Today we’d like to introduce you to Jon Wong.
Jon, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
From a very young age, I had a natural affinity towards cameras and photography. On family vacations, I would always find myself wanting to hold the camera and play with it. I would pay more attention to the camera and wanting to push the button rather than take in any sights or views around me. This progressed into getting my own toy camera, the ones where you would take a picture and pull out a strip and out came this like 1×1 inch little polaroid. My parents told me that this little camera was the only thing toy that I hung onto and kept. They tried getting me into all different types of extracurricular activities like basketball, gymnastics, band, piano lessons, tennis, but to this day I couldn’t tell you how to really do any one of those things.
Moving into my teen years, I was the photography editor for my high school newspaper where I got a chance to shoot people whether that was through dances or sports. This was the first time where people became the subject I would look through the lens and see. I think that’s where it all kind of clicked for me and I realized how much I loved to shoot people. I also worked as a photographer in college shooting similar things like campus activities and events.
Fast forward to my 20’s where I went through a really tough time in my life. I wanted something I could shift my mind towards. I naturally went for the camera and started a “365 days” project where I would take a picture every day and post it up online. Focusing on the camera and lens really helped me take my mind off of a lot of things and allowed me to think creatively again. This project then turned into shooting my friends and finally deciding I wanted to pursue a path into taking pictures of people. I think I always knew people were my favorite subject. There’s one thing to look at a photo of a person and try to understand what they are thinking or feeling and to be able to relate to that. I would want anyone who is looking at my photo to have that initial reaction. But for me, the true story is something that I as the photographer, only get to experience. It’s that interaction with your subject; that dialogue you have with them as you try and pull out an emotion. And to be able to capture a true and raw moment is a feeling I can’t describe but something that is so satisfying.
As my passion developed, I gravitated towards the modeling industry having spent a lot of my younger days looking thru GQ, Details and Nylon Magazine wanting so badly to be in those pages that I would put up pictures of models and fashion campaigns up on my wall in my room. It then progressed from there where I met a ton of people through Instagram that were in the industry and it all just kind of took off from there. I started to meet a ton of people whether they were makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, managers, agents, models or talent scouts. I soon made friends with some and to this day I get to work with them on my shoots. To be able to bring together other people’s visions and talents along with mine to create an image is an amazing thing.
Has it been a smooth road?
The point where I’m at now with my work and career was definitely not a smooth one. It took a lot of hard work and practice in perfecting my craft and also really understanding a completely new industry. A lot of the things I learned were by trial and error or learning from other photographers whom I’ve shadowed and have become friends with today. A lot of it is really learning the business side of things. You can’t survive in the industry unless you understand how the business works and I’m still learning it.
Is there some part of you work that is particularly difficult?
I would say the hardest part of what I do, but also the most rewarding part is to keep pushing your own craft and vision. It’s easy to kind of stay in one lane and keep doing what you’re good at and used to and not push yourself and work to become better. But being in an industry that is so saturated and competitive, it’s almost necessary to keep pushing your work to take it to the next level. I also have to constantly remind myself that first and foremost, my art is for myself.
How do you define success?
Success to me isn’t defined by how much money you make off of what you do or how many Instagram followers or likes you have. To me, I define success by how my art makes people feel. Going back to what I said about leveling up my work, I recently have been going through a transitional state within my work to where I want to shoot more than just a guy with abs with his shirt off. I want my images to tell a story whether that’s through the clothing and fashion or with the expression and mood the model is giving. So to me, my success is determined by what story I can tell through my artwork and that is something I’m striving to do more now.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
As for my future within this specific field, I would love to obviously be featured in a high fashion magazine like Vogue or even GQ. To have something I shot, created and produced, featured in a magazine that is seen worldwide would be an amazing accomplishment for me. I’m definitely looking forward to pushing my artwork even more and taking it to the next level.