Imagination and the Art of John Wilhelm

by Kirsten Belloni

When I was a kid my parents didn’t allow much TV.  “It will stunt your imagination,” they’d say.  At the time, when all I wanted to do was watch The Brady Bunch like the rest of my friends, I thought, “That’s ridiculous.  Who needs an imagination anyway?”  Insert big eye roll and stomping outside.

As with most things though, as I got older I learned that my parents were pretty on the ball.  I’m not sure if my imagination was “stunted” due to too much TV watching or if it was simply pushed into a corner by the demands of adult life, but as a photographer and artist, it’s what I long for; to be able to live in an imaginative space where reality and dreams collide, where mice ride sleds and little sisters are plunged from the toilet.  We call it being creative these days but what is creativity if not an action born in imagination.

This is the creativity and art born from the imagination of John Wilhelm.  When viewing Wilhelm’s work, we are transported to an imaginary world where literally anything is possible.  Recently, in an article for Cooperative of Photography (COOPH), in their series Visual Q & A, Wilhelm was asked to answer 9 questions using only imagery.  

Answering questions with imagery is an interesting approach and one I rather like, as an adult with a struggling imagination, as it invites me into the work and causes reflection in a way that a wordy response would not.  The following are COOPH’s nine questions and Wilhelm’s answers.  Using only imagery, what would your responses be?

Why photography?

What is your trademark photographic style? 

What truly inspires you?

Where do you go when you close your eyes

Where is home for you? 

How would you describe your lifestyle?  

What makes a great shot?  

How do you view the world? 

What important lessons have you learned?   

Resources, and to see more of John Wilhelm’s work - even the makings of some of his images can be found at the following places:

Peta Pixel:

Cooperative of Photography:

John Wilhelm: