Jon Chamberlain: Representing the Void
By Jay Armstrong
“Capturing people when they let their guard down is what makes a portrait special to me.”
– Jon Chamberlain
While the art is familiarized and internally grasped by so many, photographers find themselves shadowed by our swipe-swipe-swipe indulgences in this digital age, no longer do we see the collective work to hear their whispered hearts spoken through the capturing lens. The power of the photograph tainted through cross-format compression only furthers the damage done by our priority of being pacified– laziness leading down the path of least resistance where the importance of being entertained dulls us all the more. Choosing to be informed and immersed in the traditional active way, once a prerequisite to the experience, seems so novel, nearly taboo, in our social-internet confined, conformed, and intentionally understated intelligence diminishing the further we get from the closing door of the twentieth century where it now is considered archaic not to accept the current static modus operandi. Jon Chamberlain epitomizes this modern paradigm where all of us have brushed against his work and still the significance of his style and texture remains greatly unrealized.
Chamberlain’s more familiar shots come to us from the pages and covers of Rubberneck and Casting Couch Magazine in the form of live bands being captured in their moment. At a time where most of us stand before the stage in a half-drool haze, chipping away at the storage space of our pocket size masters, his depth stands above even the best local work when documenting the soul and strut of Austin; a healthy humbling reminder to us layman of the enormous eternal rift between ambition and art. His band photographs speak toward craft strength, yet his creatively controlled shots taken as a whole shape in power and presence. Most notably Chamberlain’s Lay series moves us where we are shown subjects as they are most vulnerable to their own emptiness; these photographs typically seen from an overhead vantage point, each uniquely baring an overtone of existential resignation, the lacking emotion worn on the subject’s face speaks intimately, boldly, to the ‘is this really it‘ coming down burn-in-burn-out experience of a life lived not merely observed, magnetizing the gaze of those bold enough to examine the dark corners of their souls only to come to the realization of the void in which no outlet will ever deliver the perceived escape hoped to be found through the act. This is what makes his combined work stand out, it speaks to a unique understanding of not only the dark caverns these dormant archaic emotions are derived from but a keen awareness of the precise moment to look for their representation within the confines of the moment. This is the substantiated context statically shown across his work be it reminding us of the humanness of the homeless, that the spirit of rock n roll has been incorrectly touted as dead or giving us an honest opposition to the idealistic escapes we find ourselves searching for night after night as the bars close–these pursuits come at a price to ourselves which is our cross to bear alone, none of these escapes can help us along the way. This dualism of dynamic understanding coming to terms with absolute realism speaks warmly of Nan Goldin prints re-imagined with the vision of Gregory Crewdson.
The recent months have found Jon Chamberlain hard at work opening JFC Studios which will be located near Oltorf and Lamar a block from ABGB’s at 2311 Thornton Rd. The opening is planned by the end of the month offering, among all things photography related, a class for children called Shutter Bugz.