Interview Peter Hoffman

“The need to create is a survival mechanism…”

Name: My name is Peter (Gabriel) Hoffman. Nothing to get you appreciating San Jacinto like being named after the writer of it.
Hometown: I’m from Lisle, Illinois – about 30 miles west of Chicago. 
Style of photography: I don’t know how to answer this. I shoot editorial and when doing assignment work I love to do formal portraiture and cover stories that deal with interesting and important social issues. I also do a lot of personal projects. With my personal work I have increasingly focused on creating out of necessity and let aesthetics take a back seat. Only since I have begun thinking like this do I feel like I’m reaching any point where my work might be even be considered as adhering to a certain style. I guess you could say all of my work is rooted in a documentary practice. 
Type of camera(s): Anyone who’s known me long enough knows I have owned just about everything at one point. And then sold it because I got bored. Right now I use Nikon digital and Rolleiflexes, and the Fuji X Pro. 

What gives you inspiration?

It varies. In the end I make work to address ideas I can’t get rid of. Those ideas come from anywhere. A disproportionate amount of them probably come to me while running through the woods. 

What are your influences? 

I just try to be open to everything in the world and let it all make its mark on me. That includes people, music, art, weather, food, culture, everything else. It is a goal of mine to constantly be in awe of the world. There are artists and photographers I am particularly fond of,  I try not think of any of that while I am making work.  I like what Neil de Grasse Tyson says about this – “One thing is for certain: the more profoundly baffled you have been in your life, the more open your mind becomes to new ideas.” – I guess you could say this mode of thinking is very influential on me not just in my photography but life in general. My photography is usually just an extension of my life. At its very base I think that a true appreciation for the world and beyond leads to a life well lived, and so I want to use photography to help foster this in some sense. 

Also, it is difficult to articulate but probably the one idea that I have been interested in since I began making photographs is the pursuit of the vague, or incomplete. I have always been most interested in the sort of work that leaves it up to the viewer to fill in some of the pieces, because as a consumer of art I had always enjoyed attaching my own perceptions to that work. So I am influenced by the idea of letting someone else wonder, and I would say lately I have been paying more attention to this than I have for a long while. This is also one of the reasons that working at a newspaper was ultimately a bad fit for me. 

Why did you choose these photos?

Well – picking 4 photos to summarize myself is sort of a daunting task. So I let someone close to me, who has a good understanding of what I’m after, pick them. Aesthetically, no matter what the issue or idea is that I am photographing, I am often drawn to making simple images – portraits of both people and landscape. So her choices I feel are an apt window into my work. And that’s that. 

What does photography mean to you?

It is a (usually) healthy compulsion and the way that I learn about the world. It is a necessity for me in more ways than one – the need to create is a survival mechanism – and it happens that usually I create photographs to satiate this. 


Copyright reserved by Peter Hoffman