By Verónica Sanchis, translated by Ellen Donnison
This July, Fotografía Latina had the pleasure to talk to emerging photographer, Jonathan Chacón. Chacón lives in the United States but is currently focusing his artistic lens on Mexico, his parents’ native country.
Jonathan Chacón was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1991. In 2013 he graduated in art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: SAIC. His photographic work has been displayed at numerous exhibitions, such as the Deslee Gallery (St. Louis, MO) and Johalla Projects (Chicago, IL) to name a few. He has also been awarded the following prizes: the LeRoy Neiman scholarship (2013), an investigation scholarship from the Fred Endsley Memorial Fellowship (2013) and an honorific New Artist Society Scholarship (2010).
Chacón also forms part of an artists collective, comprised of three other members: Daniel Greenberg, Hannah Lee and David Lloyd. Collectively, they are known as JDHD. The collective has exhibited at the Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI), at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), Ox-bow (Sangatuck, MI) and, recently, they were invited to participate in an inaugural exhibition at Habersham Mills curated by Kelly Kaczynski and Cori Williams (Demorest, GA).
Chacón currently lives and works in Cicero, Illinois.
Ventana Latina: 1. Tell us how you came to be a photographer.
Jonathan Chacón: While my brother was working, I use to like going into his room and borrowing his digital camera. I would then take photographs of myself in my room, which were inspired by the models in Urban Outfitters catalogues. My intention was to create a character through the Internet who would result in someone more interesting then my actual self. During the three years I spent on Myspace, I learned how to use Photoshop and HTML codes on Myspace forums. In my final year at the Institute I took a formal photography course and soon stopped taking photos of myself and started to take portraits of my surroundings.
VL: 2. Do you think you will continue photographing Mexico despite living in United States?
JC: I would love to go back. My dream is to live permanently in Mexico. I’m currently applying for dual citizenship in both Mexico and the United States so I can go back over there and work.
VL: 3. Which theme have you developed most in your photographic work?
VL: 4. What inspires you about Mexico?
JC: Viesca (Coahuila) and Tecomán (Colima) in Mexico, which I have both travelled to. My mother was born in Viesca and my father was born in Tecomán. To be able to travel from one place to another was very inspirational. The landscape, the intensity of the sun and the clouds are the things that, above all, I wish to see again.
VL: 5. As Chicago is your native city, have you considered making a project there?
JC: Yes, I’m taking lots of new photos in my room. I try and surprise myself despite being very familiar with my surroundings.
VL: 6. Have you combined photography with other visual or audio media?
JC: I also make videos but I still don’t feel sure about showing them. I will do it soon – I think so anyway!
VL: 7. How do your projects develop from the idea to the practice?
JC: The images don’t arise from anything; they are subtly related with ones’ own personal talent. I follow the gift I have; therefore when I find something that speaks to my emotions, I photograph it. I think that that impulse makes sense.
VL: 8.What do you try to represent through your work?
JC: For the North, is a work that grew out of frustration. Growing up with twelve brothers and sisters was a confusing and overwhelming experience. On top of that, trying to come to terms with the fact that your father actually has seventeen children was surprising, to say the least.
This autumn, during my visit to Mexico, I tried to get my head round the idea that I was his sixteenth child and his four-year-old daughter, his seventeenth. What I didn’t expect was for him to have two adopted children subsequently making him a father of nineteen.
The photographs make the children seem self-sufficient and the adults desperate and weak. My interest in showing young and older people with these characteristics has connections with my confusing and frustrating childhood.
VL: 9. Are you currently working on a new project?
JC: Yes, the new series of images coming out soon will be called, Exit 9, which references the number of exits that there are in the primary school building where I currently teach.
The work is in its first stages of development, so I can’t go into too much depth when describing the ideas that it explores. However I can show you one of the coloured images that make up part of the collection yet to come.
VL: 10. What represents a good photo for Jonathan Chacón?
JC: Surprise, challenge and fun.
To see more of Jonathan Chacón’s work visit his web page: www.jonathanchacon.com
To see the works of the collective, JDHD, click here.