In the era of Instagram, everyone fancies themselves as amateur photographers, snapping pictures of their vacations, their coffee cups, or, of course, themselves. But a fancy filter or a string of tweak-able iPhone settings does not a photographer make. It takes a keen eye, a lot of training, and a certain kind of gift to see the world in moments worth capturing, and moments that speak more than words, or even several minutes of moving film, ever could. And a great photo, like a great song, is often more simple than meets the eye: Stripped of its color to black and white, it relies on pure emotion, a visceral connection with a smile, a smirk, a feeling.
Joshua Black Wilkins, a photographer and songwriter, is deeply in tune with the power of eerie simplicity. His portraits rest less on pretty and more on the idiosyncrasy, discomfort, and true beauty that lies beneath than traditional glamor. His songs, from his newest record, Valentine Sessions, do the same. With his gravely voice layered atop fingerpicking guitar, he keeps things paired down but no less evocative. “Cops and Robbers” is a prime example of the allure of this recipe — a stripped-down folk ode to the lure of a lover, that plays with child-like colloquialisms in a very adult way. “Sticks and stones, but the words won’t come,” Wilkins sings. Like his pictures, “Cops and Robbers” leaves an impression that lasts much longer than its two short minutes on your speakers.