An interview with Jo Israel

Jo Israel is the author of Betwixt

Silverhill Press: Jo, your work is very distinctive. Could you briefly describe your practice for those who don't know it? How do you make your images, what is your process?
Jo Israel: I shine light through the pages of old picture books that have images printed on both sides of the page. The two previously separated images combine, exposing a hidden third image. I detach and house these pages in bespoke light boxes (which I call Shadow Boxes) in order to preserve the moment of image discovery in perpetuity.
SP: Where do you find the source images you use to make your work? Is it largely a conscious, deliberate process, or does it involve trial and error?
Jo: The work emerges from my enthusiasms as a collector. I have a number of diverse collections, including Neolithic artefacts and vintage sugar cubes (collected originally from cafes and hotels overseas). I also have an enthusiasm for the miniature and have a collection of dioramas and dollhouses. In some way, in making my work, I am working out my relationship with the past and, to me, these relics point to a lost world. The images I used to make my work from were all originally from my collection of out-dated travel picture books, produced for the armchair traveller. These books have long been superseded by more updated editions and, of course, the Internet. By illuminating these bygone materials I seem to be able to bring this past back to life, although the images that have emerged have been changed by their passage across time.

SP: Where do you think your work sits in relation to more "traditional" photographic practice?
Jo: My work could be seen as camera-less photography, or emerging from a culture of image appropriation, which have their histories in relationship to photography. My work relates to the changes in meaning that arise when pre-existing images are placed in different contexts. Also, the materiality of the photographs I use is key to the work I think. As a collector I am drawn to the material but, when illumining these pages in my Shadow Boxes, I find that illuminating the work to some degree de-materialises it. This seems to pitch the work into ghostly or otherworldly realms. I think the practice emerges initially from image fascination, of my being arrested by found images and the potent atmosphere that surrounds them. The images that I work with seem, to me, like revenants.