Jack Flame Sorokin’s photography is built on honesty, kindness and empathy
Thrashing the stereotypes of masculinity, the New York-based photographer aims to present a new type of narrative through his transcending work.
- Ayla Angelos
- 8 October 2021
In one of Jack Flame Sorokin’s images, there’s a young man – a bull rider – caught in a candid moment between two cowboys on either side of him. A cigarette hangs loosely from his mouth, and his face is gently lit by the soft glow of the day. His hand touches the pocket of his western shirt, perhaps reaching for a lighter. “We can see him through the space between his peers as they look at him gazing off,” Jack tells us. “He looks angelic-like with a pose that makes me think of Botticelli’s The Birth Of Venus. He looks exceptionally graceful – a term I rarely hear applied to bull riders.”
What we’re observing is an image is from Jack’s ongoing series Rodeo Boys, a project that first began in 2017 and has since evolved into an in-depth documentation of the Madison County rodeo that takes place every other Saturday night atop a mountain. This series, like all of his works for that matter, examines the culture and definition of masculinity – a critique that’s especially relevant within the context of the rodeo. But rather than depicting his subjects in a stereotypically masculine fashion, Jack strives to lens them with empathy, nuance and kindness; an ethos that threads through all of his image-making, from numerous portraits to projects capturing farm life, sheep shearing and American youth.
Jack was born and raised in New York City by two professional artists. His father, who lived in Manhattan, worked as a creative director in advertising, while his mother lived nearby and worked as a freelance photographer. Influenced by their creative paths in life, it didn’t take long for Jack to pick up a camera. By the time he was 15, he started assisting celebrity portrait photographers and documentary filmmakers over the summer. Three years down the line and he’d received both the YoungArts award and The Scholastic Award for Young Artists and Writers. His success and skill in the medium led him to pursue photography at The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Later, he decided to move to Marshall, NC in 2016 and commenced work on his freelance photography career. Now, alongside his personal endeavours, Jack has worked for a mix of clients including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal among others.
When it comes to the specific cadences behind his work – his personal work specifically – Jack pays close attention to his subjects. “Recently, it feels like the common denominator in my work is a desire to dispel ways of thinking, whether it be about men or any other person I meet,” he tells us. “So, I’m out photographing all of these young men because I think they’re often portrayed as being one-dimensional and I’m trying to push against that.” As a result, Jack focuses on the lives of boys and men as his subject matter. “You could say my agenda is to find and appreciate the nuance in the people I meet,” he adds. “My other passion is the environment, climate change and our role as stewards of this earth.” The latter can be seen amongst his ongoing project Controlled Burns, a series documenting the controlled burns across western North Carolina in the spring of 2020.
In The Last Days of Summer, Jack has documented the daily antics of Raphaël and Madison, a couple based in Cognac, France. Within the series, friendly portraits are dispersed amongst sun-drenched landscapes and exterior shots of the southwestern town. His subjects are laid bare in front of the lens, and the audience is able to pick up on the subtleties that make them who they really are, and how they feel about one another. In one particular image, the couple stands in front of Jack’s camera with a curtain of leaves forming the backdrop. “They were starting the school year the day after I made this portrait of them,” he says. “What I love about this image is how the light first directs our eyes towards their faces. We see the clear contrast between their facial expressions, but then the eyes are drawn down to her hands which add a deeper tension to the many ways this portrait can be read. There are lots of layers to the body language in this image and I love that.”
Jack’s photography is open-ended, often leaving the viewer to decide what the true meaning is behind his imagery. Whether it’s through the subtleties of a gesture, a hazy summer’s sky or the soft gaze of a subject, his work transcends us all into a specific time, place or moment – something that can only be achieved through great skill and sensitivity towards the shoot at hand. “I’m driven by an agenda to see the world and all the people in it with honesty and kindness,” he adds. “I hope my audience sees the people I photograph with a new level of nuance and empathy for their lives.”
Jack Flame Sorokin: Rodeo Boys (Copyright Jack Flame Sorokin, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.