Pop!: Meet John
Published on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 12:23pm
Pop! Street Fashion is an experimental collection of patron street fashion at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. It is devoted to photographically documenting the sartorial narratives of patrons who visit the library. Please email My Nguyen for more information.
Clean, minimal, oozing style. Frankly, John gave me pause when I first saw him: I thought he was a celebrity. Can you blame me? Not many people can get away with wearing sunglasses indoors, but John managed to upend my notions about certain types of eyewear belonging only outside (or at night). His style is influenced perhaps by his extensive and impressive background in photography—a beautifully composed, well-captured image of cool.
Educated at the Corcoran, John is going places, specifically to Yale this fall to obtain his MFA in Photography. Awesome? Or awesome! You can find his work, which currently focuses on "ethereal, intimate and lushly colored portraits of men belonging to marginalized backgrounds—African Americans, Gays and urban young men with tattoos and aggressive, hyper-masculine dispositions" at johnedmondsphoto.com
Tell me a little about yourself, Jon.
I’m a photographer, and I’m from Washington, DC. Born and raised here. And I went to school here, and I’m going to grad school in the fall in New Haven, at Yale. I’m really excited about that.
That's great! What are you going to study at Yale?
I’m getting my MFA in Photography.
And who are your favorite photographers?
I like all types of photographers. I’m really interested in photography that blurs the line between fine art and fashion like Collier Shore, Philip-Lorca deCorcia, Viviane Sassen. I like fine art, conceptual photography, too, like Elina Brotherus. She’s a Finnish photographer.
What do you find compelling about photography? About documenting things?
I just like photography’s ability to make people see things in totally new ways. Also, photography is a vehicle that’s very subjective. It’s one person’s solitary perspective of something.
Who or what are your fashion or style inspirations?
I really like fashion that is functional. Things that look good but also feel good to be in. I like playing between the casual and the dressy. For example, this blazer. I could wear it on a proper occasion, but it’s also something I’d wear dressed down too.
What was one defining moment in your life?
I think one defining moment for me was when I got into Yale. [Laughs.] That was definitely a defining moment for me because the MFA program for photography only accepts 9 students a year, so it is very competitive.
After you get your MFA, what would you like to do?
A lot of times I talk to people about photography, I talk to people about my fine arts background and they ask me what I want to do. And, well, the only thing I can really say is I want to be an artist. I want to create work, do residencies, collaborate with other artists. Maybe working somewhat commercially but in a creative vein, like in fashion. But I see myself traveling and creating work, wherever I am.
Do you have a portfolio of your work?
What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m currently reading Richard Wright’s Black Boy. It’s my first Richard Wright book. I like it. It’s a very strong, emotionally intense story.
Do you have a list of top favorite books?
My number one favorite book that I’ve read in the last few years is called Another Country by James Baldwin. I love his writing. He’s an amazing writer. I would say my second favorite book that I’ve read within the last two years would probably be Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. And Poetics of Space is a really good one too, by Gaston Bachelard.
What’s your motto?
Do what really, really makes you happy.
Describe your personal style.
Describe yourself in five words or less.
Open. Reserved. Intense. Casual. Candid.
Yes, I know. I’m a conundrum. [Laughs.]
What are your favorite music, films, et cetera?
I listen to a lot of 90s hip hop, R&B. Some pop, also. As far as what I’m watching lately, they tend to line up with the books I’m reading. A lot of dramas, thrillers. Recently I saw The Hours and I loved that movie. It really made me interested in Virginia Woolf and made me want to read some of her books.
Tell us about growing up in DC.
I grew up here for the first 10 years of my life. Then I moved to Maryland. Then I went to back to DC to do my undergrad here.
Where did you go?
At the Corcoran. But yeah, DC is a great place. It’s multicultural, it has a lot going on here – politics, art, fashion.
Tell me a little bit about art school.
Art school is great. It’s so different having come from 12 years of a traditional school setting and then having art school be a very open educational experience. It was great. You grow a lot. Not just from the work you do, but from the people you’re around.
What made you decide to go to art school instead of striking out on your own?
Because I think having formal training is very important in being an artist.
What was the most interesting thing you did or saw while at Corcoran, in terms of exhibits? What was your thesis?
There were so many interesting exhibits. Because the Corcoran is also a museum, there are all these amazing exhibits all the time at your disposal. You can go free [as a student] since the Corcoran is one of the few museums in the city that actually costs to get into.
My thesis was a series of portraits that I continued to do after I graduated that focused on exploring identity.
Tell me a little bit more.
What I was doing the entire time I was in school was experimenting with portraiture. And from doing these experiments, I chose to work within my own community and photograph people I would see on a day-to-day basis in their own personal setting. It’s an interesting place for me to go because it was where I had been all the time. Sometimes you look for things so far out of your reach, but you realize it’s right under your nose.
--Story and photography by My Nguyen
Check out more Pop! Street Fashion:
Meet Emily | Meet Koya | Meet Markeith | Meet Dante | Meet Jamela | Meet Jennifer | Meet Steven | Meet Kiara | Meet Kial | Meet Beejay | Meet Leandria | Meet Wendell | Meet Allison | Meet Brea | Meet Laura