Spend 21 minutes with

Logan Jackson

& Mo Mfinanga

 
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  • Published on April 13, 2019
  • Photos courtesy of Logan
 
 

Logan Jackson is a photographer based out of New York City. With a meticulous eye for detail, Jackson moves between portraiture and still life, often allowing the two to meld together. His work reveals moments that feel off, yet somehow perfectly timed, and a childlike sense of curiosity, mischief, and sense of humor.  Through his work, Jackson invites the viewer into a world built on practical fantasy, that feels all his own in even the most mundane setting.

Claire Christerson, New York-based multimedia artist

 
 

Mo: How's your weekend so far?

Logan: I don't know what I'm going to do precisely but I think it's going to be a chill one. I don't have any work going on this next coming week. Sometimes when I have weeks like that where I don't have any shoots lined up or anything due to anyone, it's kind of a struggle for me, because... [pauses] When you're a freelancer, especially a photographer, in my mind I could treat this type of week as time off or I can try to be really productive, whatever that means to me then.

Logan: I would love to be like, cool, I don't have any shoots or meetings this week, so let me actually do something a normal person would do if they have like five vacation days. I just can't! [both laughing] Luckily, the frequency at which I'm working is working for me and making me money, but there is this guilt built in and this comparison to my peers. I think it has a lot to do with Instagram where you look at it and think, oh, everybody's busy every single day of their lives, but not me! [laughing]

Mo: I technically am on a mini break for the next couple of days, but realized I had some free time today to schedule a bunch of interviews back-to-back. So right now I feel good when I see people working because I'm in work mode, even though I should be relaxing. But it's the opposite when I'm hanging out and being a loaf. No one in freelance teaches you how to relax.

Logan: That's something I didn't learn in school! [both laughing]

Mo: If only SVA had a freelancer relaxation program.

Logan: There's a new administration in the photo program so I could pitch that to them! That's an interesting idea, right? How to live as a freelancer. I have actually toyed with the idea of teaching.

Mo: I've definitely seen people lead classes or become an adjunct professor along with continuing to pursue a full-time creative career.

Logan: I think it's a good exercise for a photographer, even if you're really not making money off of it. My friend David Geeting teaches there now which is so funny and cool. If I had him as a teacher, it would've been such a good experience. He's young and wacky, and is the least by-the-book person in the biz.

Mo: That's just who I was thinking of when we started talking about this. His class seems like fun. Is there anything you wish someone told you how to do that you had to figure out on your own?

Logan: It's hard to pinpoint what they did and didn't talk about because it all feels like a blur, and I might’ve missed some things. I graduated four years ago, and things change so frequently there. That said, I don't think they gave us the best tools for putting yourself out there as a photographer. There were a few courses I remember where things like promo cards and email blasts were discussed, and even then I remember thinking, “Do those work?” When I was in school Instagram was on the come-up and I remember hearing some of my peers mentioning that it would be tacky to put your work on Instagram. Now it's like, how can you not? Instagram now feels like such a big part of the industry, but there’s also this comparison element to it which I think can make people feel buried alive sometimes.

 
Nobodies making the rules, though, so there’s not a set amount of personal work you have to make in a set amount of time.
— Logan Jackson
 

Logan: Nobody really talks about money either, and the realities of chasing down checks and still maintaining your creative integrity with things. I feel like the margin leaned more heavily towards critiquing and what your concept was, at SVA, and not that much towards reality and making a living, or even the balance of those two things. I'm speaking too broadly but no one warned me that I would have to find a balance between doing jobs for money and still wanting to be an artist and not let your mind fry with the mundane shit clients can try to pull with you. When working on something that’s maybe not very creatively liberating, on one hand I'm using this technical skill that I went to school for, and on the other hand, this is not what I want to be making. So I'm really impressed by certain friends I have who seem to be balancing those things really well. And that's one of the things I struggle with but try not to put too much stock into. But sometimes it gets to you. Nobodies making the rules, though, so there's not a set amount of personal work you have to make in a set amount of time. Maybe they didn't teach me that either; how case-to-case basis everything is.

Mo: I don't know what it'll be called, but we can start a course at SVA. I'd have to live in New York, though.

