JASON TRAVIS is a man who wears many hats. As a designer/photographer/illustrator/musician/general man about town; his schedule invokes in the rest of us mere mortals, a deep need for a nap. However, Jason or J Trav, as he is known to most, approaches each day with a huge grin and seemingly boundless energy. By day, J Trav works as a graphic designer, developing branding concepts for the likes of Coca-Cola, Chik-Fil-A, and Disney. By night, he shakes it on stage as the front man of Atlanta dance rock outfit Sealions. On the weekends, he puts on his suit and tie and trains his camera lens towards capturing magical memories for the brides and grooms of the world. Somehow, in the midst of all this, he finds time to photograph his friends and fellow Atlantans for Purge ATL magazine, as well as his own projects.

Central to all of these endeavors is Jason’s love of people and relationships. After graduating from the Ernest G. Welch School of Design in 2007, he embarked on his most far-reaching project to date, the Persona photo series. The series consists of diptychs of beautiful subjects along with the items they deem essential for everyday travel. While the photos satisfy a voyeuristic desire to peek at the belongings of others, Jason’s ability to see the unique charm in each of his subjects shines through in the portraits. This combination seems to have struck a chord with viewers, as the project has appeared places with such varied content as CNN, Gizmodo, USA Today’s Pop Candy, and Marie Claire, and more. With his love for people and society as the touchstone of his creative vision, his schedule may be full, but as long as people keep providing him with material, Jason Travis will continue to provide us with art.

When he began taking photographs in November 2007, for his Persona diptych series, Jason Travis set out to catch up with old friends, learn more about new friends, and, most significantly, to capture a portion of their lives in terms of what each individual considered essential enough to carry around with them everyday.

Viewers of the Persona diptychs take a voyeuristic delight in not only glimpsing the items usually tucked away in bags and pockets, but in identifying with strangers by relating to the tokens they carry with them. Alongside the meticulously arranged items that each person carries, Jason situates a portrait in which the subject always seems confident and at home, comfortable in their own skin. In these snapshots, each person appears as Jason sees them, which is always beautiful. Assembling the Persona diptychs has not only allowed Jason to combine his love of photography with his knowledge of the uniqueness and beauty in each of his subjects, but also has allowed him to share this knowledge with others.

-Sam NeSmith

INTERVIEW:

TONY TRINH: You began taking the photographs for the Personified collection in late 2007, what was the genesis for this project idea?

JASON TRAVIS: The genesis was born out of curiosity, experimenting with portraiture, and a love of Wes Anderson. The project has evolved over the years and I’ve learned a lot from it.

TT: Ah yes, I can see your inspiration in Wes Anderson. There’s that essence in your images/photos that resonates this quirkiness, you bring out the character in the persona that you feature. It’s interesting how objects somewhat define us and I appreciate how you contrast and compliment the collection (of objects) with the portrait. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing and fun, I think people are really responding to this series on a deeper level. I think people connect to it and identify with it…

JT: People definitely connect with Persona! There’s a sense of identity that you associate with your belongings, and it’s so easy to compare and contrast what you deem essential. And because I keep taking them, the number grows which gives the viewer more and more to look correspond with. I agree that it resonates on a deeper level, it can be a study of sociology, fashion, technology, photography, and beyond. Something special happens for me when I take the photographs that the viewer doesn’t see, which is that I learn something personal about the subject that I otherwise never would have known. It opens up a world of connection.

TT: There’s a special relationship happening there. It’s an intimate thing that’s going on; the subject is giving you a glimpse into a personal aspect of themselves. How revealing and open were people? Were there some things that you weren’t allowed to photograph? Without naming names, what was some of the most bizarre stuff you saw? One that sticks out for me, is your friend Kyle (who reminds me of Skrillex) has the murderer’s row of a Batman notebook, raisin bran and personal lube!

Kyle

JT: Everyone’s different so I always give the option of censoring or editing what they want to show. I’d say 90% of my subjects pull every cat out of the bag and are fine giving me a glimpse into their world. Granted, I usually photograph like-minded creative individuals who enjoy the project. Some items are perceived to be too personal (medication, condoms, identification, etc) but for some reason most people I encounter or ask to be a part of the project are fine with showing everything. I’ve seen some bizarre stuff but after 3+ years I sometimes get the sense I’ve seen it all. Not the case. Its the “can’t- judge-a-book-by-its-cover” aspect that really surprises me. You can tell a lot about a person based on their items, but I still can’t predict what exactly will be in there! I think some of the more obscure items are the ones that I would never imagine to be in someone’s bag such as a shovel, gun, caliper, Terra cards, whiskey, harmonica, half eaten slice of cake, surf board wax, bag of coffee, and the list goes on. Kyle is an interesting lad for sure! He was on tour at the time and living out of his van so his essentials were plenty.

TT: You photographed Maseo from the legendary De La Soul. How did that come about?

Maseo

JT: Maseo is a friend of a friend and he really enjoyed the project so he was happy to be a part of it. I thought he was a really interesting subject because he’s on the road quite a bit and he carries a lot essentials for working, dj’ing, recording and otherwise. He’s really outgoing and that always makes portraits easier for me!

TT: Are all of your friends/subjects attractive or are you just that talented and skilled?

JT: It’s true that I do photograph a lot of attractive subjects but I look more for unique qualities and creative minds. One thing I will say is that I try to make everyone look their best (obviously) and solving the mystery of what brings out the best is sometimes a challenge but always worth it.

TT: How is the contemporary art and design scene in Atlanta, currently?

JT: The current Atlanta art and design scene is very exciting right now. A lot of ideas are so inspiring and it seems to be bursting everywhere. So many people are really pushing the arts community and everyone involved seems to be just as excited as me. Lots of arts organizations are popping up too and more corporate companies seem to be conscience of young talent. I’m happy to be part of Atlanta and everything going on here.

TT: What’s next for you?

JT: I have a few projects in the works that I’m still keeping under wraps for the time being, but I will be showing them soon. I’ve also been getting into video lately which feels like a natural progression. Feels like a new avenue of expression. As for Persona, I will always continue to shoot that series with no end in sight!

(click images to enlarge)

Amy

Calvin

Cassie

Chris

Janae

Julia

Karla

Lamar

Molly

Stephanie