Jody Dole loves objects, he loves things, he loves collecting
"Having a lot of stuff is actually distracting because I don't have room for it all," he says. "I compensate by keeping things in order. Consequently, I have spent a great deal of time organizing."
But don't mistake Dole, one of the hottest still-life photographers around with a client list that would make most commercial photographer's jaws drop, for a shallow materialist. You're much more likely to catch him wandering through a Maine flea market picking through a box of one-of-a-kind arrowheads or children's toys than strolling up Fifth Avenue looking for a new gold watch.
Drop by Dole's studio in New York's West Village and it won't take much prompting to get him to haul out a few of his artifacts for you to look at: a collection of spindly tumbleweeds he picked up in northern Arizona might be of particular interest, or how about his array of radiantly colored African beetles, preserved for perpetuity in glass-covered trays. If that doesn't suit your fancy, there are boxes of bones tucked away some place, a batch of giveaways from McDonald's that his son has been collecting; and lining the walls of Dole's studio library, over 8,000 rare photography and design books.
"I've stored away hundreds and hundreds of cartons of stuff in an outside warehouse and the place still looks full," he says with a sigh.
But Dole's interests aren't restricted to the archaic. Over the years he has also amassed an incredible assortment of high-tech imaging gadgets, from computers to drum scanners to digital cameras and backs to his very own Iris printer—which he purchased in 1993, making him one of the first private individuals to own one.
But despite all this...this...stuff, which at times can make his studio seem like an aisle at a computer expo or the archives of the Museum of Natural History, Dole doesn't consider what he has a "collection."
"It's more of an accumulation," he explains. "It's not worth a lot of money, but it's all valuable to me."
Dole's objects also serve a purpose—they're the subjects of many of his artfully crafted still-lifes and a breeding ground for ideas for his distinctive commercial product shots. Oftentimes, the one affects the other in interesting ways. A delightful Dole image of a blue Gumby (his son's toy) being plunked into a pool of water emerged while he was doing a series of product drop shots for Bath & Body Works. A new series of grid-like repeated images (grapes, eyeballs, globes, etc.) is clearly inspired by his work photographing trays of colorful insects.
So, in a sense, Dole's face (via his distinctive product shots) has been turning up everywhere. His client list is a veritable smorgasbord of the advertising, editorial, and promotional markets, with such notable companies as Johnson & Johnson, Estée Lauder, Time Warner, Lego, 3M, Seagrams, Dow Jones, Federal Express, and others, and magazines including Mirabella, Time, GQ, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine, all calling for his work.
You could say Dole has been riding high of late, but that would be an understatement. Considering that he has become one of the most sought-after product photographers in the business since emerging from a Long Island barn—in relative obscurity—13 years ago with a handful of still-lifes, his career is more like a wave that hasn't crested.
While Dole's story has been well-documented in various publications over the years, it's worth retelling.