Jacob Perlmutter

March, 2011

Jacob Captures Life in Black and White

Jacob is a 20-year-old photographer who was inspired to pick up a camera while witnessing a natural disaster on a school trip abroad. His passion for travel photography has grown and he recently travelled across the United States for three months and came back with thousands of seemingly banal, candid black and white images that perfectly capture the essence of Americana.

The images now hang at his first solo exhibition in Tavistock Place, London. His approach to photography is not one of styling and altering images in editing programs, but of capturing everything as is, while it’s moving and alive.

When did you start taking photos?
I started taking photos when I was 14. I went on a photography trip to Sri Lanka with the intention to document the atmosphere, colours and culture. The day I arrived, however, the tsunami hit. I turned to photography as a means of processing my terrifying experience and feelings. I was also aware of communication; if I could capture what was happening there then those at home could understand it.

Why did you decide to take photos of people in America for your latest project?
After shooting music events for a few years, I was starting to understand a new opportunity with reportage photography. This was the ability not only to document but to comment. With a fascination of a Photographer with a photo essay, The Americans, I saw how he captured not only the people of America, but the landscape and the environment. He showed me how people are a product of their environment and how, especially with the use of a wide-angle lens, a photographer can show in a frozen moment the persona of a place. This gives contextual underpinning when the photo has a simple caption of where and when it was taken. Who are these people? Who are their friends, their family? The curiosity of the photography in turn provokes questions from the viewer, which can be answered in one of many ways.

I wanted to take photos of people in America to see what he saw. Fifty years after his images were captured, I was curious to revisit and explore my own journey, in turn bringing back images that could be compared to his. In no way saying that my images achieve the funny, tragic, haunting images of my hero, but it felt good to pay homage to someone who has inspired me so much.

How do you decide what you take a picture of?
I try to enter a situation without an intention to comment. This allows me to respond truthfully and with a fresh eye. But I’m always drawn to something when I get there. I may become obsessed. Spend an hour following someone without them knowing. I guess in that sense the randomness of crossing paths takes me on an unexpected journey; I’m just there to be inspired and jump on-board the ride.

Do you think people with expensive cameras take better photos?
The best camera is the one you have on you.

What will your next project be about?
Since my exhibition showcasing my project from America, 88 days, I’ve had a few projects on the go. Continuing to work for the NME, I’ll be covering Glastonbury. I’ve just finished a music video and am in preproduction stages of my next music video. Over the summer, I’m going to India for a couple of months, but whether a project emerges from it I can’t say. Then it’s back to film school for my final year where I’ll be making a few shorts with the intention to enter them into festivals.

Jacob Perlmutter

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