Jason Lumsden: a man of many passions and a photographer extraordinaire!
editor’s note: I think the first image I saw of Jason’s was his Chaos image and I was astounded how he had created so much emotion in a single image. I knew that I wanted to keep an eye on his work and once it was decided that this website would finally be created, he was one of the first people I hoped to interview as I was fascinated with his creativity and his ability to create such amazing mood with very simple techniques that he is more than happy to share with us on his website: http://www.jasonlumsden.com
Tell me a little about yourself:
I got into photography in a round-about way. Over ten years ago, I got into 3D animation. I started reading photography textbooks to learn how the camera worked with regards to field of view and depth-of-field etc., in order to better match rendered models to photographs in composites. 3D animation is also the reason I got into Photoshop so I could make my own textures and post-processing.
After I lost a 3D project that I had been working on for about 3 months due to a hard-drive failure, I decided to focus on photography and Photoshop because the time from inspiration to completion was much faster and as a result, more personally rewarding. I haven’t launched my 3D animation since the HD failure more than 7 years ago.
So, did you take photography courses or are you self-taught?
I am self-taught, with the help of a few photography textbooks from a friend of mine who does have formal training and also from online resources.
What would you call your style of work and why?
If I have a style, I would say that it would lean towards commercial photography. Not in the sense that I think I can sell my stuff, but because I try to put some sort of story or meaning into most of my photos, in the same way that I imagine a photo for a print ad would require.
One of the things that is extremely noticeable in your work, is the sense of mood you create with your lighting. Tell us a bit about your approach.
I do think about mood and favor darker images, when I make a photo. Generally, I use the light to reveal just what I want seen and I like dark shadows to define shape and depth. I think I take a lot of ideas from movies. Often, I will see lighting used in a movie and take not of it and may try to reproduce it and maybe incorporate it into future images.
I’ve noticed you have lots of sketches on your website. Tell us about how you approach a project.
I’m one of those people that can’t really shut off their brain when I shut my eyes so I have a tough time falling asleep.
My mind will go all over the place and will start running through random things and will eventually go off into some pretty strange tangents. Often, I will eventually think up something that could make up an interesting photo. When this happens, I will quickly sketch out the idea so I will remember it the next day (I keep a notepad and pencil beside my bed) and I will throw the sketch into a box. I also do this when I see something that triggers an idea when I am not near my computer or don’t have my camera with me. Many of these sketches wouldn’t mean anything to anybody who saw them, (chaos, for example) but there is usually enough detail in the sketch so that I will recognize what the intent was.
Even is a particular idea was never made, the sketch may still be the inspiration for other photos. Optimism for example wee both inspired by the same sketch even tho’ that actual image has yet to be made.
Illusionist is very fun and sort of kitschy. Can you say how you came up with the concept.. how you were inspired to go in that direction?
The initial inspiration was easy because the photo was made for an online competition and the theme was Magic. When I am making a photo when the main theme is already defined, I will start by listing every idea I can think of down on paper. Branched from each of those ideas, I list everything that I can think of that relates to that word or thought. Eventually, one of these series of branches will give me some sort of storyline and I will start sketching out ideas.
For this particular photo, many of the ideas I had were really quite gory. (One idea I had for this contest was called “oldest trick in the book” and would show the magician pulling a dead, decaying rabbit from his hat.) Though many of the ideas I had for this photo weren’t in the best taste, the character was always going to be this stereotypical, old-time, over the top, Vegas-looking dude.
Many of your images, (Inner Chaos, Agony of Defeat, Optimism, Borderline) explore underlying pain… very emotional stuff. Tell us about this exploration
I’m having trouble with this question… While I am not nuts (probably), I admit I may be a little warped. While I imagine, at some level, those images have some sort of personal release in them, they are really just the end result of creating a photo with an idea in mind and not really a statement of self-expression. I try to keep them somewhat generic so that they can be interpreted by the individual reviewer so people may relate to it in someway that has meaning to them – whether good or bad. One of the comments I received for Chaos was: “While the image is quite visceral, I don’t care for the subject matter at all”. I truly do not mind this type of comment. I guess any reaction is a good reaction.
