Photographer In Focus: Jonathan Slack
Jonathan Slack lives in Redgrave, Norfolk, United Kingdom
I have followed Jonathan Slack on social media, web postings, and Leica reviews for many years. In 2018 I finally had the opportunity to meet Mr. Slack in person. I first met Jono where every photographer should meet another photographer, I suppose: at Leitz Park III. He was sitting behind Amy as he prepared to give his presentation to the International Leica Society (LHSA) meeting. I was whispering to Amy that he is the one who takes those wonderful images of his dogs. So I turned around and introduced her like I had known him all my life.
I suspect a great many photographers feel like they know Jono pretty well based on his work with Leica, beta testing cameras, and his photography presence online. Well, he is as amazing in person as he is online.
I now consider it an honor to call Jono a friend.
Thank you Jono for taking time to share with RedDotBlueDot readers!
Five Foto Facts
First camera: My first camera was one of the early Minolta AF cameras, but the first camera I properly used was a Contax 139. I loved it until the leather came off! And then I bought an RTSII.
Favorite camera: It has to be the Leica M10 (not the P or the D, just the ordinary M10).
Photographer who has most inspired you: Elliot Erwitt
“All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.” – Elliott Erwitt
Favorite travel destination: The white mountains in the south west of Crete.
One place left on your travel bucket list: There are too many places to even think of one.
RDBD: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What do readers need to know about you to get to know you? What is your personal, professional, and photography background?
J.S.: I grew up in St. Ives in the UK in the 50s and 60s when it was a real artists colony. My father was a doctor who named Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron and others amongst his friends and patients. In addition to being a doctor he was a sculptor and a fine photographer. My mother was a jeweler.
I took up photography relatively late in life (I was in my mid twenties). I think I was over-awed by my father. Once I had started it simply became part of my life, and I’m never ever without a camera. I’m not ‘professional’ but I’ve done some commercial work and a lot of weddings.
Ten years ago I was asked to help Leica with the firmware for the M8, since then I’ve beta tested most of their cameras, and written articles about them on release. These have been published on websites and magazines, but I think they are all still available on my website (www.slack.co.uk).
RDBD: What type of photography do you consider your primary genre and why? What does it mean to you? How did you become focused on this area of photography?
J.S.: I don’t really do documentary photography (unless I’m shooting a wedding) and I don’t do street photography (I live a rural existence, and there aren’t so many streets).
I’m not sure that I fit very well into a genre, beyond the idea that people should get some kind of a hit when looking at one of my photographs, mostly a belly laugh, but I hope that it is sometimes deeper than that. If I could explain it in words then it wouldn’t be worth taking the picture.
RDBD: What motivates you as a photographer? Specifically, why is photography important in your life? When you are tired of shooting, what gets you out the door anyway?
J.S.: I’ve read lots of articles about ‘slowing down’ one’s shooting to think harder about it. Indeed my father’s one piece of advice was “Take a grab shot, and then, if there’s time; think about the composition and exposure and take the great shot.”
Over the years I’ve realized that my grab shots get better and better, but the ones I think about are just as boring as they ever were.
My motivation is to make people smile, whether it’s recognition of a strange juxtaposition, a joke, an emotion or a compositional felicity doesn’t really matter. The subject is really unimportant, but opportunity is everywhere!
I never get tired of shooting, it’s just part of my life, if I’m not out on the fen with the dogs or traveling I just take shots in our kitchen.
RDBD: Please tell me why you chose the image to submit as your one image. What meaning does the image have to you?
J.S.: This picture was taken in the railway station at Porto, I like the concentration in the image, I think it’s superficially rather melodramatic but finally rather funny.
RDBD: In an era where everyone has a smartphone and selfies and micro-blogging daily activities are quickly becoming the norm, why does traditional photography still matter?
J.S.: Traditional photography doesn’t matter a damn, but good images do, and increasingly these days there are so many wonderful images, some taken on a smartphone and some on a large format film camera. I think it’s the quality which matters.
Sure, we can appreciate and enjoy the characteristics of a lovely lens, or the grain of Tri-X or whatever, and of course it’s a joy to shoot with a beautiful camera and lens, but in the final analysis it’s the image that matters. If an image is interesting, nobody cares whether it’s technically good, and if it isn’t interesting, then nobody cares at all.
The only problem is that there is a danger of good images being lost in the noise.
RDBD: What is one thing you think I should ask, but haven’t…and what is your answer?
J.S.: I suppose that the one thing you should have asked me was what the next great camera from Leica would be, but sadly I can’t tell you!
RDBD: You can’t tell me but you had to tempt me and bring it up, eh? You may not be able to tell me, but I know when the camera is released the first words many of us will be reading will have been written by you. That is exciting enough that I can wait patiently. Thank you Jono for being part of this community and doing what you do!
RDBD: What photographer would you like to see answer these questions and recommend RDBD contact to be featured?
Who’s next - that’s really tricky! How about Florian Czech? Varied and rather splendid . . .
Contact Jonathan Slack:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000466403610 (Jono Slack)