Today we’d like to introduce you to Jim Vondruska.
Jim, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I have been working as a freelance photographer/photojournalist since 2013. I was born and raised on the west side of Chicago, where I saw first-hand the corruption and associated trauma that persists still today in Chicago. This circumstantial introduction sparked my initial interest into researching and understanding the underlying issues surrounding conflict and its victims. More importantly, it invoked my personal emotional connection to them. After seeing a few documentaries about photojournalist Tim Hetherington, I knew that I had discovered my passion would be with documentary photography. So, with no traditional schooling in photography I dropped out of college and quit my job to pursue my dream of being a photographer. Relying on my meager savings along with the incredible support and kindness of many friends and strangers, I tirelessly to develop my skills and find work wherever possible in those first few years. Over time, I began to craft a unique style of shooting and found joy in showing life at its most intimate and unadulterated form through photography. I have since found love and a passion in telling stories whether they come from conflict zones, events, or simply a brief glimpse into a subject’s daily life.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I’m a photographer and photojournalist, and I shoot everything from conflict to corporate. I always knew I wanted to do something creative from a young age, and I was always best at doing composite work by taking something that already exists and making it into art. And that’s essentially the basis of photography, finding a subject that already physically exists, and capturing it or tweaking it.
My inspiration is just exploring and seeing how other people live, what they go through, and how things work. I’ve never been able to do a desk job, whether it be creative or not. I’ve always needed to be out and moving, and photography has been able to give me that opportunity, because in order to do the work, you need to go to the subject. It’s also great meeting so many new and different people along the way, and being able to know them at some capacity and take part in a part of their life.
The message I’m trying to convey, or at least get out there would be to tell stories about my subjects and the things that I have experienced, and doing it in an aesthetically pleasing way. I want to show the intimacy with subjects on some level and present that to an audience.
I feel like my shooting style isolates my subjects and has a slight disconnect from everything else in the frame. I try to be genuine with my photos, and I don’t like to pose too much. A lot of my photos are in the moment and most of the time I’m flying by the seat of my pants which has its advantages and disadvantages. But in the end I’m trying my best to show things how they are, and not creating a false reality like you see a lot of lately with the lifestyle photographer boom.
Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
I feel like overall it’s a mixed bag for artists and journalists alike. There’s still the grind. You need to work, meet people, and constantly be on top of your game. I feel like with the accessibility people have to camera equipment, paired with the internet, it’s become super easy to be any kind of artist, or to share your view. So I feel like it’s easier to produce work and post it, but at the same time it’s harder to be seen because there’s been a flood of people from every corner of life. But in the end it’s all about constantly grinding and meeting the right people.
What I feel cities or people within the cities can do to help artists would be to provide more spaces for art to be displayed or incorporate more art into and around the city like New York and LA. Chicago has been making progress with mural work and painting which has been fantastic, but I would love to see something like photoville ir more photobased festivals and galleries.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Most of my work is on my website, Instagram or on various news sites from time to time. Currently I’m working on setting up a few exhibitions for 2019, as well as some long form stories that will be available on an array of mediums.
Right now you can see my body of work at www.jimvondruska.com, or on Instagram: JimVondruska
All photos are by Jim Vondruska