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Meet Jonathan Valerius

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

Jonathan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My first camera was given to me just before leaving on a school ski trip in Belgium, 6th grade. At 16 years old, back in Miami was when I really started to shoot. I started off shooting my friends as they skated and as we spent time together. At that point, my life was simple: skate, shoot photos, school and work just enough to keep the cycle going. During that time, my older brother was working for Miami Beach’s first production company and he put me on a shoot as a production coordinator, the shoot was in San Diego. Two things became clear on that trip, I loved California and I loved shooting. As fate would have it, I began to work on photography sets as a photo assistant and production assistant. Momentum built quickly and I decided I needed to focus on production work and nothing else if I was going excel in it, so I made a conscious decision to put down the camera and skateboard and to learn the business of producing photo shoots. After years on set, I went from production assistant to producer. I’ve now been working in the production industry for over 23 years, producing concerts, music videos, commercials, special events and print advertising campaigns. My brother Herman and I formed Stonehenge Circle, the production company we have today.

One day in 2016 at my place in Miami Beach, after seeing some of my old photographs, my friend said to me “you should get a camera, I think everybody should own a camera.” This stuck with me, then once again, as fate would have it, one morning when riding my bike to check the waves, the chain on my bicycle broke, my foot slid off the pedal and the crank cut my ankle open to the bone. This incident landed me on my couch for over a month of healing. One day laying on the couch, I decided to buy a camera online, this brings me full circle to where I am today. My life now consists of producing and making photographs along with an occasional surf. I have recently moved to Los Angeles after many years of coming here for work. I moved here with a very specific dream that I focus on every day and that is to build on my photography. I love this crazy city, it is honest, it is too big to be maintained landscaped perfectly and too wild to tame, if you explore and look around, you will see the state of affairs written on its walls and in its streets, I can trust that.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road has been all but smooth, which at the end of the day, I am grateful for. Had it been, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today. A specific moment in life that was a serious struggle was back in 2006 when my house was badly damaged by a hurricane. The wind tore some of the roof off and the rain rotted the walls and ceilings. This was the perfect recipe for mold to grow and some of it got into the lungs of my girlfriend at the time, she got very sick from a pleural pneumonia. As I was in the process of looking for an affordable place to stay, my mother moved to Miami to pass away from terminal cancer, she had been fighting it for eight years and it was time to choose quality over quantity of life. With an uninhabitable house and these circumstances, I resorted to living in a hotel room with my sick girlfriend and dying mother. I packed clothes, all of my work files and insurance claim files and rented the room out monthly. I can remember exactly how it felt to lay down in a cluttered room with my girlfriend and I in one bed and my mother in the next one, all of us living there with a mini-fridge and a microwave. I was working production as much as possible and fixing my house in the evenings. Eventually, I got the house to where we could move back in, my girlfriend healed after some pretty serious procedures and my mom passed away peacefully surrounded by family in more hospitable conditions. This was definitely one of the most trying times of my life.

Alright – so let’s talk business.  What else should we know about you and your career so far?
I am a photographer with a focus on producing genuine personal work. By genuine, I mean honest and coming from an inner most place of self-exploration. Photography for me is about capturing moments that affect me deeply but quietly, scenes and moments jump out at me and generate a very strong internal reaction that I’ve come to know very well. There is no room for doubt or hesitation when I see something I want to photograph. I am continuously asking myself questions, those who know me know this about me. What I am most proud of is better explained by what I am most grateful for, and that is the variety of people that inspire me, time and time again I have drawn much motivation from being inspired by others, I am proud to have that clarity and be able to honor them internally and through my work.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Art is a response to our individual and collective environments, always changing and adapting, expressing its views to the world whether objective or subjective. I think that the core of art will continue to express itself in this way, through the large and small shifts that are inevitably coming. I cannot say what trends may come, only that my hopes are always for individuality and self-expression to remain at the core of them. The more we learn to value and trust our individuality, the more we learn to support each other, the better off we will be as a society. I think art is a powerful medium and has the ability to communicate widely, furthermore, I believe the work of art is to expose people to the most honest representation of current affairs and to give truth a stage.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All images by Jonathan Valerius

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