Today I am very lucky and have the pleasure of interviewing my hero.
Jonathan is a freelance photographer and artist with a keen insight into the human spirit and a unique perspective on the world around him.
To read more about him go to his website.
Why did you decide to become a photographer?
I have always been a photographer. I first formally studied photography at a school called Cinekid when I was about 10 years old but I always enjoyed using a camera and taking pictures.
My decision to pursue a career in photography started to take form after I was in a very serious car accident in October of 2004. At the time, I was studying political science at the University of Pennsylvania with the intention of going to law school.
In the accident, my colon was ruptured. It took me about 4 to 5 months to fully recover. I was unable to return to Penn to complete that fall semester and I spent that time at home recovering. I was very lucky that my mom was able to take the time off from work to help me recover. I spent a lot of the time with her but I also spent a lot of time alone evaluating my life. I came to the realization that my particular skilset would not really fit in law school.
I was lost for a time but I kept thinking about a photo project I had done for my Color 1 class the previous spring. It was my first venture into painting with light and it produced my first series of conceptual imagery (on my website I call these images “originals” within my conceptual portfolio). I kept thinking about how much I enjoyed the process of creating those shots: I would put on headphones, walk around at night, and take pictures of colored lights. Then, I would put on headphones, go to the darkroom, stand there in the pitch black for hours, and print (the color darkroom, unlike a B&W darkroom, has to be pitch black). Over those several months at home I decided that I was in process of creating imagery in my life. I realized then that I would make a career of music, color, light, and creative imagery.
What do you like/dislike about being an artist.
I love that it is my job to be creative. I was always a daydreamer, always looking into space trapped in my own thoughts with millions of ideas racing through my head. I’ll be honest, the majority of those ideas are nonsensical. But every once in a while I manage to capture and understand an idea and carry it out. It is my creative process and it is what I enjoy most about art. The final product is wonderful, I love all my photos, I love Bite Sized, I love all the design projects I have done, but what I love most is how seeing each of those things just brings me back to the process I went through to create it. I’m a big process person.
I often go through long stretches of life where I don’t have any ideas, at least not any worth sharing. Those periods of creative block are extremely frustrating and the most difficult of my life, I just wish the faucet were always on. There was a period from around January 2007 until I started my “Neon Shines Through Smoky Eyes” series in the spring of 2008 where I felt like I didn’t have a single good, original idea. I realize now that those periods, even though they are frustrating, are also part of the creative process that I love, and part of the path that has led me so many times back to a really creative place.
What inspires you?
Lots of things inspire my artwork and it often varies, but the one thing that is always there is music and, specifically, instrumental music. Lyrics inspire me in a different way, more in a motivational way. For instance, if I need a kick in the ass I’ll listen to hip hop or other more lyrically driven music. But when I’m creating I find inspiration in the improvisational music of the jambands I listen to. Beyond just the way the music sounds, which is often enough to spark some ideas, hearing the artists create the melody on the spot and understanding how all the band members are each individually creating music spontaneously while still maintaining cohesion as a group fascinates me and makes want to create.
What advice do you have for young artists like yourself?
If you want to be a career artist my advice is to make sure you know what you’re doing and know what you’re getting yourself into. You also have to be passionate, determined and very thick-skinned. You can’t let rejection get you down and you have to keep going back to the business even if it’s kicked you or left you feeling down. Being very talented and creating beautiful and inspiring work is great, but if it’s your job you need to know how to flip that beautiful work into an income. When I got into this I had no idea what I was doing, didn’t know anything about the photo industry, and didn’t know anything about running a photo business. I am very lucky that I have such a great support system. I was able to live in my grandparents apartment for 4 months, I lived at home with my dad for a while, when I moved to New York I lived in my girlfriend Jessica’s apartment for the first 6 months I was here, and I always have gotten great support from my family and friends. Without my family and friends and my determination, I would probably not be a photographer right now.
If you are looking for a real treat for your eyes, go to Jonathan’s food photographs on his blog that he has with his girlfriend chef Jessica Hertle. There you can get wonderful recipes and look at photographs that will make your mouth water.