Photographer Jonathan Vanderweit - EXTRA!, May 2011

EXTRA!, May 2011: Jonathan Vanderweit

Interview by Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

Ceramics Now Magazine: Tell us who you are and what you do.

My name is Jonathan and I make photographs in Denver, CO, USA. I have been shooting for about ten years, but have really begun to focus on the craft of photography since early 2010. I also work as a videographer and creative director for a small nonprofit organization here in Denver.

Jonathan Vanderweit monocle photo

What is your present photography project, what’s its history and how do relate to it?

Jonathan Vanderweit: My work focuses on the exploration of the world around us with specific regard to the interaction between humans and the natural environment. This means finding areas where nature has begun to reclaim the world of people, which here  in the US often happens in formerly industrial/manufacturing areas as well as at the fringes of cities and towns. I love finding where our maintenance crews haven’t caught up or which taken on a kind of serendipitous equilibrium between the forces of creation and ruin.

My next two photo projects are extensions on this theme. One is a series of portraits of people who wear glasses or contact lenses. The photos will be displayed in pairs, the left a normal portrait of the subject in their glasses and the right will be a shot without them.  The image on the right will have the focus corrected to account for the person’s natural visual acuity, with a different effect for each person depending if he/she is nearsighted, farsighted, or has astigmatism.

The second project will use some of the locations I have discovered over the last year–walls, doorways, stairs, the urban features of Denver–as settings for exquisitely-dressed floating protagonists. These photos will explore the habitation of spaces that have previously been considered industrial or austere by inhabiting them with individuals bursting with style and weightlessness. Gven the labored past of many of these dwellings, one would expect that they be drab and deserted. In fact the opposite is proving true, homes in lofts and warehouses have strong draw for creative people and have become a highly desired place of residence.

Jonathan Vanderweit monocle photo


How it all started? What was your first camera and what devices do you have now?

My first camera was an Olympus OM-1 with a 50mm lens, which was a gift from my father when I was around 15 years old. Today, I primarily shoot with a  Nikon D700 and I also have a Nikon FE2 that I use when I don’t feel like carrying much, as well as a Mamiya RZ67 medium format system which is huge and exquisite serves as a constant reminder of what a camera actually does.

The instant feedback of shooting digital has accelerated my learning curve and gives me loads of flexibility when processing my images, but I will continue to shoot film for the sheer fact that it feels like creating a real thing (which makes me shoot more slowly and thoughtfully), and that the look of many film types is hard to duplicate digitally.

Jonathan Vanderweit monocle photo

I see you like to photograph details of daily life, why?

There are times in the course of the day that I feel like things line up to fit the four walls of the photograph. For me, beautiful photographs are a balance of subject matter and composition, and the best ones have both. This does not mean that there are not beautiful frames to capture in ordinary life; shooting the everyday gives me more time to think, compose, and make the frame than when I am  in a rush to capture an extraordinary moment. There are always tricks of light, textures, and colors that call out to me, and shooting constantly  ensures that I’m ready when the remarkable moments do arrive.

Do you have a favorite type of photography, like documentary, portraiture or travel?

I find it very difficult to put a tag on what kind of photography I enjoy looking at. I’ve begun a blog separate from my own work to build a base of inspiration and look for the patterns of what I find attractive in photographs. I love the humane explorations of poverty of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, but I have found as much joy in viewing the creations of many people whose work I’ve found through Tumblr and Flickr, including L.J., Philipp Klinger, Ryan Schude, and Sinichi Maruyama. There is really a massively diverse pool of talent and creativity in photography today, it’s an honor to be a part of it.

Jonathan Vanderweit monocle photo

Jonathan Vanderweit monocle photo

Where can we find you and your works in the next future?

I maintain a blog of my work at http://candidfabrication.tumblr.com/ as well as a portfolio of my work at http://www.monoclephoto.com/. I do not have any shows lined up for the near future, but will be looking for a place to show as I get neared to completing these projects.

Jonathan Vanderweit is a photographer living and working in Denver, Colorado.

The full interview was published in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One.

Visit the artist’s website and his Tumblr blog.

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© The interview is subject to copyright and belongs to Ceramics Now and Jonathan Vanderweit. Cannot be used without credit and original link.