 
 
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Formative Years
 

Logan: How long have you lived in LA?

Mo: I celebrated my one year a couple weeks ago.

Logan: Where are you from?

Mo: Detroit, so I have no business being here. [both laughing]

Logan: No one does!

Mo: And you came from Arkansas to New York, so what was the most fulfilling surprise in terms of the change of scenery? And also the surprise in being a working photographer?

Logan: Being in Arkansas as a gay, skinny white boy just wasn't the place for me—and I'm not trying to hate on Arkansas here, because that's where my interest in photography started. I felt like I was in a good place when I started making work as a teenager. It was really bad [work], but that’s certainly not unique to me. I just felt so stimulated all the time. I wanted to get up early and make photos every day. I didn't really have anything to compare the work to, not an ounce of photo history in my little head, so I had this pure and naive interest on my hands. In high school I was “the art kid”, and I was really that kid. I was good at painting and drawing and people gave me prizes for those things, so I thought that was what I was going to do forever. I did two years of college there because I didn't really know how I was going to make anything else work when I was 18. If I would've moved [to New York] when I was 18, I don’t know what would've become of me. Probably dead! [laughing] So in my two years, I was a graphic design major and thought maybe I’d work with brands doing like, package design? I really did not know. Photography was a side thing that I was more interested in than anything else, but I had this idea that if I went to school for it then it would be ruined for me! [both laughing]

Mo: Do you feel like you'd incorporate that into your work now as a mixed-medium?

Logan: I don't think so, no. Thinking about picking up painting again at this point in my life sounds truly insane. I think very long-term about everything, so I'd have to get more space in order to start painting. I'd have to buy all these supplies, and…

 
 
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Pari Ehsan for  Audi x Aspen Art Crush
 
 


Mo: Are you a Virgo?

Logan: I'm an Aries. But I'm a very particular Aries, though. I'm more of a Pieces in reality. I'm not the most fire-y person you've ever met. [both laughing] I'm not going to say never, but incorporating painting just isn't where my head is at right now. For a while, I would do these coloring book overlays on top of photos. I'm interested in the symbolism of cartoon imagery for many reasons that I’m not great at putting into words. I'm sitting here looking at the cover of my laptop and I have a big sticker with a Precious Moments coloring book picture on it. I think the closest I'll get to incorporating any sort of medium is these line drawings. It's really rewarding to sit down and go through old images and plop in a cartoon spread and see how different it makes the image.

Logan: I started to do the coloring book images during my senior year of school while coming up with concepts for the mentors show.

Mo: What’s the mentors show?

Logan: It was a show we did during our senior year where you'd get paired up with somebody from the industry, basically, whether it be a gallerist or working photographer or photo editor. And then the mentor they gave you, depending on who you got, would maybe be someone you'd meet two or three times max. What you're supposed to do is discuss your work and what the project is and they'd give you advice on how to make and present it, and they'd come to the show. Sounds great in theory but it was handled… strangely.

Logan: After SVA I started working with transparency film that I would laser print the line drawings onto and the film would be placed inside the frame, assuming it was being framed. Before that, I'd just do it in Photoshop and realized eventually that it didn't feel rich enough. It was kind of interesting to me that somebody could theoretically take the frame apart and have two or three pieces in there. That was really fun for me—messing around with things that you're really not supposed to do in photography—and that's why I was happy doing that in the first place. I always was sort of bored in school week after week presenting photos. I think in my junior year, I started printing out these big, royalty free photo backdrops that I would find on Google. I would make these cinematic photos by fitting the model in front of the printed landscapes and lighting them with two Arri lights, so it felt movie-set-y. I was really into doing things I wasn't supposed to be doing and I'm still into that. I really like doing things in the way I was told not to do.

Mo: What's one of the most consistent risks you take in your career, if any?

