Humanity in the Hill Country: Meet Photographer Jason Whitehead

Photographer Jason Whitehead lives in Fredericksburg, a small town of German heritage in the heart of Texas Hill Country. Thanks to thriving vineyards, varied shopping and a slew of bed-and-breakfast inns, Jason’s hometown is no stranger to tourists who enjoy photographing the scenic terrain.

The humanity of the moment.

In order to differentiate his work, Jason uses a “fly-on-the-wall” approach. He shoots both digital and film, focusing on street, landscapes and portraits. In color and black and white, daytime and night, he explores architectural exteriors, a retro laundromat and other street imagery. Jason’s landscapes often juxtapose natural and manmade beauty, while his people portraits weave in an urban or natural backdrop for context. Whatever the subject, Jason’s goal is to bring out the “humanity of the moment,” as he quotes Swiss-American photographer Robert Frank.

Framing his latest exhibit.

Frame Destination founder Mark Rogers shares Jason’s appreciation for street photography, and is honored that Jason chooses Frame Destination products to display his talents. For Jason’s exhibit last fall, he selected Wood Frame Profile 502B in 14x19 with an acid-free foam-core backing, glass and mat board. When Jason discovered a scratch on one of the 25 frames, he contacted Frame Destination, who sent a new one the same day. “Unbelievable customer service and the best-quality products I’ve ever seen,” says Jason. “When I open my [online] store, I will offer your frames exclusively.” We appreciate that, Jason!

To see more of Jason’s work, visit jasoncwhitehead.com or shop his Etsy store. To discover his take on patience and originality, where he got his start and how he deals with creative blocks, keep reading.

Now for Artie’s Eight with Jason Whitehead…

1. What is your background; how did you get started?

I started in the late ’80s taking a Photojournalism class at Fredericksburg High School in Texas. We started on Pentax 35mm film cameras and it just went from there. Early '90s I "borrowed" my Aunt's Canon AE-1 35mm and moved to Amarillo, Texas. Took a number of amazing shots of the landscape out there. Got a job at the oldest family-run camera shop in that part of the state in Amarillo, and went to school for photography on their dime. After I left there, I kind of backed off of photography and just shot every once in a while with a Canon ELPH 35mm then just stopped completely until the summer of 2011 when I bought my first Canon DSLR with a 50mm 1.8 lens. After that I was hooked and I've turned it into a modest professional career outside of my day job with room to grow and learn. In 2017 I was "gifted" two film cameras: a Canon AE-1 Program 35mm and a Mamiya RZ67 120mm. Shooting film again gave me that feeling I first had when you had to think about the composition and know what you wanted. In November of 2018, I printed, mounted and framed my first exhibition in my hometown and it received a warm and positive turnout. Now I'm interested on opening an online shop, traveling and learning as much as I can. My main focus is street, portrait and landscape photography.

2. How important is it for a photographer to “connect” with their subject?

It's important because if you don't have their attention and find some way to capture and convey to the world what you're seeing, the audience and the subject will be lost. Even when it's a street shot or a landscape capture, you have to know what you're looking at. Especially when you're shooting film. Everything has to align just right in order for that exposure to be as good as it can be. With digital you can try as many times as you want. Which isn't a bad thing because it helps with the process. “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” — Robert Frank

3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?

Be patient and true to yourself. And always do good work. Because when you do good work, someone will always find it. Never copy or emulate. Always try to be as original as you can.

4. What ways does your work reflect your personality?

Because I live in a beautiful tourist town with vineyards and hills in Texas, there are a lot of photographers who capture the same settings over and over. My main goal is to capture my surroundings in a different light. I want my work to give the audience that fly-on-the-wall feeling with plenty of space around the subject to let you know where we are.

5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?

Yes, and I step away until it comes back. I put the cameras away and try and find another outlet for creativity, and then wait for inspiration to come back. Because you can always just go "shoot" without any results making it even worse because now you're just shooting because your mind needs to create a picture. Step away for a while. Listen to music, drive around and look at older photographers that you might not have seen before.

6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)

Self awareness. I intensely research different photographer's work and always make sure I keep my work as original as possible and make sure my work is speaking to a certain group of people that wouldn't have thought of that composition before or letting them know it's ok to think for yourself when composing a shot. Self awareness, originality and always being open to whatever it is I'm shooting.

7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?

I'm currently working on my second online store. I'm also thinking about my next exhibition of older and new works. Stripping everything down to the bare essentials and starting from scratch. Trying not to be influenced by anyone and just shooting what I know and what I'm good at. Traveling more as well. You can't capture the world if you're stuck in the same place shooting the same thing.

8. What “fad” gadget do you most regret purchasing?

Probably one of the instant cameras that came out a few years ago. That now sits in the closet.

All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.

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