Jasper Alaric Bailey is a Cape Town-based photographer who would be a surfing-musician if it wasn’t for his Sony Ericsson and his love for ‘drift plastic’.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Aware, persistent and devoted.
When did you start getting into photography?
Around 2009, I discovered the macro focusing capabilities of a Sony Ericsson cell phone while visiting family in England. I found and photographed the detail in driftwood and “drift plastic”, as my 15 year old self had named it. That Christmas I was gifted a Canon G12 compact digital camera and began shooting mainly at house parties until I could save up for a more advanced camera.
How’s your modern life?
I honestly can’t complain. After finishing school two years back I have had the chance to study and work in Johannesburg, I learnt a lot there by meeting new people and networking (which you come across frequently in Jozi). I have recently secured a website through Wix which is great to use especially with minimal website editing experience. I also find Facebook a great mean of getting publicity although there have been times where it becomes monotonous. Other than having all my photographic gear and car stolen earlier this year I have been well and in good company since.
What are three essential things you need on a daily basis?
Well first of all good music, especially when driving, which for most others and myself is daily. Visually inspiring encounters. Exercise, which I don’t do every day but should.
During your editing process, what kind of music aids your creative process?
My taste in music is constantly changing. While editing I prefer no vocals or upbeat sounds because they can distract my creative process. I stick to the more Low-tempo, Classical and Progressive side of things, such as Clams Casino or Vanilla.
What are your takes on the modern battle of analogue vs. digital photography?
I don’t think it should be a battle, analogue and digital photography have coexisted for years and should continue to do so, like acoustic and electronic music. Although, if I had to choose, I do prefer to shoot Analogue. The Analogue post-production process almost put me off digital all together, being able to understand the process involving darkness, chemicals and dim red lights taught me to really respect the Photographers of the non digital era. If it weren’t for the extent in which one can use Photoshop I would be spending a lot more time in a dark room. However, Digital is my preferred method of shooting when I do paid work as the images can be transferred almost instantly.
Are there any specific spots in the world you would love to travel to just to capture?
Anywhere new I go I find something that catches my eye, when walking with my camera in a place I haven’t set foot in whether it is local or overseas. If I had to choose a place in particular it would have to be in a South American city, specifically Argentina, its somewhere I have always wanted to go.
What gear have you relied on during your progression as a photographer?
I rely on using variety with photographic gear, I have replaced my late and very missed Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 6D and it definitely hasn’t disappointed me. On a daily basis I use an analogue Canon eos 300 with a 50mm lens, as much as zoom can benefit me I find 50mm creates the most natural feeling. In order to progress as a photographer, I believe one must gain an understanding of as many photographic devices and their individual elements as possible. As when shooting film for example; one becomes more aware of each frame exposed and the importance of carefully choosing your images before taking them.
If you weren’t into photography, how would you spend your time?
If I didn’t do photography I would make music creating sounds using software and also acoustic instruments; I was keen on the bass guitar when I was younger. From what I have seen and understand, a musical career requires creative thinking and I would want to be in an industry that allows me to use my creative skills. Music is the only occupation other than perhaps professional surfing I could imagine enjoying.
In your opinion, what makes a great photographer?
For me a great photographer is someone who can transform a common or visually unpleasing setting into something completely otherwise, something with artistic value. To be great at this, one must learn to grasp all the variables of photography, conceptualize one’s work and eventually, with many hours of patience and practice, master the technique. This all comes down to using one’s eyes to focus on what may not be clearly apparent at first glance.
What currently inspires you?
Most of my current inspiration comes from the varied energy of the people I surround myself with. In my recent portraiture work, I tried to portray these various individuals on a personal level as accurately as possible. Another means of inspiration comes from keeping up to date with the other photographers in my city, their work drives me to work harder as this industry is undoubtedly a very competitive one.
Which local and international photographers inspire you?
Locally, I would have to say the Essop brothers; their series of photographs continue to hold my interest, as most of the topics they discuss are valid matters I have been witness to living in South Africa. Internationally, I would have to say Larry Clark and Joel Peter Whitkin their work is very personal and impacting.
Where can we find more of your work?