Jonathan Walker is a photographer and poet based in Brooklyn. He approaches image making with a love for storytelling and often repeats to himself the phrase, “always in the right place,” which he describes is rarely true but good encouragement anyway. We connected with Jonathan about his process and inspiration when it comes to photography.
Only NY: Hi Jonathan, let's start off with asking where are you from?
I grew up in a really small town in Central NJ; one deli, post office, gas station, fire department for the township. North you have Manville, an old factory town with a new Walmart where I had the cops called on me for taking photos. South is Princeton and Trenton, to the East I had New Brunswick and access to New York via the Trenton line on NJ Transit. My first experiences taking photos were all in NJ.
How long have you been making photos?
I first really started putting myself out there so far as getting out of my comfort zone at the beginning of 2016, though I spent most of 2015 learning the basics of using film and working in the street. I started using color the summer of 2016 and drove around the country with my mom. Sometimes I wish I had waited a few more years to make that trip, but when I moved to New York beginning of 2017 I was a different photographer.
What inspired you to start photographing?
I didn’t come to photography by choice, really it was failing at a few other things first that gave me the opportunity to ditch wherever I thought my life was headed at the time, shrug and pull a hard left. I’ve been writing poems and around the theatre world since I was a kid. Photography for me is an extension of those things, but in a deeper “missing piece,” kind of way, filling the meaning what I want from life. When I started always wearing a camera, that felt like who I needed to be, completely anonymous but fully present.
What do you look to capture in your photos?
The photos I make now I want to read like little aphorisms that dig into something universal human experience—memorable and direct, but with my own question tacked on as an author: "Why? How?" Something that pulls a viewer in more then fluff to really engage and search. I’m interested in images that hint at a deeper choreography beyond what I might casually shuffle past were I not presented the moment in a frame. If I look at a photo and feel like I opened a play somewhere in the middle dialogue, that sensation is what what compels me to keep working the problem.
What camera do you prefer to use and why? What kind of film do you prefer to use and why?
I’ve used a lot of different cameras over the years going for a different effect or method of capture. The only constants are my Leica M and Rolleiwide. My preference mostly comes down to ergonomics and volume of the shutter (quiet always helps). My Leica is named “Grim,” —but the Rolleiflex has yet to speak. They fit me like a good pair of boots.
I’ve used a lot of Superia, but I’m pretty loyal to Portra 400. The prices have shot up over the years. B&W is always Tri X for me. Printing my negatives in the darkroom is important to me so I keep the recipe simple for simple printing. I made the mistake of buying 200 feet of Foma Retro Pan one time, and it was the ugliest film I’ve ever tried probably by some fault of my own. I still have it. I also messed around with a lot of different developers for B&W, hand processed my color film, messed around with expired film, intentionally destroyed stuff all in good fun. Photography should be fun (so I’ve heard).