superchat sydney: lester jones

© lester jones photography

lester jones is a sydney-based photographer, director and content maker. educated in the basics of photography at the university of westminster in london. he started out as a successful tv producer and writer, and now he not only runs his own very popular sneaker blog i did your sole man, which explorers interesting sneakers and ther owners all over the globe, but has collaborated with some of the world’s premier brands, including nike, sony, adidas and vans. he works in both stills and videos, larger commerical projects and smaller boutique self-shot set-ups, allowing him a diverse and electric body of work. lester took a moment out of his busy schedule to sit down with superfuture and offer us an insight into his world of photography. 

what first captured your imagination about photography? i wasn’t very academic at school, and ended up at art college where I felt hideously out of my depth in the company of aspiring fine artists and sculptors. i remember being in the library one lunchtime and finding a book about linda mccartney and annie leibovitz’s early photography from the 1960s documenting bands on tour and in the studio. something struck me about how these images captured amazing moments in time and the seed was planted. it wasn’t until much later that it was an area i could pursue though.

which photographers have inspired your work? other than linda mccartney and early leibovitz, from a technical and narrative perspective i love martin parr and w. eugene smith. the content may be different to my work, but i love incorporating a reportage feel within contemporary street culture. other influences include janette beckman, ricky powell and jamel shabazz.

what was your first sneaker purchase? man, i have no idea. i do remember rocking some puma dallas around 1986, but before that it’s a blur.

how many pairs of sneakers do you own? what are your favourites? i probably have about 80 pairs, which sounds like a lot i guess. my interest in sneaker culture is based around studying other people who are involved with this fascinating subculture but i guess the irony is that as my journey has developed i’ve acquired more shoes and knowledge.  i try to remain objective so i don’t have a favourite pair but right now i’m wearing some adidas stan smiths, some shoes that give me fond memories of my youth.

what inspired you to start taking street photography? i’ve always loved the idea of street photography due to my interest in reportage. my inspiration comes from photojournalism, through the likes of magnum and a few years ago i realised that many of the street fashion blogs that my wife was interested in felt quite sterile, cold and elitist to me. i had the idea of creating something different, something celebrating the style and texture of the streets we all walk everyday.

why the move to australia? i first came out here in 1998 to travel with some mates. i guess something about it got under my skin as it didn’t take much after meeting my wife in london, who’s australian by the way, to talk me into making a move out here.

what are some of your favourite shoots? and who has been your favourite people to shoot? off the top of my head; being approached to shoot an arsenal football match in london recently with a reportage approach – that was fun. shooting a backstreet hong kong tailor who works through the night in a dingy lane lit by a lamp and was one of the happiest people i have ever met. anything with my kids is fun, but to be honest i enjoy shooting every subject.

© lester jones photography

did you study photography professionally or are you self-taught? i studied the basics at art college and university but it wasn’t something I could pursue at the time as i couldn’t afford to buy cameras, lenses, film etcetera, so i ended up studying film and video making which was a cheaper option. after university i built a career producing, writing and directing tv shows [something I still do], and it wasn’t until i had money in the bank again that i had the chance to start snapping again. everything from that point has been self-taught.

what sort of camera do you use? primarily for digital I use a canon 5d mark III or a panasonic lumix gx7 and for film i use a contax g2. also in my toolbox is a canon 7d, go pro’s and my iphone 5s and that’s most of what i use.

what books or films do you love? and how does this impact upon your photography and your aesthetic? i read a bit, but of the two areas, film is the one that resonates with me the most. i have a pretty varied taste and love the aesthetic of wes anderson, the rawness of tarantino, the energy of scorsese, the innovation of welles, and on occasion the humour of the farrelly brothers.

what inspires you? art/architecture/design etc. all art forms inspire me, and you never know where or when inspiration may strike.

how do you separate yourself from the inundation of online street style bloggers? well a 'no-selfies’ policy certainly helps as does my style which is probably a bit grittier than many of the other street style shooters out there.

where do you see your website, photography and blog in ten years from now? well, i would hope that my work in all areas continues to develop interest and integrity. it’s important to me that all areas are acknowledged as the blog is only one part of what i do. i also shoot campaigns, personal projects, direct ads, and more. beyond that, i hope i get the chance to continue doing something i genuinely love as so far my stills and video work has given me the chance to meet some incredibly inspiring people, and visit some incredible places. 

do you see your photography as photojournalism or more of an art form? i would like to think people see it as a bit of both. i would like to think i document people, events, places in a photojournalism style that has an artistic approach. that’s my hope, i guess it’s what other people think that matters more though.

do you see yourself interacting with those you photograph or being outside and simply recording them? a bit of both. i consciously do not direct the subject too much as i like to observe their mood, look and tone in the most natural way possible.

© lester jones photography