Logan: I don't know if this is a risk, but I didn't have my own camera for three years. [laughing] I was just using my friends camera and renting cameras. I sold my first camera when I was in school because I was like, "SVA has cameras! I'll just use those." And then I graduated. [both laughing] I thought for a second that I could go back to shooting film but that wasn't where I was at. I was assisting a photographer pretty much from my second year of college until I graduated, and I became good friends with her. So right after I graduated, we started a business together; a website called You Do You. And it was a sort of culture, news, art website. We were running that for a couple years after I got out of school from the photo studio that she owns, which we semi-converted into our office, where I had access to equipment whenever I needed. That’s largely why my shoots for two solid years were mostly in studio, but that was good for me because I wanted to be in the studio then. And now I'm almost never in the studio! But it was risky of me to think I could just go about my life and have this career as a photographer who didn't own a fucking camera. [both laughing] But now I have one guys.

Mo: Logan Jackson has a camera. That's the tagline for the interview. [both laughing]

 
 
I think I’m just starting to realize the multitudes of potential for good that lie within an industry like this...
— Logan Jackson
 

Injecting Personality
 

Mo: What do you feel like your relationship with the internet is? Do you inject a lot of your personality on there or the opposite?

Logan: I go through phases like that for sure. There are times where I can't be bothered to think about making an Instagram post because of how pointless it seems. Right now, I have two or three shoots that I've not posted, and it's not because I don't like them, but... I go up and down. Sometimes it’s, “Okay I did the shoot; I liked the shoot; it's on my website, so what's the purpose of posting it on Instagram?” And then I'm like, "Ah! So people who don't look at my website would know I did it and remember that I am indeed a photographer."

Logan: In terms of injecting my personality--I don't want to make this conversation about Instagram, but it seems to be very prominent. I want my presence to be me and my work, and I don't really have a problem with that. I don't think what I put out has to only be my work, because that's what my website is—my work. If I do a group show, that's my work. If I do this interview, that's about my work and me as a person. So in my most personal work, I fully inject myself in it sometimes even if as literal as a self portrait. I think I'm very much myself with a few alterations, because there's this whole back and forth I go through when I want to post something. Does it feel like me or does it feel fake? Sometimes I'm totally gung-ho to post everything and not care if people pay attention to it, and then other times it makes me feel like it's no good if nobody pays attention to it, which is a terrible way to gauge if something is good or not.

Mo: What do you feel worries you right now as a working photographer?

Logan: I have a couple things. One thing is feeling like a fraud and wondering if what I'm doing that needs to be seen by other people, especially in terms of personal work. That's my whole thing about making these books. My biggest struggle is debating if people want to see them. Is anyone going to benefit from seeing this? Another thing is like, how am I doing something that's helping the world? That's pretty bombastic, and not that everything everyone does has to bring world peace, but compared to the rest of the city, I'm this one little boy tugging along doing this art thing and there's people out here who have these big, important jobs! The good thing is I can always talk myself out of these moments, but I do still have them. I know some people would rather be in my position than working a 9 to 5, but it can be hard to tell yourself that all the time. At the end of the day, I'm happy doing what I'm doing and I'm happy where I'm at. I think I’m just starting to realize the multitudes of potential for good that lie within an industry like this, and that sometimes I need to get over myself.

 
I just want to share my curiosities and interpretations of what makes a photograph a work of art...
— Logan Jackson
 
Logan Jackson photographs Aquaria for   Notion  , 2019

Logan Jackson photographs Aquaria for Notion, 2019

 
 
 
Pari Ehsan x Daniel Canogar at Bitforms

Pari Ehsan x Daniel Canogar at Bitforms

 
 


Mo: On the other end, what excites you?

Logan: I'm excited at the prospect of making books. I'm excited that I can do something like that with my time--what I need to work on is asking for help, feeling like I have value and my work does too. I'm excited to have new spaces to make things in. I feel like more of an adult in 2019 and that I've gotten more respect now then in the past. I don't know what this year holds but I've concluded that it’s not up to me to predict. I’m excited to collaborate more, open more dialogues with photographers, and really try to make the most of what can seem like an overwhelmingly big community. I want to try a lot of new things this year in terms of style, and I want to open myself up to possibilities that I might’ve once ruled out.

Mo: As a heterosexual male, I want to be more informed about other communities and how they are with people such as you, a photographer and a queer male, if that makes sense.

