Jason Roman, or Stockezy – the moniker under which he makes his work – is a street photographer with an eye that’ll make anyone who’s ever tried to catch a compelling moment on the street envious. His portfolio is vast, full of snapped curiosities on the streets of New York where he is based. Surprisingly, however, Jason only came to photography around four years ago.
“I picked up my first professional camera a little under four years ago with plans to learn video but, inspired by photographers like Bruce Davidson and Steve McCurry, I very quickly turned my attention to stills and fell in love with taking pictures,” he tells It’s Nice That. At that point, he would search for images all day every day, with an image in mind that he wanted to capture. “Now, I’ve adapted to just having a camera on me at all times and allowing for the photo and me to find each other,” he explains. “I’ve realised the photos that resonate the most with me have come from just going about as normal and paying attention on a heightened level.”
As a result, his images really do take the most ordinary situations and elevate them. “I shoot with pure emotion and look to make the mundane a moment of note,” he adds on this point. In one image, an arm stretches up just at the right moment, as a plane seems to pass just over the top of it. In another, someone wearing a pink top waves a matching fan, perfectly framed within a window which reflects a passing bus. Despite clearly having a knack for the medium, Jason professes: “I think I am too early on in my work to know exactly what it is I want to say yet. I think I need to shoot for another ten years before things start to click.”
While the bulk of Jason’s portfolio is singular images, snapped throughout his day, one more complete series of images caught our eye. Set against the rich blue Arizona sky, the series documents the Aguilas Del Desierto, a humanitarian group made up entirely of volunteers who search the Arizona and California desert once a month in an attempt to locate missing migrants.
Jason tells us about this important group: “They search under bushes and in ravines, watching for rattlesnakes and jumping cactus. They go deep into territory that isn’t accessible by vehicles in the hopes of finding someone specific, using coordinates they’ve mapped out. The founder of the group, who experienced the loss of his brother and cousin, gets ten to 20 calls a day from family members about a missing person. There is no one who can help, so the Aguilas do. Many of them work labour-heavy jobs during the week, leave on Friday after work, drive six hours to Ajo, Arizona, sleep a couple hours in their cars, search for two days, drive the six hours back on Sunday and are back at work on Monday morning. It’s hard and dangerous work but they know these migrants don’t have anyone else to help them.”
Jason had the opportunity to accompany the group on their June search through the desert and plans to continue to document their trips over the next year. “By the end, there were two concepts that emerged,” he explains. “These are every day people with normal lives, but what they do during these search and rescues is extraordinary. I wanted any portraits of them to show them in a heroic light and give the respect they deserve. I also photographed the things we found in the desert to show that there is another world out there that most of us don’t know about. There is an essence of human presence scattered about this desert land and by documenting it, I can show that world that most people are unaware exists.”
True to the tradition of documentary photography which has always been used to highlight those in society worthy of but lacking recognition, Jason’s intention is to “develop a visual piece that will attempt to capture the gravity of what they do.” He concludes: “Until you’re in the desert on a 115-degree day it is hard to understand how dangerous and unforgiving it can be. Yet every day migrants try their luck in these brutal conditions, risking their lives just to have one. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to take a photograph that conveys the reality of that situation but I will keep trying.”
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