Jonás Romo from what little I can gather is not only a great photographer, but a stand up human being, pro-active member of the universe, and good music listener. Stumbling onto work that is really engaging, and in the process learning about somebody that is genuinely pretty interesting can only be summed up as good vibes. Jonás was nice enough to answer all of our questions and give us a look into his life and some of his new work.
What is your full name, where are you from and where do you live now?
I’m Jonás Romo, I am from and live in Mexico City but work keeps me traveling a lot. I spend equal time at home and abroad.
The first thing that comes to mind when looking at your work is architecture is a large interest of yours. What is it you like so much about shooting geometric patterns?
I have never found a right answer for that question. I guess I just love big cities and urban design in general. Whenever I travel I do a lot of research about interesting architecture. That’s what defines my travel agenda everywhere I go. I am really into these big social housing complexes, brutalist and modernist architecture, and new experiments to rescue or create public space. I’m recently more interested in urban parks and landscape architecture. So that’s what you can see in my photographs. I try not to shoot too much architecture because it can get boring after a while. I’m not interested in the buildings as a whole so much. I try to pay attention to the materials, the grids, and the angles of some parts of the architecture, and the surroundings of these.
Signal Loss/ Lesser Noise is a book of your photography released in 2011. It seems as though it’s photographed in Japan. How does the name correlate with the subject matter?
Sometimes I stumble upon great typographies, signs or meaningful written things in specific places that really capture the whole feeling of a trip or a series of pictures and then I use these words or phrases as the title of series or books. This is what happened when I traveled to Japan. I read many mistranslations of signs or instructions from Japanese to English that I found funny. One of them was written in a TV remote control. It included these two things “Signal loss” and “Lesser Noise” all mixed up making little sense. It kind of summarized my experience in Japan. I had no mobile telephone there and I was pretty much isolated from friends and family and I really felt I had lost all connection. I also realized that Japan is not a noisy country: trains and buses are fast and ultra modern producing little noise. The busiest streets and crossings were far quieter than a lot of places. I thought it was a good idea to name this book this. I don’t know until now if it is bad English or not.
How do you think your work transcends your lifestyle?
My day job and real job is not photography. I actually work for a scientific organization that promotes public policies oriented towards eliminating neglected diseases in vulnerable populations The Union. It’s the kind of non-profit organization everyone would feel comfortable and proud of working for. However it is not the most creative and artsy professional field. So photography is really the way I have/like to communicate. I’m lucky to be able to travel a lot and visit new places, and that is great for photography. I’m hunting images everywhere I go, it keeps me motivated.
Who or what are some of your photographic inspirations?
Editorial design and architecture are the most inspiring things to me. Reading and flipping through books about new projects bring new ideas, techniques and things I want to try. I would say these three books are the most inspiring ones: Heldenstadt by Peter Riedlinger, Project Prints by Luigi Ghirri and In Between Cities by Guido Guidi. Each one of them is an exercise of documenting a city or the architecture of a region over a period of time. They are just fabulous. Some other more technical books are great too. I recently found this book of the work of Spanish architects Mansilla and Tuñón. It’s a document with all their references and built work over the last decade. It’s really beautiful. I also find Gerard Richter and Michaël Borremans paintings super inspiring. They use the medium of 35mm film and film photography as the starting point or as elements of their paintings. And I have always loved the work of Thomas Struth and Wolfgang Tillmans.
How do you think travelling effects your photography? Does subject matter play into the productivity aspect, or the excitement?
It’s pure excitement. It’s really about allowing my leisure time to be crucial in my photography.
What is your all time favorite piece of equipment and why?
It’s a 50mm-lens Nikon EM produced the same year I was born. It’s the first film camera I felt comfortable shooting with. I have tried other equipment but I always come back to my chunky Nikon. It’s very simple to use and it has a great definition and focus. I’ve replaced it twice. The first time it fell from a bridge and the button to release the shutter stopped working so I got a “new” one. Then I had to get a third Nikon EM because I was robbed in the in the subway in Buenos Aires.
Have you moved into editorial work or is that something that is of interest to you?
I have been commissioned to work in some editorial projects for interior design and architecture, but I’m not really into shooting things I don’t feel inspired by. I prefer to have my pictures featured in publications or exhibitions.
With the accessibility of photography in this day in age, what distinguishes or sets apart a great photographer?
I think the great photographers are either those who are amazing and innovative enough to set a trend or those whose photographs are so unique that they have a style that everyone can recognize. The thing about accessibility is that it is very easy to be inspired, copy or steal things and then you find the same photographs all over the place, like these tropical fruits and random objects with a rainbow-gradient background. I think of Mark Borthwick for example, he is a great photographer, both unique and trendsetting, one of the first photographers using flares and light leaks and bleached colors, but then suddenly everyone copied what he was doing. But it’s really about different tastes.
I noticed music is large accompaniment to the photography in your blog. Can you explain the correlation between music and photography, or what combining these two mediums does for you?
I grew up reading and listening to mp3 blogs. But now with all the audio platforms and on-line streaming services it is hard to actually own music. I wanted to accompany the pictures I post with some actual mp3s. It’s music I listen to and it also has a clear correlation to the images. I have borrowed some lyrics and titles of songs to name photographs or projects too. For example, my “The Splendour” series comes from listening to Pantha du Prince hundreds of times. I thought it was fair to include the musical references in the blog.
Are there any future projects you are involved with that the audience should keep an eye out for? Last words?
I try to keep having fun with photography. Not sure if I can think of a specific project right now. But recently I’ve been playing around with office supplies at work using pushpins, tapes, staples and rubber bands to sort of decorate printed pictures. I have a bunch of those and I started framing them in boxes. I guess I will continue working on this. I also want to find an independent publisher to make a book of urban parks and weird plants with photographs of friends and photographers I admire.