Wonderful meeting and talking grit with my favourite local photographer, Jonathan Bell!
How’s it going?
I’m fine, thank you.
How long have you been taking photos?
I’ve been taking pictures with some sort of direction since grade 12. So, uh, “a while” – longer if you count pictures of ducks and buildings. I have periods where I shoot a lot of photos and periods where I shoot none. I’m currently experiencing the latter.
When photographing a subject, what is more important to you, having a specific technical method or making a connection with your subject?
The more I take pictures, the less the technical mumbo-jumbo is important. I actually dislike talking about technical stuff. It’s boring and not necessary. I know all about that BS but it’s not important. Content is important. Communicating something with my pictures – that’s what I like, invoking a feeling in the viewer, sending a message. So yeah, in answer to your question, I’d choose a “connection” with the subject.
Your work is very sensual, was this something that was always portrayed in your photographs or did it develop over time?
I actually don’t see the work as sensual. I just like images that aren’t normal and plain. Like I say, something that invokes a little thought. I do like making people look cool. I don’t know why. I find it easy and rewarding. However, I’d actually like to change the direction of my work to more of a photo reportage kind of style. I went to a Donald Weber talk. Kinda turned me inside out.
What is the most challenging part of a photo-shoot?
ORGANIZING PEOPLE’S LIVES FOR THEM.
You’ve been spending a lot of time mountain climbing, what sort of things have your learned about yourself since taking this up?
This topic could be an interview in and of itself. I’ve been climbing a little longer than I’ve been a photographer it’s just now I’m actually taking myself seriously. I guess I’ve learned that I can go longer – physically, I mean. We are all pretty amazing little machines. I like relating this idea to all kinds of things in life. Our minds drive our bodies but I wouldn’t say the inverse is true. A nice thing is you can relate a lot of stuff in climbing back to life. You can go longer/higher/faster than you’d think, metaphorically. The metaphors that come from climbing are so obvious. We’re all climbing our mountains. I think I’ll be a motivational speaker one day…. Just kidd’n.
When was the last time you felt discouraged?
About picture taking? Oh, now and then I feel discouraged. I probably, in a way, feel discouraged right now. I’m wanting to shoot other things that are not normal for me to shoot, but I’m pretty terrified to do so.
What, in your opinion, makes a person “sexy”?
What makes a person sexy?? I’m going to go with a classic answer here: “joie de vivre”.
Have you ever taken a perfect photograph? Is there such a thing?
I take them all the time. So do you.
Dream photography assignment?
Documenting human suffering. Is that a fucked up answer? I don’t know.. Well, that’s my honest answer. I still want to document war or poverty. Give the first-world a real smack in the fucking face and show everyone just how good they actually have it. Life hasn’t presented me with this opportunity just yet. Then again, I haven’t really chased this idea yet either. I’ve been busy training for climbing and paying the credit card companies. One day I’d like to do this though.
Thank you, Jonathan!!
a video by Jonathan…….