An acclaimed photographer, Jason Andrew is convinced that working on purely personal projects also feeds into his commissioned work. Find out how he got started in the business and what parallels he draws between his profession and his college studies in history.
Please tell the community a bit about yourself, where you are from, what you do in your spare time and what you do for work.
I’m originally from Alameda, CA, a small town in the San Francisco Bay Area but have been calling Brooklyn, NY my home since 2006 when I moved here to attend the International Center of Photography Documentary program that I graduated from in 2007. When I find free time, I still surf when there are waves and snowboard as much as I can in the winter.
I’ve been working as a photojournalist here in NYC and abroad, full time since 2010. I’ve traveled to Abkhazia, Turkey and Ukraine for personal projects while working with wonderful editorial clients like The New Yorker, The Financial Times Weekend Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and ESPN when I’m home. When not shooting editorially, I’m working on personal projects that are the core of who I am as a photographer and I try to dedicate as much time to these as I can. Without my personal work, I don’t know if I would be where I’m at within the industry as I write this.
How long have you been a photographer and how did you get into it?
I began shooting seriously fairly late in my career. I didn’t move to NYC until I was 30 when I decided to attend ICP. Prior to that, I was teaching elementary school and only shooting occasionally. ICP gave me a great foundation for the work that I’m producing now and I probably wouldn’t be a photographer today if I hadn’t made that leap to NYC.
You studied history, how does this influence your work if at all?
History was what initially convinced me to go into photography. I was always drawn to the social and economical issues around me and photography gave me a way to visually document what I had been reading and studying for years.
Many of your shots are analogue, what role does film play in your work?
Film plays a major role in my personal and editorial work. I’m not against digital by any means and my new project will be mostly digital but I just enjoy the process of film a lot more. Film has a gritty more raw appeal to me and I’ll continue to shoot it as long as I can.
Do you think there is a difference between art photography and documentary photography/photojournalism? What is the difference?
There will always be a difference in the two but the line between them has thinned a lot over the years. Personally, I think some of the strongest work today is coming from photographers who are walking that line, mixing strong documentary practice with art.
One of the images from your series of Strong Men of Ukraine is reminiscent of the painting of the Girl With the Pearl Earring. Do you often take inspiration from historical artworks?
I look at art a lot but I can’t say that I knowingly take direct influence from historic artwork. As photographers, I believe we’re all influenced by different mediums and most of my photographic influence comes from friends within the industry that help push me and the work that I’m producing like Nelson Bakerman, Ashley Gilbertson and Mathias Depardon to only name a few.
What role do you think other art mediums have on photography?
I think photography, as a visual exploration of the world, draws from many different forms. It might be impossible to say that any one photograph is “true” but unlike other artistic disciplines, there is comfort in knowing that at that moment, however big or small, what we capture in our cameras actually happened.
What is your advice for someone starting out as a professional in your field?
The one piece of advice I tell young photographers is shoot a personal project that is close to your heart and spend a lot of time with it. Personal work doesn’t developed overnight and you shouldn’t expect it to either. Your personal stories will be the core of who you are as a photographer and how people view you as a storyteller in the future. Most of all, just be honest with your work, your subjects and what it is your trying to tell.
Please share a trick of yours that will always result to a great photo.
I wouldn’t say there is any one specific trick that will always result in a great photo.
Lastly, do you have any new projects coming up? Anything we should watch out for?
I’m still continuing with my “Football’s Lost Boy’s” project which was honored this year with a 1st place in the Sports Picture Story category of the PGB awards and was also a finalist for the Leica Oscar Barnack award. I hope to spend most of next year in Turkey and Africa working on this story. I am working on a few new stories but since I haven’t begun shooting them yet, I would prefer keeping it quiet for now.
The New York Times photography blog ran a nice story about Jason’s trip to Istanbul. You can read it here.
You want to hear more from professional photographers? Check out the other interviews in our Meet the Pros series.