JASPAL JANDU Q&A
How did you get started in photography?
Most of the photographers I know started small. No-one picks up a very expensive panoramic or large format camera and starts shooting - it just doesn't work that way. My personal journey began with a disposable film camera. From there, I remember travelling around with one of the first 3-megapixel cameras and creating some small but fairly impressive panoramic images on my laptop. Although I now shoot on a pretty esoteric film-based camera (Linhof 617), the principle has always remained the same - i.e. the transmission of my hopes, thoughts and desires through a photographic medium.
What's your background?
I am a professionally trained economist by trade and it’s something which I still enjoy debating to this day. Although as part of my ‘formal background’ I have mixed with a pretty fascinating bunch of people, I have always tried to explore other, more artistic, areas of interest for personal balance. There's a great quote from Leonardo da Vinci which states that one should aim to "...study the science of art and the art of science". I guess in this vein, it's healthy keeping one cerebral hemisphere active with photography and the other with something completely different now and again.
Who or what inspires you?
A creative endeavor cannot commence without inspiration. First and foremost, one need not look further than Mother Nature for she has beauty, power and symmetry beyond imagination. In photographic terms, I enjoy collecting prints from Ansel Adams, Joe Cornish and Ken Duncan. I have had the privilege to shoot with both Joe and Ken and I consider them masters in their respective fields. Taking in a trip to Africa with Ken was one of the most enjoyable periods of my life and it ended up inspiring me in a major way. If you ever bump into me - or Ken for that matter - ask about being chased (fully laden with camera gear) by a bull elephant in Zimbabwe. If there was ever going to be a single moment which pushed me to live a life less ordinary then it was probably that one.
What makes a special photograph?
A special photograph has the ability to totally immerse the viewer in another space. There is a magical moment - I call it the 'Wow Reflex' - when a person reacts to a special image. Within a millisecond the jaw drops, the pupils dilate, the arms unfold. Although I am sure there are numerous psychological studies devoted to this neurological response, the one key take-away is that it is totally and utterly sub-conscious - you just cannot fake it. I'm not saying that everyone's photos have to be this way, but if one of my personal transparencies does not illicit such reflex from me then it is rejected. Harsh but fair, I guess.
There is something intrinsically epic about the panoramic format. For example, I'm sure if you watched Lawrence of Arabia or even Lord of the Rings in a square aspect ratio, you would inevitably loose some of the sweeping cinematic experience contained within. The panoramic frame (especially when printed large and viewed close) requires the eye to scan from side-to-side. This is exactly the way the human brain works in real life and it is a testament to the format that panoramic prints require little or no dominant feature to convey a total visual experience.
My own childhood memories of growing up in London are ones of concrete and rain. You can imagine how as the child of first generation Indian parents my first trips to the seaside absolutely blew my mind. I remember asking someone if you had to pay to swim in the sea! In some cities around the world you now hear of kids getting stabbed for mobile phones and its all insane. Their ‘landscape’ is one of roads, pollution and material gratification. I am fortunate; I have been to many places and have been lucky enough to do some pretty intense things. Is there a potential photographic master out there in the urban wilderness? You bet there is. Do I feel an obligation to inspire some of the not so fortunate young people from where I grew up? You bet I do. [Editors Note: Jaspal Jandu Ltd donates a proportion of all sales to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children]
What keeps you going?
Tough one. All I can say is that there is a natural 'buzz' you get when you see a properly shot, properly composed transparency on the light box. It’s completely indescribable. The buzz will get you up at 3am in the morning, will get you hanging out of the sides of helicopters, will get you climbing mountains of sand or snow. Then you open up a copy of National Geographic and realise how much more there’s left to explore…
What or where is the future?
At some point we will enter a completely digital world. Digital cameras will soon be able to capture the saturation, vibrancy and sharpness of today's best films. In spatial terms, photography is essentially a 2D representation of a 3D world and although I can't say too much on this at the moment, I'm pretty sure that certain imaging and viewing technologies will bring about a new wave of photographic immersion. Irrespective of technology though, the basic rules of timing, light and composition will continue to make special pictures special - we aren’t going to change the 'Wow Reflex' just yet…
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