Having meet Jonathan briefly during the Promoting Passion Convention I could tell he was an a very talented person, but it wasn’t until we started doing the same 52 week project that I realized how incredibly kind and creative he is. After connecting through Facebook and Instagram, I couldn’t imagine a better person to feature for this months post. I hope you enjoy the interview I did with him for he is a truly incredible photographer.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself, what makes you tick?
I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember. Throughout high school, I was described as an illustrator and a writer. I always had a very wild imagination, especially in my writings. Fast forward ten years, and my creative outlet has now become photography. I have a tendency to spend far too much of my time in my own creative space. I’m a complete introvert when it comes to creating my images. Only a handful of people have accompanied me on my self portraits, as I find it much more difficult to focus when I’m not alone. And, as weird as it may seem, I genuinely love being out by myself in a field with just my camera and my visions. It a feeling of just leaving the real world behind for a small moment. Not many people get to witness me in that zone, but I’m sure they can vouch for me and say that I literally become a different person.
2. What got you started in photography?
This question always has multiple answers for me. I never paid photography any mind until a high school friend of mine bought a simple point and shoot camera. She took a few black and white portraits of my cousin and I, and it made me want to give photography a shot (no pun intended). After purchasing my own point and shoot camera, a few months passed before I gave up on photography. A few years passed, and I found myself standing in one of those long lines going Black Friday shopping for a new TV. When I found out the one I wanted had sold out, I told myself there was no way I stood hours in line for no reason, so I saw an entry level dSLR was for sale. I convinced myself to make the purchase, and I found a completely new appreciation for photography. Granted, I had no idea what I was doing at first, but I was very fortunate to have great cousins who didn’t mind being test subjects (this was when I was shooting faces and slightly stylized portraits).
Fast forward a few years, and I dove into fine art and conceptual photography. Looking back on how it all began, I would have never believed I’d be so in love with photography.
3. Describe your workflow, what is unique about your process? What do you enjoy most when creating an image?
My workflow is definitely very meticulous at this point. I’m the type of photographer that has a very hard time taking out my camera unless I know exactly what I want to photograph. The beginning of all of my images come, first, from an emotion. My personal favorite images come from places in my life where I would find it almost impossible to talk about. Talking about things was never something I was good at. I’m a very visual person, so I can paint a scene in my mind of what those emotions look like to me. Once I have that vision, I’ll do a overly detailed sketch of what the final image will look like. I tend to let that sketch sit for a few days before I go out and shoot it. Once that day comes, depending if I was fortunate to get a nice cloudy day, I’ll spend roughly five minutes shooting the scene. I don’t often leave room for any improvising so, depending on the image, I can sometimes get done in less time. I used to have a habit of editing my image immediately, but I’ve recently been more ok with waiting a day or so before I get the image onto my computer. Of course, if an image is too therapeutic, I still like to start my edit as quickly as possible.
4. Is there a certain theme you try and express in your work? Why do you feel a need to share that?
I definitely try my best to express the feelings I have inside of me. Whether they are my own personal stories or quick in-the-moment emotions, I feel it’s very important to get all of what I want to say out of me and into my art. I suppose if I had to pick a word in particular, my theme would be freedom. Freedom in the sense of not holding back from what Im normally afraid to vocalize. It sounds weird, but I get a liberating exhale once I’m free to vent about anything in my life through my photography. Back just a year or so ago, I didn’t see the need to share that with anyone. I told myself that these stories were my own, and there was no sense in having it out there for the world to see. But I met an amazing photographer last year who put a new perspective into my life. I realized that, while not many people will be able to read the exact story that I am telling, they may interpret my images into something completely different that allows them to feel their own personal emotions. Since then, I’ve found out just how powerful photography can be.
5. Where do you find your inspiration? What stories compel you to create?
I tend to find my inspirations when I notice myself bottling things up. It’s probably not the best way to work out an image, but often those shoots become my best body of work. This isn’t to say that every image I shoot comes from a place of such high emotions. I tend to be inspired by other people as well. Whether it’s their own personal story or a writing that someone shares with me, I’ll ask myself, “how can I visually represent this?” Sometimes, inspiration can come in the middle of eating breakfast, and I find myself sketching out an idea on a napkin without knowing how I could possibly execute it. If a feeling is powerful enough to make me visualize something, chances are it needs to be put out from my mind and into the world.
6. Out of your images, which is your personal favorite and why?
I have a good number of images that I am completely proud of. Some of which I didn’t think were even possible to create. But if I had to pick my personal favorite, it would have to be an image I shot last year, “Never Wake the Dreamer”. This image tells the story of my childhood and how it’s shaped me into the person that I am today. It’s the first image where I decided to face a part of my life that I had been ashamed of and make something from it that will allow me to move on. I don’t speak about the details of this image very often, but I’ve been fortunate to have this image displayed at a gallery recently. To my surprise, of the 6 images I showed, that image had the strongest impact. While they didn’t know exactly what that image meant to me, they were able to interpret it in ways that they felt personally connected to. Having an image that is so personal to me be able to move people in unexpected ways, it will always put this image in a special place for me.
7. Who has been your biggest role model and/or mentor during your journey?
I would have to say my biggest role models would be the people closest to me in my life. I wouldn’t have been able to create the work that I do if I didn’t have those people who understood me. As far as artistic influencers, I owe a huge thank you to Alex Stoddard. He was the first artist who had me look at photography in an entirely new way. In fact, I’m convinced I would have never started self portraits had I not been fortunate to stumble across his work. If there was one person who has been both a close friend and artist, I would consider Joel Robison to be the mentor that has allowed me to execute my images the way that I do.
8.What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Remember to put the glass down.” it comes from a message I saw years ago about how holding a glass of water and how it represents the stress and worries of life. Depending on how long we hold that exact glass, the heavier it becomes.
9. What would you tell your younger self, the you who just started photography?
I would tell myself not to stress out about not getting into college for art. Don’t put down that camera because there’s plenty of stories for you to tell, and believe it or not, people really will be impacted by what you allow yourself to share. Lastly, don’t compare yourself to anyone else; they’re on their own journey so stay focused on the one that is laid out for you.