May 3, 2021
Jon is a Norwegian photographer who since a very young age got involved in photography, and after a short break took it up again to become his creative outlet. His series 'Insulated' presents a personal approach to living with a medical condition. With these meditative images Jon materialises his fears and hopes working at the same time as a cathartic exercise to adapt to his new situation and look forward.
am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?
JW - My name is Jon Wang and I am a Norwegian photographer based in Oslo. Some of my earliest childhood memories are from my mothers darkroom, sitting under the enlarger and smelling the chemistry. I grew up with a camera in my hands. But I put it away as I became an adolescent before picking it up again some 20 years ago. Since then, photography has been my main outlet for creativity. I spent a year at a photo school, but my job is as a commercial manager for a media company. So I hesitate to label myself, but the only thing I am certain of, is that I am a photographer.
am - How did you start in photography?
JW - Seeing images appear in the chemistry made an everlasting impression on me. Pure magic. My mother was an active amateur photographer and taught analogue photography in high school, so I got my first camera (a Kodak Instamatic) at a very early age. Then after a detour as a musician, I picked up the camera again as a young adult, long before the digital revolution and built my own darkroom at home.
am - What is 'Insulated' about?
JW - In 2007 I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. No warning, no reason. This was an extreme shock to me. Overnight I had a chronic, potentially fatal condition.
Explaining diabetes1 to a non-diabetic is very hard. The way to look at it is to imagine that you suddenly and radically change your entire relationship with your body. You listen intently to it all the time, in order to prevent a hypoglycemic episode. You measure intake of carbohydrates and insulin injection with physical exertion. All the time.
But it took a while for me to realize that it also changed how I related to the outside world. Suddenly nature looks sinister. Frightening. Even a short hike in the woods is fraught with danger. What happens if I lose my supply of sugar? Did I even remember to pack it? Where is the nearest house if anything happens? Is that a road I see? Do cars pass by? Whether I like it or not I constantly worry. I feel stupid, so I hide it. Walk a little more slowly to conserve energy. Secretly hope we reach the end of the trail soon, rather than enjoying the woods. This project is me trying to explain what the outdoors look like to a diabetic. How I always look for hints of civilization, a way out.
am - What were you most interested in capturing with these images?
JW - I was not sure when I started this project. I showed them at a portfolio review, and one of the reviewers commented that "it looks like landscape photography, except in every image, something is in the way. Something is blocking your view of nature". I thought this was so interesting, because these elements did not look like that to me. In fact in several images they look like the opposite. The kiosk in the middle of the woods looks like a shrine to me. Like if I have come out of the woods in a state of concern and worry, and suddenly this kiosk appears. Like a hospital, should something go wrong. This told me that my view of nature has changed so dramatically since my diagnosis, and it is this dichotomy that I am trying to convey I guess.
am - What inspires your work in general?
Music, films, literature. Walking alone with a camera while not being in a hurry. Just seeing I guess. I think most photographers are taking pictures all the time whether they have a camera in their hands or not.
am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?
JW - I tend to gravitate towards photographers in the art/documentary sphere. Color photographers like Alec Soth, Stephen Shore or Ed Templeton. But I am equally inspired by filmmakers like David Cronenberg or David Lynch.
am - What’s your favourite movie?
JW - Too many. But the most interesting experience I have had with movies in recent years was watching both the original and the remake of 'Suspira back-to-back'. To see how two filmmakers tackled the same film with such different cinematic palettes was very inspiring.
am - What is your favourite photo book?
JW - Possibly 'The Last Testament' by Jonas Bendiksen or 'American Origami' by Andres Gonzales. Amazing books both in graphic layout as well as photography. But again, it depends on the day.
am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.
JW - Thank you so much for letting me present my work!