Full Frame Interview: Jason Eskenazi

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We’re organizing the photography workshop “Visual Storytelling” with American photographer Jason Eskenazi and photo-critic Laurence Cornet from August 27-30 at AltCity in Beirut, Lebanon. On this occasion, we interviewed Jason so that our community may get to know him, and his work, better:

In your own words, who is Jason Eskenazi?

I’m a photographer who a long time ago found a language for my soul in black and white photography. Most of my activities revolve around photography including a publishing company RED HOOK EDITIONS, The AMERICANS LIST, and DOG FOOD magazine.

When and why did you start taking photographs?

I was fascinated by the photographer at a family event when I was 5 or so. But I got my first camera when I was 17. Cavalier model bought by my father. I photographed for my high school and college yearbooks. It was a way to get close to people.

How would you describe your photographic style?

I have a very straight documentary style that’s infused with longing, desire, and satire.

From Jason Eskenazi's book 'Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith', 2008

A photograph from Jason Eskenazi’s book “Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith”, 2008.

Do you tend to stick to a particular genre (street, documentary, etc.)? Why or why not?

I found my voice in a very simple style early on. I thought it was a true expression of my soul. But I’m not stuck on it anymore. Perhaps my soul has morphed into a new form. Let’s see what’s next!

How much of photography is about luck and how much of it is about flair?

Photography is about experience.

Experience enough to put yourself in the right time and place for serendipity to happen.

You’ve travelled around the world a lot. What is your motivation for the places you visit and which country has drawn you in the most?

First it was Russia and former Soviet republics because its story was the story of the 20th century, now it’s the Middle East and the cradle of civilization, because that’s the story of the world.

The fall of the Berlin Wall inspired your book “Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith”. What did you hope to show the world from your visits to the ex-Soviet countries?

That metaphors can be found in someone else’s experiences and love is fleeting.

Jason is currently working on his next project The Black Garden, with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, set in the geographical locations known to the ancient Greeks. He is seeking out a sequence of visual metaphors that are once about the failure of those ideals and about a journey of lost traditions in an ever culturally ambiguous and ubiquitous world.

Jason is currently working on his next project: “The Black Garden” (through the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign), set in geographical locations known to the Ancient Greeks. He is seeking out a sequence of visual metaphors that are once about the failure of those ideals and about a journey of lost traditions in an ever culturally-ambiguous and ubiquitous world.

Tell us more about your upcoming project: “The Black Garden”.

It’s set in the geographical locations known to the ancient Greeks, investigating the east-west divide.

You’ve exhibited your photographs at “Visa pour l’Image” in Perpignan (France) and at the Leica Gallery in New York yet your public would like to see more of your work, more often. Why is it so rare for you to exhibit?

Exhibits go together with books and I publish books so rarely. I would like viewers to experience the book first and foremost.

Alongside your photography, you are also a curator for the Bursa Photography Festival and the co-creator of the magazine DogFood. How do you manage all these roles at once?

I’ll make the announcement first here to BSP. I will be the international curator the First international photo festival in Istanbul this fall.

As for other ventures like DOG food my imagination goes way beyond documentary photography and I need other avenues of expression for myself. I look at these project as photo community activities designed to keep our worldwide community as one.

What was your motivation to come give a workshop in Lebanon?

I’ve never been to Lebanon. I read about the cedars in the Epic of Gilgamesh. I met some wonderful friends in Sarajevo and they invited me to Beirut.

Give us a small taste of what the workshop will be like and what you’ll be expecting from your students.

I’m hoping students want to go beyond typical reportage and have work that is an investigation in to their surroundings and soul. We will look at my work, and your work and discuss some new directions.

The goal is always to make a book and I hope to push you on that road.

Any closing words to the BSP community?

I just arrived in Istanbul and can’t wait to come to Beirut. A workshop is a collaboration between the teacher and the students and we will hopefully turn those roles upside down. I hope to learn something from you as well.

To register for the workshop, please fill in this application.

Check out the facebook event for the workshop for more information and updates here.

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