Sunday, March 04, 2007

Jonathan Haeber

Jonathan Heaber (who also goes by Flickr name TunnelBug) is a Richmond (CA)-based night photographer and urban explorer.

(photo by Jon Haeber)

Jon told me, "I'm a strong believer in research and proper preparation before your camera hits the ground. I think the best photos are all a matter of the location that you choose, as well as the history behind the location. It's also why networking with other photographers and urban explorers is immensely important to me.

Finding the perfect location [takes real time and effort], and it can be really hard work, at times. Following dead leads and hitting dead ends are a common disappointment in this kind of work. My purpose, as a photographer, is to capture places that have rarely, if ever, been photographed so at least there is some kind of record of their existence.

My interest in this type of photography stemmed from a college Landscape Architecture course that centered around the historical built environment of America and what it means. Eventually I'd like to use a combination of architectural photos and historical research to tell a story about the American vernacular. J.B. Jackson, Kenneth Jackson, Professor Paul Groth, and Carey McWilliams have all influenced my work, though none of them are "photographers" they are all incredible storytellers. To me the medium of storytelling matters less than the method."

There are a number of Jon's points that are worth repeating. First, is his purpose of photographing locations that have rarely been photographed in order to contribute to the historical record. The biggest influence on my photography is David Plowden. Jon's philosophy is similar to David Plowden's: Always stay one step ahead of the wrecking ball. I've found that this philosophy not only helps keep me focused on what to shoot, but it also creates a sense of urgency to go out and finish the project before it's too late. Another night photographer who has followed this mantra for over a decade is Troy Paiva, who has spent years photographing abandoned towns of the Southwest U.S.

The second interesting point that Jon makes regards the history behind the location. When viewers see a successful photograph, they not only want to keep looking at it (enough, hopefully, to purchase it), but they also want to know the story behind it. As I've been photographing some of the disappearing orchards in Santa Clara County (warning: day-time photography coming up), I've become even more interested in the stories and history behind the people who owned these orchards (many of them were Japanese-Americans who were forced to relocate to internment camps during WWII).

The last point that I find interesting is Jon's goal of telling a story about the American vernacular.
Storytelling is one of key ingredients that seperates snapshots from fine art photography. It's the sense of communicating an idea or a feeling to the viewer.

Although we have a lot of common friends, I still haven't had the pleasure of shooting with Jon. Maybe this year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here here! Jon's photography has been quite an inspiration to me. I look forward to seeing more of his (and your) photography. I'm learning a lot from people like you!

6:18 PM  

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