I’m blown away by the amazing world of photography, especially when it comes to highlighting members of our LGBTQ community in their most fabulous of lights.
I backed into a photo shot by Jason Jackson on Instagram recently that struck me for so many reasons. One, the subject at hand was an absolutely stunning individual but the way the snap was taken highlighted every morsel of this person’s body on top of their absolutely beautiful face.
Jason is on a mission through his photography series called The Erotiese Project which he describes as “capturing the diversity and magnificence of man”. In our exclusive interview with him he goes into what all that means, how he began in the business, his take on photography in the COVID world we are in and so much more.
How did you get involved in the art of photography?
My initial focus was street and travel photography. I love capturing unique and organic moments on the streets of New York City and when traveling abroad. That spontaneity is so appealing to me. As my time and techniques behind the camera evolved I expanded into shooting the male form in all of it’s glory. Being a gay man, honing in on the beauty of men was a natural part of my artistic journey. That is how The Erotiese Project came about.
It’s an overarching project that focuses on creating a visual narrative that reinforces and challenges how we perceive masculinity. To be honest I hated the camera as a child. My mom was always taking pictures and I thought it was so annoying and intrusive. She kept asking me to pose and smile next to relatives I didn’t even know when all I really wanted to do was watch cartoons or go outside and play. The dressing up part was the worst. It was the 70’s and 80’s so polyester was the thing. Maybe that’s why so many of my subjects don’t wear clothes. I look back at those pictures from my childhood and I cringe and laugh.
Did you have any inspirations before getting into the industry?
Given that my first love was street photography and portraiture, artists like Gordon Parks, Vivian Maier, Roy DeCarava, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and Irving Penn were so inspirational. They are the classics/the greats. That being said there are a host of other modern day photographers that inspire me like Texas Isaiah and his photographic narrative of the Black Trans community, the late and amazing Isauro Cairo whose photographs of men are simply stunning, and Devin Allen and Andre D. Wagner’s visual narrative of black life amazes me every time I see their work.
How would you describe your specific style?
I don’t think I prescribe to a specific style. I approach my photography in terms of a process. I really love creating a story when shooting. I want that visual narrative to tell a story the viewer can feel just as much as they can see. The narrative tends to drive the style and technical aspects of my work. I do tend to have a propensity toward the use of contrast and shadows to convey a certain mood but I won’t hesitate to throw that out the window if it’s not going to work for a particular assignment or project.
You’ve shot some pretty yummy looking guys during your career. Do you usually search for them or do they come to you?
I have been very fortunate to have photographed a wide variety of men. Corporate executives, yoga instructors, bankers, lawyers, doctors, bartenders and porn stars. Come one come all. I have a core group of men I work with for collaborative and personal projects. The rest are commissioned/paid shoots of men that contact me on social media or through my website.
Occasionally I will see someone who fits for a particular project I have in mind and I will reach out to them. All of those methods have given me access to the diversity that I love to shoot. There are so many different types of men beyond the conventional mainstream ideals of beauty that I want to photograph. I love a belly, or a crooked smile,just as much as a man with abs and muscles. I’m not perfect so come to me as you are. The REAL you. My only regret is not having given representation to transgender men yet (hint hint, anybody out there!?).
What has been your favorite shoot to date and why?
Let’s just say that I have never had a shoot that I didn’t like. There is one that is near and dear to my heart and that was my shoot with Thomas and Jefferson . We met casually on the streets of New York City. If you count Folsom East as “casual”. The candid street photos led to a concept shoot the following year when they returned to NYC where I spent 3 days documenting the Dom-Sub dynamic of their relationship and what their 5 years together represented.
They really were a major catalyst for how I chose to push forward with photographing the male form. My partner and I visited them in Brazil the following year and we continue to stay connected. My plan is to photograph them again during the 10th year of their relationship.
If there was one event that you could cover what would it be?
There’s a long list of debauchery and underground parties and events all over the world I would love to document but that’s all on hold with Covid…and I like to be in bed by 10pm so I’m not sure how that would work.
In all seriousness, photographing that aspect of male expression is so much fun but I also try to balance that with looking for events and concepts that speak to social justice and human rights/equality as well. Photographing the Queer Liberation March allowed me amplify their message in my own way and to give sight and substance to those who couldn’t participate. I also had such a good time photographing the Latex Ball last year in NYC hosted by Gay Men’s Health Crisis. It’s an iconic event that does so much for the community.
Do you feel photographers are not as appreciated these days due to so much the focus shifting to social media selfies and filters?
It’s a touchy subject. I think technology allows for mass production of these homogeneous looks. I don’t think anyone has the right to be so “high brow” and act like the pictures people are taking with cell phones hold no artistic value. Some of the work being done is beautiful and some of it is trash. That is the case with pictures being taken with expensive professional cameras as well. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. There has been a shift toward less of the gimmicky imagery taken with cell phones but art is subjective.
Covid has changed the way art is viewed and sold. Virtual/online galleries are more commonplace now. Time will tell if the shift continues or if traditional art shows and exhibitions return. Quality will stand the test of time regardless of the medium it is presented in.
What does the future hold for you and what are you looking forward to the most in your career?
A book of my work as well as an exhibition is what I am trying to conceptualize right now. The joy of creating the photograph and the narrative around a series of images is what I love most. But seeing it in print for a client’s personal collections as a piece of framed art or in a book is just as rewarding.