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Interview with Jason Eskenazi

I'm way behind on updating this site. I want to blame it on travel, and the hard work I've been doing on editing my portfolio for my upcoming thesis semester in the MFA-IA program at Goddard College, but while those things have dominated my time and thinking, I've also really needed a break. My photographing has slowed from obsessive to merely constant, and my writing has dropped off. Toward the end of 2018 though I was approached by the lovely folks at Focus on the Story to conduct an interview with Jason Eskenazi about his two new, upcoming, photo books. It was a dream assignment to have license to pick at Jason's concept of photography, and to get a better understanding of where he's headed. Read all about it here: FOCUS ON THE STORY  

I Am Not A Creative

Someone once called me "a creative" and I wanted to punch them in the nose. It's a phrase on a short list of things that make me angry. The way I hear it, it's a way of saying "lesser person who is employed for their impractical, foolish tendencies, which are—regrettably—needed for projects they would be too 'pure' to hold in esteem."  Wow, I guess I'm reading a lot into this. I was at a commencement yesterday for teen photographers at a well-known photo school, and all the speakers conspicuously clung to the word "image-makers" any time a normal person would say "photographers." It was peppered into almost every sentence they spoke. I was seriously grossed out. It felt as if the faculty or administration had adopted a conscious policy of distancing themselves from the "photographers" label in order to make it seem like there's something much bigger going on, something more advanced and separate from the onslaught of photographs being taken by the growing field of amateurs, selfie-shooters, and hobbyists. What's revealed in this though is their hidden fear that maybe there isn't that much to photography, and that maybe there never was. Embedded in their overuse of this new term, "image-makers" is an aspiration to superiority, but superiority comes from realizing that terms are meaningless, and the only thing that counts is great work. I've seen other schools cling to calling photographers "storytellers," which is almost as annoying. In recent years the overvaluation of story has come to be crippling to photographs at best, and at worst causes painfully mediocre work to be championed for the story in the captions or the photographer's background. Neither situation helps the medium grow. Both imply that photographs by themselves are somehow inadequate without enhancement. This age of branding and shameless marketing feels terribly alien to me, and I hope the next generation after the current young one comes out swinging with flaming fists at the new culture of conformist narcissism. 

Advantages from Liabilities

I remember how shocking it was to me when a therapist of mine a while back suggested to me that the responses I evolved as a survival mechanism in the abusive home I grew up in were not only understandable, but actually commendable. Really? As I have moved through adulthood, no longer ruled by the threatening environment or people I was subject to as a child, I often found myself feeling ruled by my outdated responses and reactions.

But let's face it, a lot of the very skills and intuitive abilities I rely on to take photographs in public come very much from that time in my life. I have an ingrained tendency to read the mood of those around me, and am always trying to gauge how to harmonize with that energy. This may have originally come from trying prevent my father get angry enough to hit me, but it may also have led to my being a good improvising musician, intuitively finding a place for myself in any music, even that which unfolds spontaneously. As a street photographer, I feel I'm using the same set of senses or sensors, to find the flow of life and not just observe it, but to meld with it and be a part of it. In that endeavor I find my struggles end, and I lose all self-consciousness. The best pictures come from this place.