I began making photographs at a fairly young age, something about a printed image has always intrigued me as far back as I can remember. The wealth of memory contained in one photograph is unparalleled. On a base level I believe my photographs are documents, often public, sometimes personal, occasionally both. However to me, more than anything, they are simply memories.

I am drawn to analog processes and the tactile nature they possess. There is a certain depth and permanence that is lost in the new digital world, and I am of the firm belief that a photograph is not finished until it has been printed.

My aesthetic has been described as dark, moody, intimate, gritty and voyeuristic, for what it’s worth. Someone once told me a very long time ago that my photographs reminded them of memories they didn’t know they had. I have yet to find a better way of describing what I’m hoping to accomplish with my work. Photographs make up the collective memory of our time, I’m searching for a small piece of that memory.


I was born on a Monday in Wyandotte, a small suburb of Detroit, and spent my entire childhood in Southeastern Michigan. My fascination with photography began at an early age, my first camera was a Fisher-Price / Kodak 110 at seven years old. At thirteen I borrowed my father’s Minolta and never gave it back. I still have it today. By sixteen my time was consumed by making and printing photographs. The photography instructor at school took me under his wing and by senior year, I was spending 4 out of 5 class periods in the school darkrooms.

I attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco during the industry-wide shift to digital capture. I tried my hand at digital photography for some years, but realized that I had no desire to ever think about custom white balance or camera firmware. I returned to film and the darkroom as my medium of choice. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a focus in Documentary Photography.

I continue to live in San Francisco today, working on various personal projects and the occasional freelance gig. Additionally, I have held a faculty position at the Academy of Art University for the past 10 years. 

Self Portrait, 2017

Self Portrait, 2017

Email: email (at) josephszymanski (dot) com
Mobile: +1.650.580.0576