Logan: There's not a definitive line drawn between the straight photographers and queer ones, but there is definitely a difference in the types of work you get asked to shoot if you put your work out there as an LGBTQ photographer. There's a lot of photographers I know of who are almost only making personal work and it's very focused on the LGBTQ community. And there are publications who I think try to get majority queer photographers. I definitely wouldn't say that my straight contemporaries don't get some of those jobs, but I don't feel like I belong to a queer photographer community. I think your community is whoever's work you feel most aligned with. I don't ever feel like I'm looked at as a gay photographer, commercially, but the work that I've sold personally to clients or art buyers are predominantly my self portraits. The clients tend to sway toward a certain demographic, which is fine with me, but it does spark this internal thing of knowing this person is buying this at least in part because they think I'm attractive, and I don't mean to say that as a brag. It's a thing I have to think about while choosing the piece, you know. I don’t try to focus on looking good in my self-portraits, but rather on evoking feelings having to do with sexuality, loneliness, Americana, and how these things can manifest themselves physically.

Logan: Symbols of childhood curiosity are things I like to hit you over the head with, too. There’s a lot to be said about using one's body in a provocative way to accomplish these things in a photograph, but I haven’t yet been invited to that panel discussion so I’ll leave it at that.

 
JWG Fall 2019

JWG Fall 2019

 

Mo: Do you feel like at this point of your career there's an expectation from audience, clients, or whoever that is misguided by any chance?

Logan: I don't really know, because it's hard to understand what people think about my work or what the narrative is. I feel like I don't get told enough, or maybe I'm not curious enough to find out. When I put stuff out there I'm not really asking for critiques or anything. Nobody really just says, "Hmm. Not your best work!" [both laughing] "What happened when you used to do those line drawings?" You know? I think maybe anyone who's a longtime viewer of my work would probably be able to see a shift and see that I'm not doing self portraits as much and I'm not really focusing on the cartoon stuff as much. I hope people are still able to see the sort of twisted-ness in what I do and that there’s a lot of humor in it. I think people might understand some of the cinematic elements in most of my work.

Logan: My conversation with Roe Ethridge for a VICE article gave me really good insight because we sort of work on a similar wavelength where we both do recontextualization of old work. After I learned more about John Baldessari and his series Wrong about “good” and “bad” photography comparisons, I mentioned to him how it's an interesting concept knowing how to make a technically good image and flip that on its head. I always think about that when I'm shooting. Even if it doesn't come to the front very much, let's start with a well lit image and let it disintegrate a little bit into something more interesting, which is why I shoot a lot of images. Say I have a fashion-ish shoot and have one look, there's always way too many options because I always get so many new ideas while I'm shooting—and I know I'm not unique in that—but I try to have some wiggle room to do the weirder stuff and luckily most people I work with know that, that is what I do.

Mo: And what do you find the purpose of your work to be?

 
 

Logan: I just want to share my curiosities and interpretations of what makes a photograph a work of art, how we think about our surroundings, and how we see ourselves fitting into all of it.

 
 

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Q&A

 
 
  • Where can we follow you?

  • Website & Instagram
  • What's the last thing you googled?

  • “Tropicana hotel AC”, because tomorrow I am going to Atlantic City for the first time ever, and guess where I’m staying??

  • What’s the most useless piece of information you retain?

  • I’m an endless encyclopedia of K-pop girl group information. Though, that’s not really useless as I’ve converted a large portion of the Greater New York area over the years.

  • What does working with you feel like?

  • I’m like a sweet little gentle baby who people often don’t register as the photographer when I get to set. At some point during a shoot someone is guaranteed to: wonder if I will need to see a chiropractor afterward, remind me to eat, enjoy my music choices, and ultimately become my friend after all is said and done :~)
  • What’s the theme song to your life?

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNBLlmrExNw

  • What are your favorite books?

  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Them by Jon Ronson, Enigma Variations by Andre Aciman, and Idoru by William Gibson
  • What question(s) do you hate getting asked?

  • What kind of photography do you do? Do you still do photography??

  • Do you still do photography??

  • I actually just quit today! Sorry.

 

Further Reading

  • Olivia Bee
  • "I knew I was going to figure it out."