“I know there are unique moments happening all of the time, and if I’m not out there with my camera in hand and a curious eye, I will never find it.”
Jonathan Jasberg is a unique photographer, a self-proclaimed ‘vagabond’ who has dedicated himself to traversing the globe, capturing everyday moments with a rare blend of skill, creativity, and a remarkable eye for composition.
Jasberg’s passion for photography took root during his years at The University of Arizona, where a serendipitous encounter led him to the Center for Creative Photography on the Tucson campus. Founded in 1975 by the university’s then-President John Schaefer and iconic landscape photographer Ansel Adams, the center features an impressive collection of work from some of photography’s greatest masters (including Adams) and includes a free-to-enter space featuring ever-changing exhibitions, which appealed to Jasberg, then a ‘penniless’ college student.
He later discovered the nearby Etherton Gallery, which had connections to photographers like Alex Webb and Steve McCurry. The latter’s work for National Geographic had first ignited Jasberg’s interest in the medium many years earlier, and this exposure laid the groundwork for Jasberg’s craft, even though it would take several years before he could muster enough funds for his very first camera.
Long before he achieved his iconic status, Steve McCurry was a young cinematography graduate working as a staff photographer at a local newspaper. His insatiable wanderlust led him on a transformative journey through India, a voyage that would set the foundation for his extraordinary career.
Similarly, Jasberg credits his own photographic evolution to his travels, though interestingly he didn’t venture beyond his homeland until his early thirties, when, inspired by James Clavell’s 1975 bestseller”Shogun”, he embarked on a life-altering 10-day adventure to Japan.
“It was a 10 day adventure that changed my life drastically. When I returned home, I decided to dedicate the majority of my free time to learning Japanese as well as figuring out how to travel as far and often as possible. I was obsessed and soon started making trip after trip back to Japan, and slowly exploring other parts of Asia and the world.”
He soon realized it would be significantly cheaper to remain in Asia, rather than embark on frequent trips, and as, at the time he was working as a software developer, a job that could be done remotely, he was able to give up his life in the US and travel full time. So began his life as a nomad, moving from place to place, his camera in tow, documenting his experiences with his lens.
Right from the outset, Jasberg was drawn to the allure of “street photography,” enticed by the magic that unexpected moments could provide.
“Each day that I go out to shoot, I know I will most likely come home with an SD card full of poor and mediocre images. I love the process and know that if I keep going out, sooner or later a good image will come. I’m fascinated by the idea that I have absolutely no idea what my next good photograph will look like, where it will be and when it will happen. I know there are unique moments happening all of the time, and if i’m not out there with my camera in hand a curious eye, I will never find it. To me, this is what makes street photography so different than any other genre.”
Jasberg’s images perfectly embody the essence of this genre, encapsulating Henri Cartier Bresson’s theory of perception, “the decisive moment,” as he intricately yet spontenously frames everyday instances from across the globe. Equipped with an innate understanding of light and a discerning eye for color, his dynamic compositions, often layered, grow even more captivating the longer they are viewed.
After his initial years of capturing Asia, Jasberg expanded his horizons to encompass more distant horizons. Engaged in independent photography projects, client assignments, and conducting intensive street photography workshops, he continues to capture life across the globe using his trusty Leica camera, with the same artistic flair, skill, and fascination that he did during his formative sojourns. His talent has seen him recognized with numerous awards, including 3rd prize in our recent Street Photography Award.
He holds Oaxaca, Mexico, Kyoto, Japan and Kolkata, India, in special regard. Despite their somewhat disparate identities, these cities share a wealth of history and culture that consistently draw him back, providing endless inspiration for his artistic practice.
“Staying in a country for 1-3 months empowers me to delve deeper into photography, particularly when revisiting cherished destinations.”
For many photographers, Jasberg encapsulates a dream: to live a life of worldwide exploration, in search of new experiences and unexpected moments to immortalize through the camera’s lens.
All images © Jonathan Jasberg