An Interview With Jonathan David Smyth

I’m delighted to be sharing an exciting interview with you today. It’s with my good friend Jonathan David Smyth. He was born in Belfast but now lives across the pond in New York City.

Jonathan’s monograph, Just One More was published back in October 2017. It’s a book of self-portraits/reflections that he has been shooting with his phone since 2012. The book contains 50 photographs with handwritten captions.

He’s a truly talented visual artist. His work reflects his life and the topics of displacement, identity and belonging.

You can hear Jonathan talk about his love for New York City over on The Arts Show on BBC Radio Ulster and order your copy of Just One More here.

I hope you enjoy today’s interview with Jonathan.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Jonathan David Smyth, and I am a visual artist from Belfast living and working in New York City.  My debut photography monograph titled Just One More was published by (New York City) in October 2017.

When did your interest in photography begin?

When I was seventeen I did an A Level in photography at Belfast Metropolitan College.  One of our first assignments was to produce black and white portraits, and I used my friend as a model. I remember developing and printing that first roll of film in the dark room. Seeing my friend’s face appear in the water was like magic to me. From then on I was hooked.

Where do you call home?

New York City.  It’s where my life is right now, and has been for the past five years. I’ve been lucky enough to call many places my home, though. I lived in Edinburgh for four years, and then in Manchester for two. Those places will always feel home-like to me. But of course, Belfast will always be my hometown.

How has living in New York City developed your life as a visual artist?

I’ve always made artwork wherever I’ve lived, but I find it easier to make work in New York because the art scene here is so constant and varied. I also tell people that there’s a buzz you feel when you visit New York City for the first time. For me, that buzz is inspiring, and has never gone away.

How did your new book, Just One More come about?

Before it was a book, Just One More was a photography project that began in 2012. It started more or less as an experiment on Instagram, posting self-portraits with my phone whenever I took them. After some time I began to imagine what a volume of this work might look like in printed form. Around this time, I met my publisher, and it went from there.

The topic of displacement plays a key role within your work.  What is it about this theme that resonates with you?

I am adopted. I am gay. I am an immigrant. Displacement is something that resonates with me on a number of levels, but I’ve found that ultimately everyone has felt alone or cut off at some point in their lives. I may be the focal point of my photographs and videos in a visual sense, but I’m really trying to make artwork that everyone can relate to.

How would you describe your photography style?

This is a tricky question because I simply document what I feel like showing to other people. I think more about capturing the content of whatever I’m after, and I use many different approaches to do that.  

What can people expect from Just One More?

The book features fifty photographs with handwritten captions. It opens with an a critical essay by executive director of Photographic Center Northwest, Michelle Dunn Marsh, and closes with a conversation between myself and photographer Dana Stirling, who is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Float Photo Magazine.

Where can people buy your book and where should they follow you to discover more?

Just One More is available to purchase from Amazon. Signed editions of the book are also available to buy directly from my website.

You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for regular updates, too.

I am so proud of what Jonathan has achieved in his life. He always inspires me to work hard towards my goals and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of his book. I hope you all enjoyed the interview.