SLR.

Are you more inspired in NYC or while traveling?
Traveling for sure. I basically set out to travel solely because of that a lot of the time. I'd almost always rather make work on the road rather than in the city.

Also, your online portfolio has a lot of portraits and street photography, but that's very different from the book. What makes an image worthy of inclusion in book format?
It just needs to work right in whatever respect that is for that particular book or collection of photos. 

I get a little Eggleston vibe from of the work in the book. Which photographers do you admire? And what about them do you keep in mind?
Yeah, definatly an Eggleston fan, I really like Parr and Stephen Shore as well… Tillmans a little but not so much just because of his images as with the others. The most inspiring stuff a lot of the time is some of the work now; there's a whole slew that I follow (Daniel Shea danielpshea.com, Thomas Prior at thomasprior.com, and Jake Stangel jakestangel.com) and those guys really make me want to go out and make new work. 

With the explosion of photo portfolios and options for presenting photos online, why are books of photography still important? Or do you think there is a surge in interest in printed matter?
I think for the last few years people have kind of had a focus on building an online presence, and rightfully so because there are a ton of amazing things that can grow out of that. And I think whenever there is a concentration in one direction eventually there is a pushback towards the opposite direction after some time. I also don't think people ever stopped making books or getting excited about them, but that there may be a lot of creative people who are done tinkering with their web portfolios and want to make something they can hold in their hands. And when you can hold something in your hands it means you can actually hand that object to someone else to share it.

You're well-known for your menswear photography and blogging in that world—even modeling. How does your artistic photography inform your work in menswear and fashion and vice-versa?
The fashion and blogging stuff got me to a place where I could kind of leverage what is was doing to do more of my own personal work, and it helped show me some things that I don't need or want to focus on. 

Any new menswear-related projects you can tell us about?
I haven't been doing a lot of that kind of work. Right now I'm traveling the country by car for two months shooting, meeting new people, and seeing new places. More or less just to do personal work, I want to do a big project out of it. So there's no real major fashion projects right now.

You can put an outfit together. Tell us what you're excited about wearing this summer? And what you think will be big this fall?
I'm saying dashikis across the board.

See more Noah Emrich photos online at novh.us.