The Random and Jazzy Color Street Photography of Todd Gross

1x1.trans The Random and Jazzy Color Street Photography of Todd Gross

Photograph by Todd Gross

Eric’s Note: I am not sure how I stumbled upon the work of Todd Gross, but when I first saw his images- I was hooked. Not only are his images colorful and vibrant, but they are quite surreal, wacky, and in Todd’s words– jazzy. Not only does he have a talent for spotting and photographing interesting characters, but also colorful “still life” photos on the street. Check out his fresh color work and thoughts in the feature below.

Todd: I am a 42-year old lifelong (townie!) resident of Queens, New York and Forest Hills High School drop-out. That’s the same school the Ramones didn’t got to. Love those guys. I saw Tommy buying flowers for his Mom at a local deli… once.

As a kid I was obsessed with collecting Mad magazines. Alfred E Neuman was my guy. I wrote and drew my own rip-off, called Nutso. Unfortunately, I lacked talent. My drawing skills were for shit. I couldn’t even make it to stick-figure level. We’re talking more like… blobs. Also, this being the early ’80s there was Atari and Intellivision to play, so I eventually grew discouraged and gave it up. But I knew I wanted to get involved with some sort of visual art at some point.


1x1.trans The Random and Jazzy Color Street Photography of Todd Gross

Flash forward to the mid-90s and thanks to a couple of angels, I had a well-paying gig at ABC, coordinating camera crews and tape couriers from the newsroom. Always intrigued by cameras, now I could afford one. I picked up a Pentax Spotmatic and off I went.

Honestly, I didn’t really shoot (mostly b&w) all that much. I was probably discouraged by the fact that my prints ended up mostly unseen, stuffed into a dresser drawer.

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By 2001, like seemingly just about everyone on Earth, I ended up as a professional typist, shifting digits around, buildin’ some web sites. As most of these gigs went back then, there was a ton of down-time spent surfing the web. I discovered some blogs where folks (mostly local nyc web worker type cats) were posting photos made with digital cameras.

A newish thing at the time. I thought, wow, cool. I got really excited about pictures of parked cars, mannequins, garbage on the street–stuff like that. These images inspired me to order a little ($100 cheap!) digi-cam.

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I built my ‘photo-blog’ quarlo.com and started posting pics taken with my crappy camera. After a couple months, I started to get feedback by email!? Some people liked what I was doing? That was an eye-opener. Why would someone take the time to write me about the photos? There weren’t even any words on the site. None, no captions, nothing. I didn’t even attach my name to it in the beginning. But, I realized I had an outlet for my creativity. I had an audience.

Previously, I felt frustrated, that I didn’t have a way to get the crazy shit in my head out. Now, I did. I found myself completely submerged in this random, jazz-like, often luck defined form of photography, that encouraged adventurousness, taking chances and interacting with people. I was into it.

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I shot obsessively for five years, switching back to film early on. I just liked the look of film better. Film was film, like a movie. Digital reminded me of video or the look of daytime soap operas.

I was very happy doing what I was doing but then I made the mistake of taking a job at a photo-lab scanning film, printing other people’s pics. Now I got to be around photography all-day! Not an ideal situation for me. I think it’s best to keep work and photography separate.

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The summer of 2005 was a hot one here in NYC and I experienced a personal perfect storm of sorts that slowed my output. The intense heat, my girl of the time incinerating my heart, the uninspiring dead-end job and general photo-fatigue all combined, slowed my output. I fell into a bit of a funk. I dropped the ball and eventually stopped shooting altogether.

From that time to say, 2010, there really wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t think of photography or wonder why I wasn’t doing it. Gradually though, my situation improved, mentally and emotionally. I found myself in a better place, bought an iPhone and suddenly had a camera with my wherever I went.

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A trip to Chicago in early 2011 convinced me I had my mojo back. It’s hard to say what did the trick exactly, but I took a picture of a hotel room lamp that I was happy with.

So, when I got back home, I bought a Nikon DSLR. Now, I shoot with that and the film cam I used for my favorite pre-break shots, a Nikon N80.

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As far as what I’m looking for on the streets, if anything, it’s to produce images that synthesize my love of Mad magazine and Pink Floyd album covers. One part head-in-the-clouds, mysterious, nobody knows where you are stoner vibe and one mid-century, borscht belt flavored satirist.

Anyhow, I hope I don’t let myself get side-tracked again. I mean look, now my shit is going to be featured on Eric Kim’s blog!

Fini. The end.

More photos by Todd

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  • http://www.facebook.com/charlie.kirk Charlie Kirk

    intelligent work

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      Yes, a huge fan of Todd’s work – glad you enjoyed it!

  • Blake Andrews

    Great photos. Thanks for the tip, Eric.

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      Anytime Blake :D

  • http://johngoldsmithphotography.com/ John Goldsmith

    Yup. Wonderful to see. Like Charle said: intelligent. The lamp spotlight put a nice smile on my face. Nice work, Todd, and thanks for sharing, Eric.

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      What I really love about his work is that it is so different from what other street photographers are doing — and in a very refreshing way. And the colors he captures are amazing as well. He is definitely a huge inspiration to me.

  • http://twitter.com/quarlo Quarlo

    Well thanks a lot gents! Your good words mean a lot. And thanks again Eric for giving me this opportunity.

  • http://twitter.com/gmacgregor Greg MacGregor

    Great stuff Todd. Please don’t put that camera down any time soon!

  • http://twitter.com/Gazonthestreet Gazonthestreet

    Really great work Todd, thanks to Eric for bringing you to my attention!

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  • Katharina

    Thanks for sharing! Some of the images are so intimate, some are funny and always great compositions.. This series is an excellent guide for my own photography…

  • Mike Avina

    Some of these are strange little street revelations–amazing!

  • tobykeller

    Todd, I’ve been a fan since the early 2000′s. I moved mountains trying to replicate your bleeding reds and blues from that period (blew a small fortune on various films. never did get it right). You were one of the reasons I began taking photography seriously.