Interview #72: Jonathan Cherry


CUS: How did you get into photography?

Jonathan Cherry: Many moons ago I could often be found rooting around in my parents loft looking at old family photographs. This initially inspired me to 'make memories' which led to me using my Dad's old 35mm Pentax SLR. I managed to get a few good images from it and then decided to start taking my much smaller point and shoot Pentax PC-100 around with me as it had a totally cool carry case. Since then I have always enjoyed photography and tried to make a living from it.


CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?

JC: I studied Fine Art Photography at University College Falmouth from 2007 - 2009. It was such a great course with a whole load of encouraging peers, lecturers & guest speakers. The colour darkroom & print room became my best friends and I could often be found hanging about printing and chatting with people there. The technicians are also legends.


CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an affect on your photography?

JC: In 2013 I married my now wife Gemma and we moved to Cambridge, UK together for her work. We now live in Stafford (north of Birmingham) - its an interesting place to live and I do enjoy living here. Part of the reason not to move to London straight away was because we felt as though we didn't need to live in a big city and opted to live somewhere that could be a little more grounding. Stafford is a county town and famous for electrical engineering - nothing super special i suppose. Being in Stafford does inspire me to make personal work and I have had a few ideas brewing over the last 6 months with the hope of making some work here.


CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.

JC: Its nothing special really. I enjoy my process most when photographing strangers because I like to try and get the best out of someone which can totally take a bit of time. I mainly shoot portraits on my Hasselblad 503CXi (medium format) or Wista 45SP (large format) which works perfectly for me as they take a little time to set up and focus. I try and only shoot on Kodak film because I like the tones and once I have my films I send them off to Palm Labs in Birmingham who I have used for over a decade now. I usually get the shots back as high resolution scans along with the negatives and edit them using Photoshop on my 27" iMac at home and back them up on my G-RAID external hard drive. Job done.


CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

JC: Granola with whole milk.


CUS: Who are the individuals in your photographs?

JC: Friends or strangers I meet while out and about.


CUS: What makes a good image?

JC: A good image stays with you for months, sometimes years.


CUS: Where do you draw inspiration from?

JC: Cycling and good light.


CUS: Tell us about the locations in your photographs.

JC: When I am cycling, walking or driving about I often spot locations that are eye catching to me. I will try and clock them and put them safely in my location brain bank so that in the future I can take people there to photograph or simply photograph that landscape itself.


CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography, photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…) How do you differentiate “art” photography and “non-art” photography?

JC: One thing that I often forget is that photography is still in its infancy - so yes stuff is going to be changing and developing all the time. I think it is amazing that we have all these platforms to use so that we can showcase our work. I do however, think that there is a balance in my photography. For example; I shoot using a film camera, get it digitised and share it online, people like it and quite often I get prints done. In my head combining these techniques and processes keeps me up to date with technology (which has helped loads get me to where I am today) but also keeps me grounded and keeps me looking for photographs using my beloved Hasselblad. Finally I must say that having darkroom knowledge has been the most beneficial thing for me and my practice and I would encourage any young budding photographer to get in a darkroom and see what they can make.


CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?

JC: Nothing beats seeing a photograph in print and up close. 1000 pixel wide images are poor excuse for the real thing but its better than nothing I guess.


CUS: What are your plans for the spring?

JC: Spring is great. Work pops up all over the place. I am excited to see who contacts me and what jobs I can get. 


CUS: Tell us about your project "Mull It Over"

JC: Founded in 2009, MULL IT OVER is a series of web based interviews with photographers. It started because I struggled while at University to find more information on certain emerging and established practitioners. Upon graduating I decided to set up the site and to date we have interviewed over 900 photographers and have a whopping 300,000+ subscribers.


CUS: Your favorite photographer?

JC: It changes daily but at the moment it is Brian McSwain.


CUS: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

JC: Probably Zed Nelson.


CUS: Your dream equipment?

JC: Currently I am carrying a Mamiya 7ii, Wista 45SP, Hasselblad 503CXi and a Canon 5D Mark 2. I am not sure I would change anything really. I'd quite like some more lenses for my Canon and some more film for my Wista.


CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?

JC: Fear.


CUS: What are some of your favorite books and films?

JC: In terms of books: Out of Silent Planet by C S Lewis,  This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein, Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, Time Passing by Sylvan Agacinski, Wake by Adam Jeppesen, How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers, Mr. Mkhize by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Portraits by Steve McCurry, Cave Refectory Road by Ian Adams and anything by Malcolm Gladwell. In terms of films it would have to be the following: Fargo, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou & Pumping Iron. 


CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose and why?

JC: My Great Grandparents when they lived in Nuneaton because I remember them being old and RAD.


CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow photographers?

JC: Contact at least 3 new clients a week, keep your diary with you at all times and don't be afraid to put the camera down every once in a while.


CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?

JC: What does the view out of your nearest window look like right now?


Jonathan Cherry, b. 1986 and based in Stafford, England



Images provided by Jonathan Cherry. All rights reserved.