Jason Symington, MFA
“Visual Language and Creative Image Making”
By Fred Rushworth, IACC Member
Jason Symington (back); Cyril Kopitin (front) © Greg Campbell
Janet Ingram, William Claxton, Sarah Moon, Barbara Morgan, Albert Watson, Eugene Richards, Sally Mann, Jim Marshall,
Mary Ellen Mark, Walker Evans, Robert Mapplethorpe, Steve McCurry,Edward Steichen, Richard Avedon,Julie Blackmon, Philippe Halsman, Elliot Erwitt, Alfred Eisentaedt, Brassai,
W. Eugene Smith, Jacques Henri Lartigue, William Wegman.
Robert Doisneau, Gordon Parks,Dennis Stock, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Martin Parr, Jodi Cobb,Burt Glinn,
Bill Brandt, Joel Meyerowitz,Marc Riboud, Peter Funch, Lisette Model, Bruce Davidson, André Kertesz,Berenice Abbott, Nick Waplington, Lee Friedlander, Harry Callahan,László Moholy-Nagy.
Irving Penn, Josef Sudek, Andreas Feininger, Margaret Bourke-White, Paul Strand, Aaron Siskind, Ralph Gibson,
Edward Weston, Hiroshi Watanabe, Imogen Cunningham.
John Sexton, Dorothea Lange, Hans Bol,Andreas Gursky, Frank Gohlke, Joe Deal,Naoya Hatakeyama, Fay Godwin,
Edward Burtynsky, Eugène Atget, Sam Abell,
Keith Johnson, Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams,
Kathleen Mclaughlin, Andy Goldsworthy, Frans Lanting, William Eggleston, Ernst Haas, Robert Adams, Wynn Bullock, Richard Misrach, Gary Wilson.
Forty minutes was not enough time to spend with
Jason Symington. This was not an evening of reviewing rules of composition, advancing and receding colours, image flow, formulas or blueprints to the “perfect” image. In fact, his advice was to go out and break the rules. It was about understanding visual language and how we relate to images, about finding our personal influences and about challenging us to find projects to explore ideas.
Jason has been in the photography business for 20 years, has earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Fine Arts. He runs his own photography business (Imagen Photography), has lived and worked in Japan and Germany, has been a Director of Photography for a national publishing company, and has taught photography courses at MacEwan University on subjects such as photojournalism, fine art design, and history of photography.
Jason told us about the five elements of Visual Language: Personal, Historical, Technical, Cultural and Critical. Personal is the viewer’s initial reaction to the image. Historical considers the connection with the viewer’s past. Technical refers to how the technical elements work to present the concept of the photograph. Cultural impression depends upon the viewer’s cultural expectations and experiences. Critical is assessing what works or doesn’t work for us that we can relate back to the creator in terms of driving the final objective.
Find an Influence
Jason encouraged us to find our influences as photographers and to find our own style too. You need to look at music, photographs, movies and art. Study what appeals to you in those mediums and how it works to interest you. The purpose of that study isn’t to shoot landscapes that look like Ansel Adams or the portrait poses of Yousef Karsh. The path to growth as a photographer/artist is to build from the work of your influences, blend styles, adapt, become inspired and add your own touch. Jason urges us to be inspired and leap from that point rather than copying—authorship by synthesis is the term Jason used.
We could have spent hours considering, in more detail, the list of influential photographers that Jason featured. I have added a list (see far left on this page) to start your exploration.