New York-based photographer Bobby Doherty unveiled his latest work, Dream About Nothing (via Loose Joints), in November, signalling a departure from his earlier project, Seabird. Known for his meticulous approach to composition and keen attention to detail, Doherty's portfolio encompasses a diverse array of styles, including still life, observational photography, and digital composition.

Dream About Nothing
is a particularly interesting new addition to his oeuvre in its complication of the meaning of his images, altered by their proximity. With METAL, Doherty articulated his aspiration for the new book to emanate a "nonsense index," meaning to accentuate the diversity of the images through their arrangement, which has rather taken the form of what Doherty has since called a "demented fairytale," with all the beauty and authenticity of his previous works.
Bobby Doherty's work has received him considerable commercial success, evident through his collaborations with renowned brands such as Louis Vuitton, Apple, Off White, Swarovski, and Mac Cosmetics. His role as a staff photographer at New York Magazine from 2013 to 2018 has only further solidified his standing in the photography domain. In a conversation with METAL Magazine, Doherty discusses his initial interest in photography, the vision behind Dream About Nothing, and the distinctions between his commercial and personal projects.
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You’ve said before that you started photography when you were only eight years old. What was the moment when you realised that photography is what you want to do?
I don’t remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to be a photographer, but I think it had something to do with seeing Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder’s character) in Beetlejuice for the first time. I was a very depressed child and instantly related to her whole schtick. In the movie she took photos, so I decided I would too.
Your work often features unconventional or unexpected subject matter, very up close and personal. Can you tell us about your creative process in selecting these subjects and what inspires your choices?
I think the subjects in my photos are actually extremely conventional. I like to take familiar things and change their context just enough to make things feel a little mysterious. I love mystery.
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You brought a new book out in November, congratulations! Dream About Nothing is much different to your last Seabird . What prompted this change of tone in your new book as opposed to that of your previous book?
Hey thanks! I think the primary difference between Seabird and DAN is that DAN contains studio photography. All the photos in Seabird were taken out in the real world with just my camera and some film. The photos in DAN are more technical and combine the same candidness of Seabird with some complicated studio set ups, ring flashes in the garden, etc.
Dream About Nothing is a particularly interesting new addition to your oeuvre as it is impossible to not view your photography page by page and have the meaning of the subjects altered by their proximity. Is there a particular theme you had in mind with this almost narrative sequencing of the book, or is the inspiration more epistemological, drawing attention to this alteration?
My initial plan was for the book to feel like a kind of nonsense index. I wanted the disparate nature of the images to be emphasised by the sequence in which they’re viewed. But I think my photos, even the most disgusting ones, are a little too romantic to be perceived in the scientific sterile way I had first envisioned. Now I think the book feels more like a demented fairytale than it does a science textbook.
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Composition is a crucial aspect of still life photography. Take us in to your mind during the process – how do you approach arranging and composing your shots to create visually striking images? What are the key elements that you focus on when setting up a shot?
I try not to think about this stuff too much. I just want my work to be extremely clear and legible. I don’t know where all the other stuff comes from.
Your photography is also made distinctively your own by your vibrant colours and textures. As colour is so vital to this balance and the weight or meaning of these photographs, I’d love to know, how do you approach photographing colours, and do you have a desired result in mind when photographing with regards to colour?
I try and remain open and impartial to all colours. It’s a little ridiculous to have rules about stuff like that. I do love balancing flash with outdoor natural light. There’s always something miraculous that happens with colour on film when you dial it all in just right.
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Can you share a particularly challenging or memorable experience from a photoshoot that taught you valuable lessons or had a significant impact on your approach to still life photography? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your work that inspires you to explore?
When I first started out, I had a really difficult time finding the balance between thinking I was making the client happy and taking a photo I could be proud of. I think this is the biggest challenge any new photographer has to overcome. It’s annoying that being good at photography is only a small part of what it takes to be a working photographer.
In the digital age, how do you navigate the intersection of traditional photography techniques and modern technology to create your distinct visual style?
I talk to god a lot.
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I have to ask, as I understand you have spoken about the digital age and modernity before. What do you anticipate will be the future of photography, in the face of 3D rendering and now AI developments? Especially considering the ethics debate of AI, do you find there’s a growing appreciation for artists? Or rather the opposite?
There’s a million other things I’d rather be worrying about before I ever start stressing about being replaced by AI. I see AI as a tool for further self-expression and not a weapon I should be threatened by. Most AI still looks like shit right now anyways.
What is next for you? What projects or themes are you currently working on, if any?
Right now I’m chilling.
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