Content – From the Archives – Josh Marcotte

Content Magazine
My Art Resources is excited to collaborate with Content Magazine to bring you a new monthly blog post Content – From the Archives. We will be looking back and featuring some of the best artist interviews and stories from past issues of Content Magazine.

Josh M1Josh Marcotte

From Content Magazine
Issue 4.5 Ritual
Written by Kat Bell

Photography by Josh Marcotte

Babyland is closed now. After 25 years of serving San Jose, its windows are dusty and covered in paper, the parking lot is already cracking and sprouting grass. Josh Marcotte points his camera at it, aiming the lens at the blank windows. “It only closed a few weeks ago,” he says. “That place was family owned and operated. They were trying to provide something they felt was missing from the community. It was a place for nervous, new mothers to get help setting up a nursery–something that is so personal. Now they up and close shop.” Folding his tripod, he continues down the sidewalk. “People assume these places will be here even if they don’t shop there. They just assume they’ll be around.”

Josh M5This isn’t the first business Marcotte has seen close down and it won’t be the last. “I like to revisit old buildings and ones that are vacant; they take on a life of their own. Someone worked or lived in that place, and the building has absorbed that energy and the general warmth of their life force. The people breathe life into the structures. If it was a church, or a theatre, a business or a house,” he continues, “somebody designed it, built it, loved it. There was something that was there, communities came there, family events were held there and at one point that was all lost”

That’s where Marcotte comes in. He’s the creator of Lost San Jose, a popular photojournalistic blog which documents his wandering spirit and explores his profound connection with the city his family has called home for four generations. Part urban explorer, part night photographer, as well as writer and historian, he seamlessly blends his poetic view into his art form, creating profound images that cause even a local to pause and think: “Where is this?”

Josh M2Marcotte’s passion for San Jose and his affinity for exploration came from his grandfather. “When I was a kid I would mow my grandfather’s lawn every weekend. He was this self-proclaimed local historian who knew everything about San Jose and would tell me all these great stories.” Walking home late at night, Marcotte remembered these stories and became inspired by his grandfather’s encounters with the old buildings that once stood in their heyday after the Great Depression and WWII–the San Jose his grandfather knew and loved.  “As a fourth generation [San Josean], there are relatives of mine out there haunting the streets. Part of why I do this is to go out there and make my own stories, to find my own perspective. What’s my place? What is my footing four generations into this? It’s about the family history and reconnecting to my past.”

Marcotte reminisces about the long drives he would take through San Jose, as his grandfather pointed to one building after another, remembering old San Jose. “No one bothers to look, or stop their cars, or turn down a side street to discover what lies beyond,” Marcotte says. “For me, I like to wander the streets and look for those happy accidents. If I do go out with a place in mind, I always walk there because you never know what you’re going to find.”

Josh M3His wandering never fails to provide new material and he’s often completely surprised. He recalls a shocking moment when a police officer suddenly pulled over and pointed his gun at a man near him, mid-photo. “I was shooting the old Burger Bar and the exposure ended right on time; I quickly swung the camera on the tripod and caught the police officer lunging at the guy!” He explained, it turned out the officer had mistaken the man’s folded cane for a gun, “but I just thought how crazy it was to have this happen in the middle of a photograph!”

For the most part, Marcotte explains, people leave him and his camera alone–if he ever comes across people at all. “When I’m out, there are rarely even people around.” Don’t let him fool you, his process isn’t for the faint of heart. “I’ve managed to spook myself. A couple of times I’ve thought to myself ‘What the hell am I doing out here?’ One time, I was photographing a bridge and I could hear people laughing and breaking bottles underneath it. Another time, I got into an abandoned building and suddenly I could hear people whispering from another room and I realized there were probably people squatting there. That was a little scary.”

Josh M6Tonight, he’s on the railroad tracks. Flashlights from a homeless encampment under a nearby bridge blink and move out of sight, but Marcotte is busy focusing his lens before the next train arrives. “I used to work in the old Century movie theatre,” he explains. “I didn’t get off work until one or two in the morning, sometimes later…I didn’t have a car. The buses didn’t run that late. If I couldn’t get a ride home I would have to walk. For years, I wouldn’t go to bed until 3:00 or 3:30 in the morning”

Through his odd late night schedule, his writing, and eventually his photography grew. “I decided if I was going to be up late I might as well be productive and do something about it. I started to write short stories and poems and little memoir clips about those nights walking home and the things I would run into.” Marcotte remembers, that he started to notice different places and locations getting demolished or gutted and began photographing them with disposable cameras. “The only one who ever saw them was my wife and the developer at Walgreens,” he laughs, “I kept them in a box.”

After eight t years of self-taught photography and writing, it was Marcotte’s wife who finally convinced him to show his work. “She set up the first website and ordered the first business cards and pushed me to do something with the images,” he says with a smile. “She convinced me that people wanted to see the pictures and read the stories. They wanted to know why I was doing it. People started visiting the site, and I got offers to do a few shows. It all went from there.”

Josh M4Currently, Marcotte’s work has a permanent home on 4th Street’s Kaleid Gallery, and he recently closed a show at The Usuals. “The most surprising thing was how supportive and how encouraging everyone is,” he says, “There is always that fear when you put something out that people are not going to understand it or like it. It was a surprise to me how much fun it was to go out and meet these people with these shared passions.” Marcotte has been invited to join local historical societies and is currently compiling his favorite photos and writings to into a book. “It was more than I ever expected and I haven’t been disappointed yet. Even if tomorrow no one ever came back to my website again, I would still be out doing this. I’m going to continue to take photos in San Jose. Sharing them and telling their stories is a humbling experience.”
Instagram: @lostsanjose

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