Jason Langer is a masterful black-and-white photographer who has learned the importance of self-expression and following his own path. In high school, he decided he wanted to pursue photography as a career. He was inspired by the beautiful black-and-white images of Michael Kenna, and had the opportunity to meet this renowned photographer.
As an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, Langer stayed in touch with Kenna, and sent images to him on a regular basis. After graduation, he jumped at the chance to work for Kenna as his first assistant at his studio in San Francisco. “I learned more in four months from him than I did in four years as a photography student,” states Langer, who was an apprentice for this accomplished photographer for five years. When Langer finished his apprenticeship with Kenna, he began to balance commercial and personal work and found that doing his personal work was much more satisfying than commercial photography. Soon Langer made contact with art gallery owners, dealers and collectors, and began showing his fine-art images.
He describes his photographic style as “poetic, contemplative, noir, symbolist, and open-ended in interpretation.” Langer says that symbolists are less interested in naturalistic interpretation and details than they are in creating allegory for mental and emotional states of being. “I feel that people prefer to create their own story and find their own meaning, instead of having it spelled out for them,” he points out. “I’m also interested in emotional states—but in a way where a viewer finds his or her own emotions.” His subjects are usually portrayed in a somewhat anonymous manner, with faces turned away from the camera or blurred. Conversely, Langer seeks to do the opposite with inanimate objects. He portrays the expressions of statues and mannequins as being “emotions frozen in time.”
His first book, Secret City, will soon be published by Nazraeli Press (with an introduction written by Michael Kenna). This monograph features a ten-year retrospective of Langer’s “Urban Portraits,” as well as his inanimate subjects and nudes. “This is a city that I’d like to think we all have inside of us,” he says, adding that everyone can identify with the themes that this book portrays: “mental and emotional places people can identify with—yearning and searching for completion. The interpretation isn’t handed to you; you have to work for it a little.”