magazine photography

Photographing 20 Strangers in Isla Vista

Step out of your comfort zone and photograph 20 random people on the street.

I studied photography at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. Known for educating students on the highest level of technical skill when it comes to photography there was one (amongst others) infamous assignment that dealt with approaching a stranger in order to photograph them. This was obviously not intended to teach a technical but a communication skill. It also forced you to deal with your fears and doubts. It challenged your comfort zone. It was called 25 Strangers.
Basically you had to produce a portfolio of 25 random strangers. Build a pop-up portrait studio in a park, photograph the strangers in a bar, at the pool, the retirement home or at the law firm on the corner of your street. I don’t remember the specific rules of the assignment but I put up a white background and had each of my strangers add a word to a sentence on a small chalk board and then I photographed them with the chalk board. I called it: 25 Strangers build a sentence. Surprisingly they didn’t. The sentence was grammatically and logically just … not a sentence. No idea what went wrong there…?

Anyways. The other day I remembered this assignment and decided to revisit it. 15 years and many strangers in front of my lens, from celebrities to homeless people in the back alleys of Mumbai, later I figured I should be a lot better at this. But it still was challenging the comfort zone a little. No control over the situation and you have to talk a random stranger into taking their portrait.

So Hugo and I went into Isla Vista on a Friday morning and approached a bunch of strangers. Isla Vista is a blend of University students, homeless people and middle aged surfers. Generally a demographic open to random experiences. This worked in our favor I think. Still, it took a little time to get groovy with.

The amazing thing about doing this was people opening up and telling stories. As you can see in the video some of the strangers shared memories, vented or maybe simply wanted to chat. It was amazing to see how quickly one can dive a lot deeper into a community by simply striking up a conversation with random people on the street. And using a portrait project like this is of course the perfect ice breaker.

I do this type of thing on assignment all the time but it is different when you go into your own community and when there is no agenda or story that you need to tell. Just letting your ego go, the creative juices flow and welcoming any input with open arms. Fun!

At the Bookstore

stock images photographed at a bookstore

jungblut_stock_chris_0807.jpg

Finding a good bookstore these days isn’t that easy. In Santa Barbara we can call ourselves lucky to have Chaucer’s, an amazing bookstore. During a stock photo shoot a little while ago we were in the area and so we stopped in and I took this image of the model browsing the collection.

Encounter at the Salton Sea

when a photograph magically presents itself

fisherman at the Salton Sea by Jonas Jungblut

fisherman at the Salton Sea by Jonas Jungblut

A few years back I went on a photoshoot for L1 Premium Goods at the Salton Sea in California. I drove my Vanagon from Santa Barbara down there so it could be used as a prop. The moment I pulled up to the water’s edge this scene presented itself to me. All I had to do is press the shutter and take the photograph. The image was later selected by the Creative Review and printed in their annual book.

It’s amazing how having your camera always on your side can allow for images like these. In this case it was my Fuji Xpro1 rangefinder. The camera is small enough to just carry around with you all the time and I photographed many scenes with it and its follow up model, the Xpro2, simply because I had the camera on me when the image presented itself.

Santa Barbara trail running

photographing running on and off trail in Santa Barbara

trail running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

trail running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

I am lucky to have a solid runner as a buddy so we head out every now and then to photograph some running for stock or portfolio images here in Santa Barbara. The terrain is perfect for running of all kinds. From trail running to urban running, Santa Barbara has it covered. Difficulty from easy to painful, all here…

urban running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

urban running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

In addition to all the terrain, Santa Barbara also offers pretty ideal weather year round. Running in shorts and only a shirt is usually possible throughout the winter.

All these elements combined make for a perfect backdrop to photograph running around here.

trail running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

trail running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

Portrait of Santa Barbara Supervisor Das Williams for The Town Market

Photographing local politicians

Das Williams by Santa Barbara portrait photographer Jonas Jungblut

Das Williams by Santa Barbara portrait photographer Jonas Jungblut

I have been working closely with The Town Market here in Santa Barbara and part of what we have been doing is documenting (in this case taking portraits) of local people that are having an impact on the community. Das Williams came up and having run into him from time to time over the past decade I was excited to finally be able to photograph him.

We met at his house and I found a spot to put up this blue background. I lit him with a Profoto monoblock but then also decided to use natural light for a variation. The above portrait is the natural light version, it worked well with the pastel colors of the background and his shirt. Shot on the 501cm Hasselblad and Kodak Portra 400 film.