Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio Photo Talk

On May 14th, we have Jason Florio and Helen Jones Florio in the Foto Care store to talk about their photographic adventures in Gambia! 

Jason Florio, is a freelance documentary photographer who works around the globe focusing on under-reported stories about people living on the margins of society and in places of conflict. His photographs have been published in New York Times, Newsweek, The Independent on Sunday, Virginia Quarterly Review, Men’s Journal, GQ, Backpacker, Afar, Outside. Florio’s work has been solo exhibited, won a number of international awards including the 2010 ICP’s ‘People Photographer of the Year’ Award. His work has been acquired by museums - including The Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY, Haggerty Museum, MI, and The Photography Museum of Art, Huai’an, China. Florio was granted Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society, London in 2010. To see more of his work, visit his site

Helen Jones-Florio is an expedition and photography producer and writer. She has produced photo assignments in West Africa, DR Congo, Kenya, USA, Mexico, and UK. She co-led, with Jason, their 2009 expedition in The Gambia - 'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - 930km African odysseyand recently finished a book about this journey. Published work include writing and photography: Adventure Travel Magazine (UK), ‘Wings’ (Arik Airlines in-flight magazine), Travel Africa Magazine (UK), Resource Magazine (USA), Amazing Travel Stories (USA), Gambia Experience Magazine (UK), Stellazine (USA), and African World Heritage Annual Report.

Stella Kramer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning creative strategist, working with photographers to strengthen their creative eye, put together the strongest portfolios and websites reflecting their work, and set a course to reach their professional goals.  Stella will be the moderator on the night of the talk. She also lectures, teaches, reviews portfolios, and blogs. Starting as a Photo Editor, Stella worked for such major publications as The New York Times, People magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and Brill’s Content.  She has worked on many of the major news events in recent history, serving as the Photo Editor for The New York Times series “Portraits of Grief” memorializing those who lost their lives in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Her work as part of the that team won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and the 2002 Infinity Award for Public Service from the International Center of Photography.  She was also part of the team at The New York Times that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography. Stella’s blog, Stellazine (, is about all things photography.  
Jason and Helen are currently collaborating on a book about their recent expedition - 'River Gambia Expedition - 1000km source-sea African odyssey

We had the opportunity to interview Jason about his photography: 
Foto Care: Tell us about yourself and how you got into photography? 
Jason Florio: I was born in London, and have lived in the US for 24 years; seven in Texas and seventeen in New York. I trained in photography as an assistant to a few 'big' fashion and portrait photographers in NYC. I thought I was going to be a fashion photographer but an assignment with one of the photographers to India changed my mind - or should I say, blew my mind.

The next year I relocated to Bangkok for three months and had a few assignments for a Brazilian newspaper in Burma and Cambodia - I was then hooked on shooting 'real' people in 'real' situations.

A year and half after being in Bangkok the Brazilian journalist I had worked with there, said we needed to go to Afghanistan to follow the jihad trail - this was in 2000.We spend two weeks as guests of the Taliban. We returned again to Afghanistan in August 2001. We were with the anti-Taliban forces and the infamous commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud. I returned to NYC on Sept 5th 2001. Massoud was assassinated on Sept 9th by Al Queada operatives, I was at the foot of the World Trade as it collapsed two days later -  I  suddenly I felt I was in the eye of the storm.

Since then I have worked for editorial clients including, Outside, Men's Journal, The New Yorker, New York Times and I am a contributing photographer at the Virginia Quarterly Review. They recently awarded me ‘VQR Prize for Photography’ of the year for three bodies of work they published in 2012 – from Somalia and Burma. Between these assignments I have been traveling yearly to The Gambia, West Africa to work on a long-term portrait series of people that live and work around a sacred forest. I met Helen, my wife, there in The Gambia and in early 2009 we decided to work on a project together. This resulted in us walking nearly 600 miles around the country later that year  - 'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - 930km African odyssey' -' to create a series of portraits of village chiefs 'Silafando' . That project led us to our most recent project - 'River Gambia Expedition - 1000km source-sea African odyssey' to follow the course of River Gambia along its 700mile course through 3 countries - to create a document of the people and communities along its banks, before a proposed dam in constructed.

FC: What was your break out job that helped launch your career?
JF: It was the work I did in Afghanistan prior to Sept 11th.

FC: What has been your favorite assignment(s) to date?
JF: I really don't have a favorite. Every time I am out in the field
I feel blessed to do what I am doing. 

FC: Where do you draw your inspiration?
JF: From the people I photograph.

FC: What do you do to market your services?
JF: Connect with magazine editors directly, gallery shows, blogs, competitions.

FC: Do you use Social Media as part of your marketing mix? Do you think it is effective?
JF: We do. Helen takes care of our blogs and Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr It has been effective for us, especially when focused on promoting a particular project and for getting our crowd-funding campaigns out there – which we did for both expeditions.

FC: How has your work changed in the last few years?
JF: The basis of my work is story telling and bringing under-reported stories to light, so as far as the themes that has not really changed. One of the realizations I have come to is that I am thinking about the value of the work in the long term – the desire to produce work that
can be looked back upon by future generations.

FC: Where is your work heading next? Where do you see yourself in the future?
JF: I'd like to have the work be more interactive, using photography as a strong base, but to give the work more layers. For example, producing an where you not just look at the images but have options to listen to audio about them, or video behind the making of the images. I think with the decline of the editorial clients we will be focusing more on longer term projects of our own design.

In the future, I would like to be using my work for more direct positive change in the more underprivileged areas I have worked in.

FC: What equipment are you currently using to produce your work?
JF: Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

FC: What equipment would you most like to own but don’t yet have?
JF: Medium format digital.

FC: Do you work with Video? Have you stepped into the Hybrid Video market at all?
JF: We started using video on our River Gambia Expedition - working with the Canon 5Ds.
FC: How do you choose your locations?
JF: Much of my work is 'reportage' so I work with whatever I have for that moment.

FC: When/ how did you first hear about Foto Care?  What is it about Foto Care that brings your back?  
JF: I have been a Foto Care customer since I came to NYC in 1996. Jeff and his team have a created a special environment at Foto Care, because they appreciates photography and photographers. Many photography stores are just 'selling' gear and have no real passion or knowledge about photography.

We are so excited to hear them speak, and we hope you will come join us!