Besides photography, what are you passionate about?
It goes in spurts. I will do photography for a few weeks or months, then I will focus on Photoshop and may not pick up the camera for a couple of weeks. Same thing for poker, guitar, golf and the list goes on. I tend to do things at full speed until I almost burn myself out with it, then take a break and move onto something else until the interest comes back. I participated in a 30 day challenge where a new photo had to be created every day for a month. After focusing on that every night after work for a month straight, I probably didn’t pick up my camera for a month.
So, you play guitar, I ‘m supposing that the guitar pics are of you. Although nothing to do with photography, for the curiosity of our readers, what do you play? And what genre of music is it? Do you write your own stuff?
Yes, I am the subject in those photos. I have a few guitars including a Gibson Les Paul Studio, a Yamaha APX Electric/Acoustic, an Ibenez electric and my first guitar, an old beat up Fender Squire. I also have a Fender Strat signed by Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits that is not played.
If I’m playing at home to kill time, it is usually something with some crunch (Megadeth, Metallica, Guns n’ Roses etc.,) classical type stuff. I have a buddy that I jam with occasionally and when we play, we will kill some hours taking turns exchanging leads over some random rock or blues riffs.
When I’m in guitar mode, I will write songs if i get inspired. These will range from Punk, Heavy Metal, to instrumentals on acoustic. I think guitar is one of those things (any instrument for that matter) that everyone should get into. It’s one of those things that you’ll always be able to enjoy no matter how good you are or how old you get.
What kind of kid where you?
I remember I used to draw a lot (mostly cop cars from what I remember). I wish I had some of those drawings for confirmation, but I seem to think that I understood shadows and perspective pretty early on. My parents say I was an easy-going, creative, happy kid but that I was also stubborn.
Your work is very compelling and surreal; are you influenced by any other artists?
I am absolutely influenced by many artists and not just photographers (Liebovitz, McNally, Tarantino, Metallica.. even print ads for example) to name just a few. I also keep a file on my computer that has 1000+ images that have something about them that I like whether it be lighting, a color combination, a pose, a processing technique and will look at those every now and then as well when I am feeling less than inspired.
What are your photography ambitions, are you interested in doing Art Photography or hoping to turn this into more of a commercial venue?
I would love to but I worry that I would end up hating it if I did it full-time. I do know that if I was gong to do it, it would have to be for commercial/print ad capacity where a message was intended and it had to be done right. I would never do wedding photography or photo-journalism. I like to set up my shots and re-shoot until I have what I want. I am more interested in creating an image than recording a moment in time, I think, would be a fair assessment.
Your work is definitely very conceptual. What do you find are your biggest challenges?
Motivation is sometimes hard to come by but the biggest challenge I face is finding the correct location, props etc., for the ideas I have. Many of my photos have trade-offs and are not the actual image I had in my mind when I started the project. Certain constraints may have required me to shoot in my kitchen and do a tight crop where the original intent may have been a much wider shot with more authentic props etc.,
What advice would you give photography enthusiasts? Is there anything you could tell them to make their lives easier?
I can’t say that I fell particularly worthy of giving advice to anybody. I am quite sure that the way I do things aren’t the most efficient or correct way of doing things and I could probably use their tips. The one thing I would say is, learn to light. When you look at any photo, all you see is light being bounced back into the camera.
Where do you hope to bring your photography in the future?
Hmmm, I guess if I have any goal, it would be to really define what my style is and make a distinct series for display at a show or gallery. Just one of those things to knock off the list sort of thing.
Thank you, Jason, for a very enlightening interview.
Jason Lumsden is an Ottawa, Canada area photographer that has a wide area of interests but whose photography is mainly conceptual and uses light excellently to achieve specific moods. His photography is both artistic yet very commercial as the concepts are so strong. Jason shyly admits he started taking pictures in Dec. of 2006 after receiving a gift certificate for Xmas that motivated him to invest in this camera which he soon after replaced the kit lens. I guess we have a special Santa to thank for all these wonderful works of art created by Jason today and hopefully for the years to come.
An Interview with Jason Lumsden by Maggie Terlecki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.