From the Bush to the Big City Lights: Meet Australasia’s Top Emerging Photographer
In just a few short years, Jodi Weisz went from being a kid living in a small town in rural New South Wales to holding the title of Australasia’s best emerging photographer, his journey taking him from catastrophe through to creativity.
© Jodi Weisz - 18th December 2021 - 21st Birthday, House Party in Tahmoor.
At just 19, Jodi Weisz’s photography career has blossomed and taken off, and certainly far quicker than he could have predicted. But for the teenager, his foray into the medium didn’t exactly follow the more traditional route. Having recently been crowned Australasia’s Top Emerging Photographer 2022 in the 14th annual running of the competition, hosted by Capture magazine, Jodi also took out top honours in the Documentary category, which was proudly sponsored by SanDisk.
It was just six years ago at age 13 when Jodi first picked up a camera, a point-and-shoot that belonged to his parents. Having suffered a severe brain injury, he found himself gravitating towards visual arts, including drawing and photography. “The doctor restricted me in every way,” he recalls, “and I was only allowed to do certain activities. I had to find an excuse to be around my friends after almost four months of recovery on my own. It was during this time that I began photographing them.”
Entirely self-taught, Jodi learnt everything he could about camera operation before finally getting his hands on his own DSLR. He discovered a wealth of information on YouTube, researching basic camera craft, along with various composition and lighting techniques. “By the time Year 10 came around, I was finally able to do photography as a subject at school. This proved to be crucial in terms of guiding and focusing my learning, as well as giving purpose to my photography through our class assignments.”
© Jodi Weisz - 21st May, 2021 - 18th Birthday, House Party in Picton
In his brief career to date, Jodi has already picked up a number of invaluable lessons. First and foremost, he says that he’s learnt to be patient and let the stories come to him, and tries not to force any stories. He believes that curiosity is central to how he identifies and develops stories, some of which he says can be subtle, but also obvious.
When it comes to inspiration, Jodi is a huge fan of the work of Australian photojournalist Matthew Abbott and his long-form visual storytelling. He also finds the work of New York street photographer Daniel Arnold inspiring, noting the documentation of honest moments that are commonly overlooked. This is something that Jodi says he’s working hard to incorporate into his own work. “Arnold’s subjects are unaware that they’re being photographed and he’s documenting their unique approach of moving through life; something I’m focused on as well.”
Jodi counts himself fortunate in that he has a mentor in Sydney-based photographer Jarred Eid. “He has taught me how to express myself in my personal work through honesty and has helped me to dive deeper into self-reflection,” Jodi says. “This is teaching me to observe in others what I see in myself, and has helped me read more subtle body language, and how to be present when I’m observing and shooting.”
Jarred has helped Jodi to see that the stories that he’s telling from his experience are valuable and that he doesn’t need to force himself to produce work where a personal connection doesn’t exist.
The series that won Jodi the title of Australasia’s Top Emerging Photographer, Tension, was shot in 2021 and comes from a larger body of work, The Party Series, which he’s been shooting since 2017. He says that at the outset he wasn’t shooting with any goals, intentions, or even a story in mind. “It was just an excuse to have a camera in my hands,” he says.
A great way to make a little extra money while at school, the images for the series first came about as a result of some friends asking him to take photos of their birthday parties. He says that it soon became a trend in his hometown of Bargo, and any time someone was celebrating a birthday, he’d invariably be there, camera in hand.
The spark to actually do something with the work came after Jodi showed some of images to Jarred who saw a different side and a value to the work that he hadn’t considered.
As Jodi began spending more time away from home, and now recently moving to Sydney, he’s had the opportunity to reflect on the work he’d shot. “I was now seeing an environment that had become foreign to me,” he says. “I value the body of work so much, because on a personal level it’s a documentation of a time and a place that was very close to me.”
As a result of working on the larger series, Jodi says that he has definitely learned to capture images of moments and situations that are commonly overlooked, or not recognised. He says that these moments are often fleeting and happen unnoticed.
© Jodi Weisz - 27th March, 2021 - 18th Birthday, House Party in Narellan
Looking to the future
Jodi is still working on the project and plans to release a limited-edition photo book as well as share the work with a broader audience in an exhibition. “I think it’s important to focus on one project at a time and give that project your full attention to produce high quality work,” Jodi says. He’s also been documenting the transition he’s currently experiencing, having moved from a small, rural town to a large city. “I am very interested in documenting stories that are personal to me at this stage of my photographic journey while I figure out what intrigues me, along with the stories I’m seeking to tell.”
As far as what the future holds, Jodi says that he’s just happy to take things as they come, focusing on capturing and producing honest and compelling stories of the world around him. He does however also have his sights set on working on projects that consider issues on a global level. Ideally, he sees himself producing long-form, visual stories on a full-time basis, documenting our society and social interactions, with the goal of providing valuable insights around various topics.
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