I am not a very good sleeper. I am always up too late and some nights I know that I am not going to get any sleep at all. On nights like these, I often choose someplace to visit at a time when most of the population is in bed and sleeping.
It could be a 500 mile round trip drive to photograph only a few frames, or a short commute to an empty downtown.
I’m drawn to places that are easier, maybe even less dangerous, to access before or after the rest of the world is paying attention—areas that I shouldn’t be wandering in or simply wouldn’t dare to unless I explore them in the off and empty hours. My destinations are usually devoid of people, there isn’t any traffic and I can park where I please.
The images in this series are records of 36 hour days, sometimes even longer. In many instances, staying awake allows me to see the front line of early light advancing on the emptiness, and it usually feels like it’s happening only for me.
In these moments it’s as if my surroundings are just a daydream setting that I am not quite sleepwalking through.
The photographs in Unsleeping were made during days in my life that have actually felt long enough.
Growing up, Joe Staska became immersed in photography and the developing process while working in his father’s Boston area photo labs. After work (and at no cost to him), Staska would shoot roll after roll of film, burning through frames at a furious pace, and then process that film in the following days. The ability to experiment and learn film photography in a cost free, trial and error fashion was an obvious privilege, but one far too easy for a teenager to take for granted. Sadly, Staska did just that until, with the digital revolution looming dark, his dad closed the doors to his photo labs and retired early. For years, Staska held a bitter grudge against digital photography because it signaled the end of his freedom with film and the loss of his dad’s business.
For over twenty years, Staska has been a professional tattooer, running a business while raising a family. During that timespan Staska began to suffer artistic burnout, and, looking for a new creative outlet, he slowly began to make photographs again. Benefiting from his early experiences with film photography, this time around, he fell deeply in love with the magic of this amazing medium, even embracing digital technology. Staska finally came to realize and appreciate this gift that his dad gave him so long ago.
Staska’s photographs have been included in group and juried exhibitions in Boston and New York including the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Bromfield Gallery, and the Javits Center. His work has also been featured in various publications including PDN and Reserved.
Contact Joe Staska