"In my photographs, I see myself as having two obligations: one to myself - to share with people the moments that I experience in nature that are breathtaking and that would inspire them to go out and experience nature themselves and second to nature: to motivate people to want to protect the land and creatures that share our planet."--joSon
"Clean, spare, and meditative, joSon’s photography reveals a mind of extraordinary focus as well as a deep sense of captivating simplicity.” ---Adobe
"Had Richard Avedon taken up gardening, he might have ended up with photos like these.” ---Sunset magazine .
"joSon uses his expressive instincts and well-honed eye to capture the beauty of flowers in digital images that are so finely tuned that they often pass as painted illustrations.” ---San Francisco Chronicle
"The culturally rich life experiences of photographer joSon play as a backdrop to his transcendent images…. his work as a photographer just as surely brings a sense of tranquillity to those he touches through his art. " ---Four Season Hotel Magazine
joSon’s Journey: A Photographic Odyssey
By Scott Lankford
This former-monk turned photographer first launched his photographic odyssey as a barefoot Buddhist monk amid the crushing chaos and poverty of post-war Vietnam. The only child of star-crossed lovers, joSon’s father, an African American Embassy employee, was killed mysteriously in the line of duty shortly before the fall of Saigon. His mother--a medical doctor of mixed Filipino and Vietnamese descent--soon fled with her infant son to the Philippines. There her boy’s mixed-race heritage was not greeted warmly. Returning to seek refuge with his grandmother in Vietnam, the Amerasian boy soon discovered a different kind of refuge altogether. Safe within the walls of a humble Buddhist monastery, from age ten to age eighteen the adolescent future-photographer would be strictly schooled in the ancient Buddhist art of meditation. “Americans simply can’t comprehend how truly poor we were back then,” recalls joSon today from his new home overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. “We had no shoes, no toys, no televisions--and only the most meager food.” Yet it was there inside the monastery that the camera’s lens first claimed him. Cradling a battered point-and-shoot his loving mother had once given him, joSon patiently taught himself the fine art of photography step by barefoot-step-- a skill which he still refers to today more simply as the “art of seeing.” Because for this slim brave little Buddhist monk, film soon became a form of meditation. And it remains so today. Eventually joSon’s spiritual teachers within the monastery, recognizing the depth of these gifts, gently ordered him to abandon the monkhood completely. “Your destiny lies outside these walls,” they insisted--“perhaps even beyond these shores.” So it was that a shy teenage ex-monk cradling a battered camera miraculously arrived on the snowy shores of California’s Lake Tahoe, vaguely planning to take up the formal study of photography somewhere within his father’s long-lost homeland. “Something about Tahoe’s purity and depth must have called out to me,” joSon recalled, looking back decades later at his unlikely exodus from Asia. After enrolling at Lake Tahoe Community College, the young immigrant-scholar eventually transferred to San Francisco, then completed his MFA in photography at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. A virtual avalanche of awards and accolades has followed him ever since. Today joSon’s images hang in galleries and private collections worldwide--and his work as a commercial photographer is in constant demand from Fortune 500 corporations, five-star hotels, and elite travel magazines globally. Yet of his signature photographs--those “Intimate Portraits of Nature,” of children, and most especially of flowers, "Had Richard Avedon taken up gardening, he might have ended up with photos like these,” observed Sunset Magazine. Today joSon still speaks of his art as if describing meditations: as images rooted deeply in the rich dark earth of love and loss, of war and peace, of destiny and desire and a young boys’ dreams.
His book, joSon: Intimate Portraits of Nature, began as a class assignment while he was working on his Master of Fine Arts at the Academy of Art University. Ten years and thousands of floral images later, joSon is still captivated by the beauty of flowers and their evidence of our and their own fleeting existence. Furthermore joSon continues to be motivated by the communicative capacity of flowers: they can say more silently with their brilliant colors, shapes and scents than we can imagine. joSon describes his fascination this way: "Time and again we struggle to find ways of expressing our innermost emotions and yet it seems that the languages we’ve learned to depend on fail us. I have found that a single flower or an image of a flower can often fill in that void, conveying a message that only the heart can truly understand."
joSon's work has appeared in ads globally for clients such as Samsung Electronics, The United Nations, Time Warner Studios, BMW, Random House, HSBC, Coppertone, Claritin, Body & Bath Works. Over the years, his images have won major awards from Communication Arts, American Photographer’s, Graphis, and PDN (Photo District News.)
joSon shares more about his life and how his early monkhood shaped the images he creates today in the following intimate interviews. (click on the links below to read the interviews)
Interview: Salt Ponds"Healing Landscape: A Damaged World in Transition" --By Diana Neves de Carvalho, Attitude Magazine.
"An inspiring approach to photography" —Adobe talks to joSon about his images and and his life behind the camera .
"joSon’s Modern Tools Illuminate Traditional Art in 'Fotanicals’" --By Sophia Markoulakis for San Francisco Chronicle.
"Flower Power " --by Sam Tevin for Arts & Culture of East Bay Express.