An Interview Insight Into Jake Borden’s Photography.
Jake Borden is a young, incredibly talented photographer who I met in a hostel in Essouaria, Morocco in the spring of 2016. He’s been expanding his horizons lately by learning from renowned National Geographic photographer, John Stanmeyer. He has also just had his most recent project published on the BBC, from which the photographs featured here are taken from. His aptitude for watching moments, and people, and capturing their grace is breathtaking.
1. What kind of mediums do you set out to photograph?
People are by far my favourite subjects to photograph. It ends up being far less about photography and much more about establishing an intimate dynamic that might lead to an emotional moment. As I’ve started to learn the art of the photo essay, I’ve realized it’s necessary to have pictures of inanimate subjects to give context to the story, but people are what I’m most interested in.
2. Where have you and your camera been based recently?
I just returned from working on a project in Tbilisi, Georgia and before that Morocco. Tbilisi was an incredible experience because it was my first time telling a narrative through photography. I spent about a week in an abandoned Soviet era building occupied by about 100 homeless families, and did my best to tell their story through photography.
3. And that most recent project in Georgia has just been published on the BBC I see! Was that something that you had planned all along?
Yes that was really exciting. While I was working on the project I didn’t even imagine it would see the light of day, but after getting some feedback on it from some trusted mentors I started marketing it to photo editors for publication, which ended up being almost as much work as producing it.
4. What is it about a still image that you feel can so aptly capture a moment?
I think it’s more how a still image leaves a moment open to interpretation. It’s my job to capture a scene as accurately as I perceive it, but I know the picture will say something different to each viewer.
5. What’s your favourite time of day to photograph?
As is for most photographers, I’m always waiting for those ‘golden hours’; I prefer early morning.. During the day I rarely attempt to photograph outside unless its cloudy. I love indoor and night photography and playing with artificial lights.
6. Do you prefer environments where you can take your time setting up the shots, or spontaneous, sporadic captures?
Spontaneous, sporadic captures by far. That being said, I will spend some time finding an appropriate setting for a scene to play out in.
7. I hear you’ve been working with a National Geographic photographer, how did you land that gig?
Yes, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have John Stanmeyer as my Mr. Miyagi. About a year and half ago I was reading the ‘Out of Eden’ story in National Geographic and was fascinated by the project and the photos documenting it. I looked up the photographer and found out John was based in West Stockbridge, a rural town in Western Massachusetts next to mine. I sent him an email out of the blue that evening, and he responded right away that I should come in to talk, and I started apprenticing with him right after.
8. Tell me a bit about what you’ve learned working with him
Everything I know about photography, and even more about people. I was embarrassed at first because I had never taken a class, and barely knew how to use a camera. From the beginning, and occasionally he still reminds me, he said: ‘its not about the camera, and I can’t teach you how to see, it’s all about feeling and letting go’. He backs that statement up by using his iPhone for a lot of his own work. When I complain about being under qualified he will remind me that taking a picture is the easiest thing in the world as long as you can connect with your subject.
9. And how long have you been working with him?
I started working with him about a year and a half ago. Up until a few months ago, I’d spend a few days a week working with him in his “dark room’’ i.e. two large monitors in the upstairs of his coffee shop, Shaker Dam. I learned by watching him tone and catalog images, and he had me familiarize myself with his archive of a million plus images. Recently he’s pushed me to spend my time creating my own work, but when he gets back from an assignment I’ll watch and help him edit and tone.
10. Is this a lifestyle you’d like to maintain?
Without a doubt. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, and I am excited to see where this takes me. It’s a great opportunity really dive into the places I go and tell stories.
11. Supposing for a second digital cameras don’t exist and you only had one role of film left, how would you use it?
That’s a tough one. I would probably use it to photograph my family. I’ve recently started to value photos for the sake of memories rather than just taking pretty pictures.
12. Where are you headed next?
In the fall I’ll start work on a project in Bali, Indonesia. Until then I’m working on a story in my hometown of Great Barrington.