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JJ’s Interview, Part 2

First Personalities is a series on the First Person Arts Blog where we check up on and catch up with past Festival and Salon presenters and participants.

JJ & friends

JJ & friends

We posted last week about JJ Tiziou’s phenomenal project, How Philly Moves, where dancers – of any style, level of training, age – dance for JJ at special photo shoots. These photos are going to become the basis for a 50,000 square foot mural at the Philadelphia International Airport. Read Part 1 of our interview here.

“Everyone is photogenic.”
Similar to the democratic dance philosophy behind HPM is JJ’s belief that “everyone is photogenic.” As a dance and theater photographer, his subjects often are the people in the spotlight, those who love having their photos taken, but he also shoots a lot of the people behind the scenes or just everyday people at a protest. He doesn’t need to manipulate the scene to make them look beautiful; he sees the beauty that is already there, and knows how to highlight it.

I’ve been photographed by JJ on a couple occasions and can attest, he makes you feel comfortable, even when you have to keep perfectly still while staring into a flashlight for seconds at a time in an otherwise unlit room. (Really. We did this. For a couple hours. For a light-painting series that he was working on.)

That comfort is the basis for our photogenic-ness, that everyone should feel good about being photographed. He writes in his online manifesto, “People are beautiful when they’re finding joy in life, being kind to others, and enjoying themselves. Of course the photo will be stronger if you’ve nailed the lighting, composition, focus etc… but people look beautiful in pictures if they are comfortable and happy, and if you’ve caught them at just the right moment. That’s all there is to it.”

“I know that everyone’s photogenic, but […] I need help in order to keep proving it.”
JJ wants to change the way people think about his work. He wants to grow a community supported model of photography, where friends, fans and colleagues can contribute financially to JJ Tiziou Photography. It’s a different way of thinking about photography, seeing it as a form of public art, art supported in part by everyone who enjoys it.

Financial support from his base will allow JJ to do more of the community-based photography he loves and for which he is known. According to JJ, “If I follow the standard commercial photography models, I end up photographing only the things that the broader market values, and that doesn’t match up with my values. One of my goals is to provide ammunition for positive social change, by creating compelling images of everyday people engaged in creating positive communities through their art and activism, and by sharing them broadly online, to allow them to share their mission.”

You can subscribe and donate monthly or contribute per photo download. It keeps us all involved in the process of JJ’s work and allows JJ to keep taking so many community photos. JJ’s been investing in his communities for years; this is a chance for his communities to invest in him.

Next up for JJ… he’s heading down to North Carolina in April to teach a workshop on Visual Storytelling for Activists at The Stone House. He’s hoping to first head to Florida to document a march organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers – an organization fighting for human rights in the agricultural industry that JJ has been supporting with his work since 2003. (Maybe you can help him get there by chipping in at http://community.jjtiziou.org?)

The HPM shoots just happened this past weekend, and JJ says they were amazing – but people can still sign up to be involved with the future evolution of the project.

-Karina Kacala

Upcoming Events
  • StorySlam: Promotions (tickets on sale NOW)
  • Date: March 26, 2019
  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • Venue: The Playground at the Adrienne
  • Location: 2030 Sansom Street
  • StorySlam: Laws of Nature (tickets on sale 4/8/19)
  • Date: April 30, 2019
  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • Venue: The Playground at the Adrienne
  • Location: 2030 Sansom Street