Photographer and Artist
James McCracken Jr. (b. 1988, Richmond, Virginia) is a photographer and artist based out of Brooklyn, New York. His work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally, including recent exhibitions at El Museo de Los Sures, Getty Images Gallery, Candela Gallery, SoHo Photo Gallery, Wallach Gallery, and Ildiko Butler Gallery. He has been the recipient for numerous awards as an artist, as well as receiving recognitions for achievements during his time serving in the United States Navy. James received his MA in Journalism from Fordham University and is a current MFA candidate at Columbia University.
James' main focus is long term projects within his neighborhood and his commissioned work is often personal or family portraits. James' commercial work varies, but he has worked with clients such as the Tonys Awards, Porsche Cars North America, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. He was previously the resident photographer for The Refugee Immigrant Fund NYC, which assists refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
"I have been a photographer since I first picked up a camera, attracted to the power of the medium to both capture and shape reality. I shoot primarily in black and white; and my work, generally speaking, is a hybrid of directorial or staged photography (commonly associated with portraiture and various conceptual approaches) and documentary style photography (including candid shots and other techniques common to photojournalism).
All of my pictures—whether involving some planned effort or simply taken “on the fly”—reflect my immediate environment and a particular social relationship or multiple, interwoven relationships. And the pictures represent—are synonymous to—my emotional response to this environment/social sphere. Each picture has its own backstory, based on my relationship with the subject(s); the relationship spawns and nurtures the image (or series of images), forming its emotional core.
I know the people in my photos and they know me, and the streets, buildings, etc. in these pictures represent the neighborhood we share. Also, the nature of my relationship with these people determines both the circumstances behind each photograph—the way it’s shot, the setting, etc.—and how it ultimately looks, including its essential feel. I believe that the intimacy and trust I have with the people I photograph is fundamental to why these pictures look the way they do. My basic premise is this: creating intimate pictures requires genuine intimacy—personal/emotional investment in the subject.
The bulk of my current work is rooted in the Brooklyn neighborhood I moved to several years ago, known as Southside or Los Sures, in the Williamsburg section. The close-knit, engaging and socially intricate character of Los Sures—with its heavy concentration of immigrants, bohemians, and other low-income residents—revealed itself to me almost immediately after I arrived. (Perhaps I noticed it so quickly because of the sharp contrast with Manhattan, the famously aloof place I had just moved from.) Neighbors and other strangers became friends or acquaintances with uncanny speed, which for me led to a deeper connection with the neighborhood and a natural urge to forge these connections through photography. This in turn led to my increasing interest in and involvement with aspects of the area’s fraught socioeconomic dynamics, especially the threat of displacement and further marginalization gentrification poses to the community.
I have great conviction in my work and do not hesitate to assert its integrity. In contrast, though, I have far less confidence in my work’s capacity to effect real change or shape anyone’s opinion(s) on matters of pressing social concern. For this reason, among others, I cannot help but define myself as an artist rather than an activist; and I cannot really conceive of my work as a vehicle for social change rather than “fine art photography.” Ultimately, though, my aesthetic and the pictures it produces are profoundly affected by my social environment and my own place within this complex, dynamic ecosystem, which includes my emotional/photographic response to it."
Prints of images featured on this site are sold in limited editions of varying sizes. For information regarding print sales, scheduling an editorial assignment, or licensing images. email James directly.