Jimmy Jeong (`01 BA, Philosophy/Art & Design) has photographed some amazing people, including famous writers (like Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie), celebrities (like Michael Jackson’s brother, Jermaine) and professional athletes (like hockey’s Sheldon Souray and baseball phenomenon Bryce Harper).
But after 13 years as a freelance photographer — gracing the pages of publications like the New York Times, the Globe and Mail and Maclean’s — he doesn’t get star struck. “You get to the point where you’re not really intimidated anymore when you meet new people,” says Jeong, who lives in Vancouver with his wife. Instead, he focuses on the task at hand: capturing a story with an image.
Like this winter, for instance, when Canadian Press commissioned Jeong to photograph members of the Canadian Olympic Team. In a Vancouver hotel room, with just 14 minutes per athlete, he created dramatic images that were reproduced in print and online publications across Canada.
But many of Jeong’s favourite photo projects involve everyday people, not celebrities. A few years ago, Greenpeace hired him to spend a week photographing the people of Little Buffalo, a Cree reserve in northern Alberta, after an oil spill. “It’s rare spending that much time on one project,” he says. “What it allows you to do is get to know people and what they’re experiencing.”
Photo by Rogue Collective: May 5, 2011 – Jimmy boarding a helicopter headed to survey Rainbow Pipeline’s oil spill, which dumped 28,000 barrels of oil into a wetland area at Evi, Alberta (near Little Buffalo, Alberta). Little Buffalo is the home of the Lubicon Cree of northern Alberta.
Jeong’s interest in photography was a slow burn. “I hated photography as a kid growing up,” he says. His father was the family photobug and regularly made Jeong stop and pose for photos. But after high school, Jeong says he became the “photodocumentarian” for his friends. “I’d just archive our adventures.”
As a U of A student, he cut his teeth on photojournalism at the student newspaper, the Gateway. “That was a steeping off point for myself and many people who were passionate about journalism,” he says.
During his Gateway years, Jeong says his photo assignment deadlines often trumped his coursework deadlines. But, he’s quick to point out that his design instructors were also instrumental in helping him develop his photographic skills and artistic sensibility. This design sense, paired with Jeong’s photojournalism experience, have proved to be a winning combination.
“When I communicate a story through photos, having that visual aesthetic is only one part of it,” he says. “The visual aesthetic draws people in, but it’s the story that keeps them there.”
Jimmy Jeong’s online portfolio: