June 1, 2022
MOMENTS FROM THE STREET
Photography by Jonas Welten
Interview by Melanie Meggs
From the moment he picked up a camera, Jonas Welten has been captivated by the art of street photography. With an eye for beauty and inspired by the human soul, he strives to capture the essence of the anonymous person, seeking to uncover a deeper, unspoken truth. As an educator, part-time student of psychotherapy, and autodidact photographer, Jonas is determined to pay homage to the masters who have come before him while expanding the boundaries of this incredible art form. Growing up with artistic parents, photography has been a passion of his for as long as he can remember. Now, after three years of honing his craft, Jonas is ready to share the unique vision of the world he has discovered through his lens.
“I make these photos primarily for myself. It brings me joy and I feel honored if someone likes them, but that isn't my main focus. I am driven by the possibilities of taking photographs, the surprise of discovering - or stumbling over - new unexpected situations.”
IN CONVERSATION WITH JONAS WELTEN
THE PICTORIAL LIST: Jonas please tell us about yourself. What draws you to photography and art? How did your journey into photography begin?
JONAS WELTEN: I was born and raised in Salzburg, Austria (Mozart was born here!😉) I still live in Salzburg, with my beautiful girlfriend. I studied educational science and am currently working in an elementary school as kind of a social worker. I also study Psychotherapy, and if everything works out I will be working as a counsellor in a few years.
My parents, and especially my mother was and still is a great art enthusiast, with the focus on visual arts and classical music. My father, who has been retired for quite some time now, was a filmmaker.
I’m very much a movie buff, from rather mainstream movies to abstract art house films and the classics. I used to make photographs when I was in my teens/early twenties, I also took part in a photo workshop, but I didn’t really get deep into photography until about 3 years ago, and the technical side of taking photos never interested me, I’m not good at it, and, for my type of photography I find it not that important. Maybe I’m just a little bit lazy, and trying to find an excuse, for not learning the tech stuff 😁. Anyway, I then got an old DSLR from a friend and experimented, inspired by some artists on Instagram, mostly street photography stuff. That’s how my journey into photography began. And I’m still very enthusiastic about the art.
TPL: How have the streets and culture you capture influence your photography?
JW: I was - and still am - a big rap and hip hop fan, mostly mid 90s USA stuff. As you may know rap originated from the streets, and I mostly like the rough, gritty stuff. Also, the other genres never really do it for me, for example portrait, wild life, landscape or wedding photography. I started with my cell phone, and especially loved two things about that - I always carry it with me, so I'm ready to shoot always; and, important for street photography, it's subtle and people don't really recognise being photographed, thus you can get candid, “real life ” shots, where nothing is staged. A lot of unexpected situations and scenarios come up. Before you go out, you never know what's going to happen. I learned to appreciate the spontaneous, - as Cartier-Bresson said, the “decisive moment”. Like, for example in my photograph of the man carrying a porcelain mannequin head through the streets, and his matter of seconds of recognising the scene to taking the shot. He was walking by a jewellery store, with headless mannequins in the shop window. It is these juxtapositions that fire my passion for street photography.
TPL: Talk to us about your project “Moments from the Street” that you have submitted? Where did the inspiration come from? What do you want the viewer to experience and take away with them?
JW: A lot of inspiration came from famous street photographers which I have discovered and researched on the web. Masters of the genre like Cartier-Bresson, Winograd, John Free, Diane Arbus, Vivian Maier or Robert Frank and an absolute genius who I adore, Fan Ho.
Also, I always get inspiration from the movies. When I first saw “Some Like It Hot” by the Austrian(!) Director Billy Wilder, it blew me away. It was the beginning of a wonderful, life long love (or should say friendship) quote from Casablanca. Later I discovered Directors like Gaspar Noe, Lars van Trier, Tarantino, the Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl, and others who are close to the circle of street photography and rap. I find they have a very authentic, rough, but also visually interesting and experimental drive in cinematography in their work. So over the course of a year after I “seriously” began with photography, I also started to appreciate more abstract, or stylised, sometimes staged, cinematic photography. My photos range from rough, black and white street, to rather clean, experimental cinematic shots, where I sometimes love to go crazy in post production with popping colours or even collages.
Fun fact- as a young adult, I wanted to go to Film School in Vienna, but, for one or the other reason I didn't follow through and became a social worker and educator instead. A profession I too love.
TPL: What do you want the viewer to experience?
JW: Kind of a difficult question, I make these photos primarily for myself. It brings me joy and I feel honored if someone likes them, but that isn't my main focus. I am driven by the possibilities of taking photographs, the surprise of discovering - or stumbling over - new unexpected situations. But I would be lying if I want to make good shots that may make viewers think, or ones who just look good from an aesthetic viewpoint.
TPL: Do you have any favourite artists and photographers?
JW: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Ansel Adams, John Free...to mention some of the classic street photographers. From the new generation I very much like artists who make cinematic stuff like Oliver Takac, David Sark, Cody Klintworth, i.Dauyu, Sammy Soju, and my Austrian photography buddy Mark Daniel Prohaska. Sorry to anyone I forgot to mention, there are too many great photographers out there.
Fun fact - as a young adult, I wanted to go to Film School in Vienna, but, for one or the other reason I didn't follow through and became a social worker and educator instead. A profession I too love.
TPL: If you could just choose one photographer to shoot alongside for a day...who would you choose? And why?
JW: Oliver Takac. His cinematic style, his use of light and shadow, and colour is amazing.
TPL: When you are out photographing - how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
JW: 99% instinct.
TPL: Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length? How much post-processing do you do?
JW: Not really. I also shoot a lot with my iPhone, alongside my (old) Nikon D3000. As post-processing goes, it varies. I use Photoshop, but also mobile apps like Snapseed. For my street shots I usually don’t do a lot of post-processing, more for my abstract/cinematic shots; sometimes I go nuts, but usually I lay my focus on composition and a subject that catches my eye.
TPL: What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
JW: I would love to have some photographs exhibited, and of course I’d like to sell some stuff. But most of all I’d like to make a lot more pictures, that I consider as cool shots, shots I’m content about. I won’t quit my day job, the perfect situation would be being part time therapist/part time photography artist. But I won’t stop shooting if that doesn’t work out.
TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
JW: No, as I don’t really plan my photography. But everybody reading this is very welcome to check out my Instagram. I’m also really happy about feedback. Of course I sell prints of all my photos, and am ambitious to connect with other photographers, to chat and maybe collaborate on projects.
TPL: “When I am not out photographing, I (like to)...
JW: Spend time with my girlfriend, my friends and family, watch movies, read books, and focus on my education.”
Thank you for the opportunity. I’m honored to be published on your magazine. Much love!
The world is an endlessly fascinating place, and Jonas Welten's photography captures the beauty, mystery, and humanity of the everyday. Through his lens, he has found a remarkable way to document personal stories of strangers, and to find and express the truth beyond what is seen on the surface. His eye for beauty and understanding of the human soul makes him a remarkable photographer. We invite you to explore more of Jonas' work to further appreciate the art of street photography.