There’s something wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it…introducing Jon Rees

October 9, 2009

Fine Art photographer, Jon Ree’s “London from the hip” project had an emotional impact on me. I found the candid shots of unobserved Londoners very refreshing and dynamic as well as poignant and moving. These photos, many taken in Shepherds Bush, look and feel like proper street photography. For these reasons I thought I’d pose my standard set of questions to him…

1. Photography: what’s it all about!?

Photography for me is a defence against social anxiety, a way to feel like I’m doing something productive because I have trouble being in the world and don’t know how to do nothing. It’s also a way to communicate how I see the world, of course. Sometimes things look so beautiful it hurts and I want to preserve those moments but that’s impossible because photography kills everything it sees, sometimes I hope I get close though. A photograph is the violent death of something; it cuts off a piece of space and time and keeps it unchanged while the world around it continues to change. What’s left out of the frame disappears forever; it’s an incredibly sad and fascinating medium.

2. Supply 3 significant or favourite images, tell me about each one, why you chose that one, what is means/represents to you

1) This image was probably my first breakthrough with photography, I feel. I don’t want to explain it away and kill it; I think it’s important not to do that. However I think it communicates a sense of strangeness and pensiveness without looking too contrived (although it’s obviously staged). The figures are quite sculptural and have an interesting relationship with the concrete forms and there’s this field of vision, which is too wide, like a heightened sensitivity, being able to see in two directions at the same time.

2) Sometimes it feels like the universe is working in your favour, like you’re swimming with as opposed to against the current. It felt like that with this image, the layers of the glass, the graffiti dripping, the McDonalds cup, her beautiful stillness, the green wash over everything. There’s something wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it, it disturbs reality therefore it works as a photograph.

3) Aesthetically this is not the greatest image I’ve taken by a long way, however I love the moment it captures. I like the idea of some slightly plump super heroes patrolling Shepherds Bush, high-fiveing 70’s tennis players. It’s a rare moment of joy and connection between strangers, a relief from the guarded suspicion we are used to treating each other with.

3. Photography can make you scared. It’s like being in a running race. Can you comment on the demands, the fears of being a photographer?

Well, obviously photography has become so much more accessible (with camera phones, cheap digital cameras etc) and images as adverts cover more and more of our world, therefore each image I produce is adding to an incredible amount of images being produced each day. I question the value in this sometimes, I think that the purpose of art should maybe be to question this need to produce and consume more images not just mindlessly add more. Then there’s the fear of pressing the shutter sometimes which can paralyze me, the fear of making mistakes, of not being good enough, of looking stupid, of being viewed as suspicious, of getting robbed, there are many, none of them are very helpful.

4. What’s left for you to do? What next photographically…?

The ‘London From the Hip’ series is ongoing for me. I am walking the streets photographing the people I pass without looking through the lens, leaving chance to play a big part in the result and enabling me to capture people without them reacting to the camera. I would like to set up a temporary gallery in an empty shop in Shepherds Bush displaying these and engaging with the local community through the work. I have a show coming up in December for which I want to make new work. I’m thinking of taking a kind of psycho-geography approach to this, plucking pieces of history, fact, fiction and my own experience of Islington (where the show is) and seeing what comes together. I also really want to make black and white prints of people smoking, it fascinates me how we continue to knowingly damage ourselves and disguise it as pleasure. Long-term, I would like to travel; there’s an abandoned city near Chernobyl, which is a dream of mine to photograph. Detroit (another city that’s dying) sounds like it would be an adventure too.

5. Do you have any regrets in your life as a photographer? Anything you wish you’d done differently?

I’m just starting out really so, no. Everything I’ve done, all the mistakes I’ve made have helped me to learn a bit more. If there’s something I would say to myself now, it’s always be ready and don’t talk yourself out of a shot, it might just be the best you ever take.



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