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Outside Influences – Jason Campbell

by , February 14, 2014

We’re a carry community and our focus is all things carry, no doubt about it. However, it’s fun to take a peek at what we like to call ‘outside influences’ – a glimpse into the world of creative individuals who are loosely related to or outside of the carry sphere in order to gain nuggets of gold for making the carry world even more awesome. One such creative individual is Jason Campbell, a photographer who resides in New York, and we got some insights into what makes him tick…

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1. Tell us about your background – What path led you to what you’re doing today?

Born in Alabama, raised in Louisiana. The path to where I am today probably started when I was around 12 and I started skateboarding. I grew up in a jockish small town where football was king. I played soccer and baseball in junior high. One day a friend was talking about skateboarding. My mom and dad bought me a Nash Fly Me from Kmart. Later my dad built me a jump ramp and that was all I did. From the time I got home from school to dark I was pushing up and down my driveway. From there we would go to contests and meet other kids from other towns. I didn’t really think about it at the time but I knew kids from all over the South just from skateboarding. Even though I don’t shoot skateboarding Transworld magazine was a huge influence on me. I bought my first issue, read it over and over and then I took the staples out, cut it in half and taped every page up on my bedroom walls. It made you want to get out and go places. It’s kinda weird to think that skateboarding was the turning point. I’d probably still be in my hometown without it.

2. How did you originally become involved with photography?

I was a couple of years into college at LSU not really knowing what I wanted to major in and I took an intro photography class. I loved it. On the first day of class the teacher showed us all how to use our light meters and a few days after that taught us how to develop film and print. The rest of the class time was spent looking at great work. It was less about technical skill and more about trying to get the students to develop taste. I transferred to a school in Arizona that was more based in commercial photography. The schools don’t do a good job teaching about what it’s actually like to be a photographer. I was there primarily to snowboard, mountain bike, and skate. I graduated and moved to NYC and learned more in the first 2 months than I did the entire time I was in school.

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3. How would you describe your design aesthetic and what influences the style of your work?

Aesthetically, I like to keep things simple. I don’t like to use gimmicks in my work. A picture is interesting or it isn’t. I don’t like excessive retouching.

When I started shooting in NYC I was mostly shooting studio work. Lately I’ve been trying to do personal work with as little equipment as possible. It’s a challenge to make interesting work with just a camera and a subject. It’s looser and more relaxed, and spontaneous. If you want to move to a different location you don’t have to move a ton of lights. You don’t need an assistant.

As far as influences go, it comes from everywhere. It’s really great living in NYC. I’m in Chelsea and the galleries are close by. I try to go see shows as often as I can. There’s a big difference between looking at photography on a laptop and seeing actual prints. I went to the Met last week to see this William Eggleston show, there happened to be an exhibit called “Photography and the American Civil War”. It was a very broad survey of all aspects of photography from the war. There was this amazing section of formal studio portraits of wounded Union soldiers by a doctor in New York State. They were brutal and amazing.

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4. What general steps are involved in your creative process? Do you work alone or collaborate?

Working for a client and personal work are completely different. For personal work when I’m making a portrait, I don’t really go in with any preconceived ideas. Generally I like to have an idea as to what a location is like and I decide what equipment I would want to have on hand. Really, I want to react to a situation rather than control it from the beginning. With a client, the preplanning is much more involved.

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5. What are you working on at the moment?

I just turned in a story for a British publication called The Quarterly. It’s an independently published magazine that takes on a theme for each issue. Censorship was the theme, so I pitched a series of portraits of people involved with censorship. They gave me complete creative control to do what I wanted with the story. Most of the time someone calls and says “we want you to photograph this person for this story at this location.” For this it was all up to me to figure it all out. So, I started researching on the internet and just started contacting people. It ended up being a really heavy story. I ended up photographing some government whistleblowers. One was looking at 35 years in federal prison before his charges were dropped. It was a great experience hearing his story. It wasn’t my usual subject matter. But I would like to photograph more newsmakers.

Other than that I’ve been photographing friends and acquaintances.

6. What does a typical day in the life of JC involve?

Every day is different.

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7. What local people are inspiring you these days?

Joshua Wildman is one of the first friends I made when I came to NYC. He’s a super-talented photographer.

8. Could you share any resources that you turn to when you’re in need of creative juice?

For me it’s just a need for constant stimulation. Movies, books, news, NPR, everything. I have to have something coming in at all times.

9. Your favorite neighborhood and why?

It’s hard to pick just one neighborhood in NYC. I live in Chelsea but I end up hanging out in the LES most of the time. I like that when you walk around the LES you are pretty much guaranteed to run into someone you know. It’s almost like a small town in the middle of the big city.

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10. What and where was the last great meal?

This is hard. NYC is ridiculous for food. I love Blue Ribbon Izakaya in the LES. The Oxtail and Bone Marrow Fried Rice is the JAM!!!

11. Where would you be on a typical Saturday morning?

Brunch and a bike ride after.

12. Best kept secret?

Who knows??

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13. If someone gave you $50 million to start a new company what would the company be?

I’d probably start some sort of media company to produce long form documentary work. I’m not saying it would be the best way to make money but hopefully it would benefit society.

14. What’s in your bag?

SOL Republic Tracks HD, Pen and Notebook, Topo Designs Accessory Bags, Canon Point and Shoot, 5D III, iPhone 5, Canon 580, Topo Designs Mountain briefcase with a camera bag insert, Spicy Japanese Eyedrops, El Cheapo multitool, Mophie Battery, Canon Battery and charger, PocketWizards

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