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Photographer of the Week—Jason Landis

Who’s Jason Landis and why is he worth your attention?

I remember discovering a photo of a couple kissing in a truck back in the days and got fascinated by it. It was raw, honest and showcasing the reality of the moment. It was a photo from Jason Landis, and since then, I had no other choice than to follow his work and his creative adventure, which is, brilliant.

Jason Landis wants to capture the exciting moments of life through youths and the ocean. Have you ever heard of the sentence “live fast, die young”? Well, we could describe his pictures that way and the joy of being in the present is simply captivating. Picking up a camera when he was younger because of his dad, Jason instantly felt the urge of capturing the beauty of the ocean and the issues it goes through on a daily basis. Time is clicking, and Jason knows that the ocean won’t last forever if we don’t take care of it. Even though he has always been fascinated by the sea and shooting underwater, he also wants to make the viewer feel the joy of being alive.  

The world is wild and the time is now. This is for that exact reason that we decided that waiting wasn’t a good thing—we wanted to talk with Jason right away. About his life, his inspirations, his love for underwater photos and his views about the world.

Let yourself feel something and discover the mind behind these photos. 

We’ve seen your pictures everywhere, reflecting the youth of today and the ecstasy of life. How did you develop your style and decided to make it become a career? 

When I was younger and first started taking pictures, I would carry my camera everywhere I went, to the point where I felt awkward if I didn’t have my camera. I would shoot everything; my friends, strangers, my food, my family, anything. Later, when I briefly attended Pasadena Art Center, a wise person told me shoot what you love and that’s what I try to do. I just try to stay true to that and shoot what I absolutely love about life. 

As far as deciding to make photography my career, it was already my lifestyle. Doing anything else felt like a waste of time. I tried going to college thinking I would eventually get a real job, but that was probably the unhappiest year of my life. I applied to Pasadena Art Center College of Design and once I got in, I immediately stopped going to my biology, business or whatever BS classes. Even though I ended up leaving Art Center early, that was where I realized that there was definitely no other option for me.

You have two distinct interests, the world & the ocean. Being two totally different universes, what inspires you in each of them?

I think I find a lot of similarities about the world and the ocean. Both are so full of energy and spontaneity, and that’s exactly what I love to capture. For the ocean, I don’t know if you would say I am inspired but I feel an urgency to shoot it since it is disappearing so quickly. I don’t think many people see this world or even really know much about it. I don’t think a lot of people from my generation shoot this kind of stuff and I think I feel kind of a responsibility to show it before it’s gone.

I really just want people to see my work and feel happy, remember that life doesn’t have to be so serious. Your life is what you make it and you can make it whatever you want.

You also shoot underwater, which is an amazing skill only a few have. Do you prefer it than being on land? What are the different things you need to keep in mind while shooting in the ocean?

Actually, the only reason I ever even picked up a camera was because of the ocean. When I was younger, my Dad was a big scuba diver and I would see some of his camera gear and photos around the house I just thought it was like the coolest. I was like 6 years old so, of course, I wanted to be like him. Here and there we would go on these family scuba diving trips and I would bring these little disposable underwater cameras from Rite Aid or somewhere like that. My mom would get like 10 or 15 of them for me. So that was really my first experience with photography. 

I don’t know if I prefer it, I love taking pictures either way. But it is amazing and there is nothing else like it. I hope to one day be on assignment for Nat Geo or the Discovery Channel or something like that.

There is so much more you have to think about while diving and taking photos. First of all, you have to think about your own safety, obviously you don’t wanna run out of air or shoot to the surface and get the bends. Also, you never know what you are gonna see so you have to be ready to shoot a photo at all times. There is no directing and most things underwater don’t want their photo taken. As you do it more and more you come up with little tricks and ways of approaching everything. It’s a completely different experience.

You are currently in Vietnam with a lack of Wi-Fi, which is good for a digital detox. What are you doing there?

I’m in Vietnam travelling with my girlfriend from the north to the south and back, some of Cambodia too. Shooting some personal work as well.

Talking about the digital world, all the social media of our generation are taking a huge part in our life nowadays. Do you think it is a good thing for people trying to create something, like photographers, painters, writers? Did it help your work getting recognized?

I think social media, especially Instagram has been a blessing and a curse. On one hand it’s amazing because it gives anyone a platform to create something from nothing. I think a majority of my jobs probably come from people discovering me over some kind of social media. But, on the other hand, it has just completely flooded us with so much content. It seems to put a lot of pressure on artists or anyone creative to be constantly releasing stuff. I think it’s caused a lot of people fall into this idea of shooting influencers or Instagram models just for the likes. People seem so concerned with how many followers someone has. It seems like kind of a quantity over quality mindset.

We pursue feelings as a viewer. What do you want the people that see your work to feel? What do you want to share with us?

I am always looking to capture a moment filled with spontaneity and energy. I like to highlight the best moments of life, what I love about life the most, the greatest hits of life. I really just want people to see my work and feel happy, remember that life doesn’t have to be so serious. Your life is what you make it and you can make it whatever you want. I hope my work can inspire someone to go on an adventure, do whatever it is that is his or her dream, or at the very least just feel happy. 

What was the hardest thing that you had to face in a photography career?

Man, I feel like I still go through it all the time. It’s so easy to put the microscope on yourself and pick yourself to pieces. I guess the hardest but at the same time most exciting thing about my job is that I work freelance moving from project to project. When you’re not working you can get stuck in moments of self-doubt but I’ve learned to take these moments as times to be more creative.

It seems like you’ve travelled quite a bit around the globe, chasing stories & new adventures. Did you ever feel scared while being on the road? Any stories related to that?

I think everyone should have a passport. The world would be a better place if more people had the opportunity to travel and see how other people live. I am addicted to travelling. There is no feeling that can match the feeling of travelling. I’ve never really felt scared. Travelling to a new place for me is exhilarating and exciting. However, TSA does love to hand inspect all my camera gear.

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