If you were to see Jon Jacobson’s photography, you can be forgiven for being in a momentary trance. From glamour-sans-ordinary fashion shoots to fantasy-land-made-real portraitures, Jon’s conceptual works of symbolism, surrealism and narrative prove that imagination knows no limit, and that it is no sin to dream.
The graphic design and multimedia Chilean graduate who was born in Quintero, moved to Santiago de Chile to work as a freelance photographer there a year ago. At only 24 years old, Jon works have been seen on various global publications like Americanino, Insight magazine, Saatchi Online, Revista 23, Para Ti, Bilbao, Pravda (Lithuania), Vogue, Dazed & Confused and DMAG (Argentina). These achievements could hardly imagined by the then 15 year old when he first picked up photography.
We were intrigued to find out more about one of Chile’s fastest rising stars in the photography world as he brings us through an Alice in Wonderland experience inside his mind…
What got you interested in photography and design in the first place?
Photography started first. Design was an alternative option to find something complementary to what i was doing at the moment. At the end they both did a very good mix! Photography was a response of my first experiences with the internet (I was 14), the digital world excited me because of the limits i could reach. In fact that was the first question that got me started: “Where’s the limit?” Design is more about techniques. Although i learned photography and retouching by myself, i felt i needed a creative discipline to use my mind properly. These explosive moments of creation only lasted the first few years. Later, I needed to be disciplined myself to keep creating as if it was like the first time.
What was your first piece of artwork like?
The first ones started with a webcam, then experimenting with editing programs. It was 2005 and i was really curious about how to transform something. I fell in love with the digital world. My first photos were more photography than retouching. Because these self-portraits were like secrets revealed in the internet, I was too shy to ask someone to work with me. These portraits showed my mouth holding thorns based on the interpretation of a dream i had.
Describe your style of working and how do you create your art works.
The road is always different, that’s the exciting part of it. But there are some steps that are essential for every piece: Observation of the world, conceptualization, planning/sketching, shooting and retouching. What happens between those things is always a mystery.
You tend to like to explore and fuse surrealism, abstract art, humour and photography to your art works. Why is that so?
I like experimenting and trying out new things. I think doing the same formula is the most boring and lazy way of creating. I get bored very easily, so i always push myself to explore new things, new techniques and new themes. I always want to catch emotions, flavours and smells in a single image. That’s why I like creating fantasy. It’s closer to how my inner being and feelings are, or how i interpret things from real life. When i dream, I can do whatever I want, and when I wake up, the only way to feel that bliss again is by creating those dreams into reality. And if it’s a single photo, like a portrait, colour is always the answer to make these fantasy-feelings reappear: Light blue like the moment after taking a shower and laying in bed naked, magenta like Melissa shoes, petrol green like the smell of the grass after the rain, you know.
What and who are some of your influences to your artworks?
Life is the main influence. Part of my work consists of having a life, as I said before, reading the world is very important before I create. I need a spark somewhere to begin and connect the dots. Experiences are important to not keep doing the same stuff, applying the same formula. I also look a lot towards my favourite artists – Fever Ray, Caravaggio, Björk, Raf Simons, Pj Harvey, Tim Walker, Steven Meisel, Avedon, Benoit Paille, Iamamiwhoami, El Bosco, Maleonn, Boticelli, Sølve Sundsbø, and the marvelous things I can find on Tumblr.
Which is the most difficult aspect of your job? How long does it take to do each artwork?
Masking layers (in Photoshop) is the most difficult, because it has to be perfect, and it’s the most boring part of the process. Composition and colours are also difficult. I need to experiment and adjust the colours to check which tones are right for the image. Every work is unique, and it needs the time it needs. Normally it takes one day of work depending on how much retouching is needed. I mostly work on a low budget, so sometimes I have to use Photoshop to fix certain problems and that can take more time. Sometimes it’s obligatory because the idea requires impossible things. For example “La voz del puerto”, my graduation project, consisted an interactive postcard set and had to be done in three months. The project included investigating, designing the packaging/promotion and creating the photos, some of which took 5 days to be created. I didn’t sleep a lot that time.
How would you describe the arts and design scene in Chile?
Well, to be sincere, I’m more into the photography world. What I do is considered “advertising/commercial work” for the art scene. They are more purist here. Design scene is less dedicated to the author’s design and it’s geared towards the agencies and advertising. As far as I’ve seen, Industrial Design is more known for it’s authority and it’s very featured for the use of Chilean raw materials.The fashion world here is slowly growing and getting it’s own space. I’m very excited about that. As you can see in the last Chilean Biennial, most of the works that participated in foreign exhibitions were industrial.
How does it feel being awarded for your work in recent years?
It’s so rewarding! I’ve been creating artworks for the last 9 years and finally I see the growing results from disciplined non-stop working. Being featured in sites like Vogue.it. Saatchi Online and named as a prominent revelation in Chilean Photography by Dazed and Confused’s “Satellite Voices” (one of my favorite magazines) is something you don’t expect everyday, and more when those names are everywhere and suddenly, they point at you. Your lungs stop taking air for a second and the heart makes a loud beat. I am really happy where i am now
Have you been to Asia before and what do you think of the Asian arts scene?
I have never been in Asia, which is a shame. I hope to visit there someday. I’m very curious about contemporary Chinese art and Japanese culture. They are so alive.
Any future plans?
Right now, I will be leaving Chile for the first time to a trip to Europe. I want to know another culture and visit some friends. I also plan to see “The Garden of Earthly Delights” in Madrid, Spain. Back in Chile in June, I want to start working on a new series called “The Origins”. It is about a journey I had for 11 days through Torres del Paine, in Chile’s South. It’s about the ice age and how i was able to see something so antique like glaciers, the union of past and present.
You can browse more of Jon Jacobsen’s works at http://jon-jacobsen.com/
This article was published on Vida De Latinos’ online magazine, June 2013.
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