How can I describe myself? Well, I am a photographer. I am also a theatre artist. And a writer. And a teacher. “Well, which is it,” you ask. “What is your primary work?” To answer honestly, I do all of these things.
Not because I can’t decide, mind you, but because each is useful to me in its own way. I reconcile these disparate occupations for myself by thinking of each of them as a unique mode—or vehicle—of communication. To me, the form of the artwork I set out to make has always been defined by the questions I have or the story I am trying to tell. I have learned that some ideas are best explored in writing, others in photographs, others in performance, still others in a classroom full of children. I am continually amazed by the immense difference that the choice of medium can have upon an inquiry, how the outcome of that choice is experienced by an audience, and how I am changed as a result.
In each of the domains in which I work, I have found that the best way to orient myself to tackle a problem is to ask, again and again, what are my questions. The work then becomes specifying and reframing the questions that offer the most tantalizing results. Perhaps because photography is the most solitary of the arts I practice, I have found that loneliness, stillness and death are the ideas that attract me as I make images. I ask the existential questions with a camera. My playwriting, on the other hand, is vastly different. Because I write primarily for children, I am drawn toward questions related to hope, justice and growth. And as a teacher, the questions I ask myself are even wider reaching, mostly guided by the children in my classroom, and (not unlike theatre) the results are measured by the quality of experience I am able to create for each individual.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from many notable artists and educators. Among them are: David Levithan, Billy Merrill, Nico Medina, DJ Potter, Dan Hurlin, Brian Selznick, David Michael Friend, David Dorfman, Caden Manson, Emily DeCola, Sarah Lafferty, Gerardine Clark, Nicole Ricciardi, Ann-Marie Mott, Hal Melnick and Judy Leipzig. I am indebted to each of these individuals for their role in helping me forge my own path as a multi-disciplinary artist and educator.
- Jonathan lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.