Heidi: Is this satisfying your creative spirit?
Jonas: Overall I have to say I’ve had an incredible boost in creative thinking and sense of opportunity through this thing. I always preach that if you want to move forward you want to go down the rapids, less comfort but faster progress. This really feels like that. Just this morning, by 10 am, I had done a portrait session in Capetown, Lugano, Switzerland, Antigua and Los Angeles, pretty exhilarating.
Describe the project.
This project is all about everyday people during this crisis. There are no stylists, make up artists or prop stylists. The subjects are in full control of what I get to photograph and I just document. They aren’t models and mostly don’t know how to move for the camera so I have to pose them pretty diligently to get specific images.
What are the common themes in responses?
All of the subjects tell me about concerns with the situation or how the government is enforcing shut downs, we have a genuine conversation, exchange information, ideas and concerns. And then we laugh when we try get a certain shot and things are lost in communication or something. This project really has taken me away from worrying too much and I think most subjects enjoy the distraction and doing something creative. It’s good for the soul.
Do you direct the subjects?
The whole process is totally foreign and freeing at the same time. No technical control (exposure, lens, etc…) which, once you let go of it, makes the session become fully about communication. I have to move the camera with words not my hands. Years of building intuition and motor skills to get where you want to be are useless and you have to explain to someone who, often times, has no idea about composition how to position the camera. It’s not easy but at the same time entertaining. There are a lot of laughs. It is a little like directing but every shoot you have a different camera operator so you never get groovy with each other on that part.
What was your main takeaway?
My main takeaway would be that it is really nice connecting with people during this time and doing a fun project together even though you are, sometimes, on the other end of the globe. Sessions take anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour, depending on how much chatting happens. Also, sometimes it takes a while to find the right background/light/composition.
Is the lo-fi quality freeing?
The quality of the final images is brutal but it is also kind of charming, like really early digital files or badly digitized film images. These will never be printed large but creating compilations or possibly doing collage type prints will help with that. But if you are strictly going for a phone screen, or any normal size screen for that matter, it is also kind of scary to realize that this is a valid option. With the right light, internet connection and some experience you can get pretty clear images that just have a vintage, romantic, artsy type look to them. I took one this morning of a teenager in Lugano, Switzerland and when I looked at the final image I was really surprised.
Tell us how this scaled for you.
Obviously these are not medium format super beauty portraits but being able to do shoots across the globe in a single day is nuts, probably a sign of things to come. Not sure if I like it but it is what it is. If they somehow figure out how to get a 20 megapixel file out of this and maybe add selective exposure and focus I would definitely keep doing this. Actually I already have one of my magazine clients voice interest in potentially doing these in the future. And again, I love to get on the road and experience new places, not to mention the energy that exists between subject and photographer when faced in real life. But the environmental as well as economic impact of flying around the world to take a portrait (or product, etc…) will surely be challenged after this crisis. Things will change. They always do anyways.