In university I studied theatre and stage/lighting design and always thought photography was too still of an artform and one-dimensional. But a few years later I was working for a publishing company as a graphic designer, and worked on some marketing materials for Freeman Patterson. I fell in love with his photographs: there was movement and life in them, something I never really noticed in the works of other photographers. I bought my first camera, took some courses and discovered I had a passion for it.
My camera is a tool for exploration. My early explorations use macro photography. One of Freeman Patterson’s photography books encourages people to explore the world close to them, and I found his macro images inspiring. So I started exploring the windows in the 120-year-old house I was living in, with my macro lens, and found a whole new world of possibilities in condensation, frost and snow on the windows. I really enjoy the still-life-like images I made shooting beloved glass objects of mine with the macro lens. Focussing in on small areas of objects directly informed my next couple of series. Instead of using a macro lens to photograph a small section of a small object, I used regular lenses to photograph parts of really large objects. Showing only sections of skyscrapers or mighty rapids gives a similar feeling to the earlier series.
Architecture is another important subject for me. In its purest visual form architecture is all about the intersection of shapes and lines, all about geometry. I’ve always loved geometry, even as a child. I especially love how shapes and lines interact and form perspective. I think the sense of perspective is particularly appealing to me because I don’t have stereoscopic vision: I see with only one eye. My series Delineation explores this extensively. And some of my photographs from Paris also show this: a completely different form of architecture, but the lines, shapes and perspective are apparent.
When I photograph art — whether it be graffiti, sculpture or architecture — I offer an interpretation of the art, a different perspective. There are certain pieces which move me: when I photograph them I’m directing the viewer’s attention to that. It might be the way two human forms interact in a sculpture, or the way lines of windows converge in a skyscraper, or the magnificence and grandeur of a palace. I love it when people see something they’ve never noticed before in an object that is familiar to them.
I want people to react emotionally rather than rationally to my work. To truly appreciate my work, people must be willing to let their feelings about the image surface, rather than try to rationalize it. My photography is an exploration rather than a process. I see a subject I like to explore visually, try some different techniques until I get the look I want, then go from there. I have 20 years experience as a graphic designer: so I like to think of my visual exploration as informed intuition.
A native Torontonian, Joseph Calleja holds dual citizenships: Canadian and Maltese. His studies in drama, set and lighting design, painting, graphic design and photography have given him an excellent foundation in design and art. He has been a professional graphic designer for the past twenty years and about ten years ago he turned his passion for design and photography into his artform. Calleja has had several exhibitions since then. Recently he’s combined his design, photography and artistic talents to create fashion and home décor accessories. He loves making people feel connected to eachother and the world through his creations.