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18 Mar

Interview: One on One with Photographer Lee Roy Jason

Since its inception, photography has had the unique role of both capturing spontaneous moments while also being a medium for staged visual art. Unique is the photographer who has the freedom to express themselves in both.

I first met Lee Roy Jason as he was documenting concerts and gave us some of the best shots of the old Kool Out Live series. Since then, I’ve witnessed some incredible projects from studio portraits, to fashion, to location shoots across the world.

Kool Out sat down with Lee Roy to discuss insights into his past and the present state of photography today.

Being the son of a prestigious South African photographer, do you feel this heavily influenced your decision to get into the art? 

It was more indoctrination than influence, my father always said to me that I can’t be policeman or fireman and that I had to be a photographer. I tried running away from it but I kept going back to it especially as a last resort when I needed to pay for extra stuff and survival. That’s how the nickname “Twigglestix” came about.

By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2014-4-3

How do you feel the role of the photographer has changed from your father’s generation to yours?

These days, there’s No unified cause, say like in my father’s generation when they documented the struggle. With us, there is a lack of understanding of the art. There’s more plagiarism, not much originality.

By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2014-2-4

I see the state of photography in a very similar way as DJing. With the advances in technology and availability of high quality cameras and filters/programs, photography has become more accessible to a much wider range of people. How do you separate yourself from the new generation of part-time photographers? 

I don’t worry about them, I just stay in my own lane, re-invent myself constantly and travel a lot for inspiration.
My key is to keep changing my style up, the film background and the blessing of growing up under my father and his group of friends as my foundation keeps me going, studying the greats that came before me as my compass, it helps me find a new space constantly.
Youngsters just study the new school photographers worst of all only South Africans and they should forget Instagram, try the library! Guys like Ernest Cole, James Nachtwey, George Hallett these guys are strong storytellers I look to for inspiration.
A lot of photographers compete amongst each other but don’t understand that our creativity early compete well internationally. Think international not locally!
By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2014-2-3
Do you have a sense of nostalgia to the days of film and darkrooms? What do you miss most about photography before the digital age?
The only thing I miss about shooting on film is the anticipation of seeing what you’ve shot because with digital photography everything is instant but then that’s what I also enjoy about digital, I don’t have to wait a whole week to see if I’ve taken a good shot.
By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2014-5
By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2015-5
A lot of photographers have to shoot a lot of events to pay the bills. How do you manage to fund your other projects?
I worked my ass off in eventing I just can’t do it anymore! The late hours, the loss of weekends, can’t! Moving fields is tough but it pays off to do what want and getting paid for it! To substitute I’m doing bigger jobs now which is cool, it’s all about timing really. Some days you get big pay cheques, some days you don’t have shit. It’s also very important to manage your money as a freelancer because it comes with a lot of responsibility – large percentage of it is to set targets and try to reach them weekly is how I go about it.
Determination keeps me going, even when I’m not taking photos I’m taking photos. Even when rent is due and there is nothing in the kitty I still keep shooting, photography is truly my escape.
By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2014-12-3
Which projects are you most proud of? 
My current Gollywood project that I’ve been working on for the past two years and the Eugene Terre’blanche funeral. I was recently in Kinshasa, DRC, and that was a great experience, happy I survived it. Learnt so much about myself.
By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2014-2
By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2015-16-2
You’ve recently become a father. How has your outlook on life changed?
I’ve hustled harder, now I take my craft more seriously. As an experiment, I sometimes photograph my subjects as though I am my son.
By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2015-8
Having been on the scene and having documented a lot of the hip hop movement over the last decade, what are your impressions and what artist’s rise has been the most impressive?
I’m not impressed with the fact that rappers aren’t developing younger artists, especially female rappers because by now we should have at least three exceptional female rappers running the game. We as creatives have a responsibility to pull up the next.
It’s like the bigger the hip-hop scene gets, the less it engages in social commentary.
I think Watkin Tudor Jones (Ninja from Die Antwoord) has had quite a meteoric rise in the industry, he’s the master of gimmicks.
By Leeroy Jason www.75.co.za-twiggle_stix,twitter@lrjason2015-7
What projects do you have planned in 2015?
A joint exhibition with my father.


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