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Check Out Jonathan Ducrest’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Ducrest.

Hi Jonathan, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I was born and raised in Switzerland, where my interest in photography was ignited with a point-and-shoot camera I received from my parents. The mountain vistas, atmospheric conditions, and dramatic scenery of the towering Swiss landscape provided me with my earliest subjects. In 1998, I relocated to the United States, where I settled in New York City. There, I expanded my practice into the urban canyons and architectural wonders of the metropolis, which drew parallels with my earlier scenes of nature’s awe-inspiring power.

In late 2013, I relocated to Los Angeles in pursuit of new photographic discoveries. The West Coast’s varied topography—deserts, oceanic horizons, and local styles—have provided me with a fresh set of artistic challenges. During the pandemic in 2020, I decided to spend more time back in Switzerland where my family is still living.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It wasn’t a smooth road, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I think my biggest struggle, other than what life throws at you, was to doubt myself. Even when friends or peers would compliment my work, I would discount it because, well, they were my friends. Being self-critical can be healthy but there comes a point where it can really paralyze your creativity.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am fascinated by places that once thrived but are now devoid entirely of signs of life. I seek to focus attention through my work, creating a story in the viewer’s mind about what might have happened. But I also want to evoke a sense of timelessness, so I avoid clues within the frame, stripping out fashion or car designs. An example of this is my piece Dry ‘n Wild (2020): Shot at a former waterpark in Palm Springs, the water has been drained away, and so has all human existence, leaving a poignancy and an undercurrent of post-capitalism despair. In contrast, I often shoot cities, like Las Vegas, which are still very much inhabited, but before or after hours, shifting how people usually perceive them, with dramatic intent. In 2018, I was in Nevada and went out early on a Sunday morning with my Leica to explore. It felt as if there was no other soul in town. This brings me to the early days of the pandemic. When life as we knew it came to a stop and work ended, I needed to continue shooting and decided to drive around LA and document what the city was going through. The result was a book titled “Lockdown L.A.” which I privately published last year. A second edition came out in Spring 2021. The book, along with being selected by Saatchi Art as one of 21 artists to watch in 2021 as the only photographer, are the two things I am most proud of.

What’s next?
No big changes are currently planned. I have been splitting my time between California and Switzerland, rediscovering the country I left when I was 21. I am currently on assignments for Switzerland Tourism and the Swiss Federal Office of Culture documenting villages of cultural importance.

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Jonathan Ducrest

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