Location: Taos, NM
Jonathan Blaustein is a photographer, writer, and educator. His images focus on the intersection of art, culture, economics and globalization in the 21st Century. His current project, “The Value of a Dollar,” is the first installment in a larger narrative about how Globaiization and Commodification are impacting society in the new millenium. Blaustein’s photographs have been exhibited widely in the US, and reside in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, the Public Collection of the State of New Mexico, the Albuquerque Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego.
After graduating from Duke University, I studied photography for two years at the University of New Mexico; then I got an MFA at Pratt Institute in 2004.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned either from a teacher or mentor?
At Pratt, I learned that we never make our best work in our comfort zone. We need to embrace risk-taking and experiment with processes with which we’re unfamiliar. I love the term “happy accidents,” because the shot that looks like a failure often ends up driving our work forward.
What was your first photography job?
A low-paying job in a digital lab in NYC.
What advice would you give to a photographer who is still in school?
I think young photographers ought to focus on developing their passions and interests, and then connect them to their artwork. Not the other way around. If your projects reflect your knowledge, experience and personal perspective, it will make the work that much stronger.
What inspires you about photography?
I love the fact that as a photographer, our vision can be both literal and metaphorical. The information in the frame is a record of our lived experience, of what we saw at a place in time. We get to make art out of reality, out of light and time, and that just fascinates me.
What makes you go out and shoot?
I tend to get cranky and antsy when I’ve gone too long without clicking the shutter. Being an artist keeps me sane. Like everyone else, I can also be motivated by crazy awesome light.
What do you like best about the whole process?
I think my favorite part is watching an idea become reality. First, something pops in my head, and I kick it around for a few months. At some point, I start shooting, and it’s raw. As I keep going, it gets better until I have a set of printed images that reflect what I first saw in my mind’s eye.
What kind of camera equipment do you use?
An Olympus E-3 and a Panasonic/Leica 25mm ƒ/1.4 lens. It’s razor-sharp, and with the Four Thirds System, it works like a true 50mm lens.
What do you think it takes to be successful in today’s challenging and competitive marketplace?
It’s important to have skills beyond just being a good photographer. I’ve chosen to focus on teaching and writing, but I think there are a variety of skills that combine well with photography, be it video, web design or writing code. Having multiple interests also helps with the development of our artistic vision.
To see more of Jonathan Blaustein’s photography, go to www.jblau.com.