Visual Diary of a Nomad

Jonathan Jasberg did not even own a passport before he was 30; now he can hardly live without one. Travelling with a Leica Q, he has visited over 65 countries, with the aim of capturing images of honest moments and authentic emotions. His pictures speak of the fleetingness of time and of daily life in different worlds.

How do you choose the different countries where your pictures were are taken?
I shot photos in many different places including Egypt, Nepal, Mexico, India, Japan, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Tunisia…There are a lot of factors that go into the places I chose to travel to next. I tend to enjoy historic cities that are full of culture, both old and new, and that are built for walking. Cities that are spread out and have huge roads or poor public transport, are my least favourite and the ones I try to avoid.

What does travelling mean to you?
When I travel to a new destination, I usually have no plans to see anything specific. I simply show up and begin to wander daily with my camera while I do the usual things, like grab coffee, go to eat and learn my way around. If it is a city I already know, I try to walk down roads I’ve never been, and explore new areas frequently. While I’m not against seeing the sights, it isn’t uncommon for me to go to a major city and never see one of the main attractions while I’m there.

Is there a country/city that particularly fascinates you?
Japan is the country that dramatically changed the trajectory of my life. It was the first country I visited after I got a passport. After my first visit I was determined to learn how to speak and read Japanese to a high level, and also determined to figure out how to return as quickly and frequently as possible. It’s now 15 years later and I am currently in Japan for the 25th time, as I prepare to teach a photography workshop in Kyoto and Osaka. I’ve visited over 65 countries as well during this time, and I still find Japan to be endlessly fascinating.

What characterises street photography for you, and why is the Leica Q particularly suitable for this?
Street photography seems to have so many interpretations and sub-genres. I tend to just think in terms of good and spontaneous photography, and I have a clear idea of the type of photos I’d like to produce. I first purchased a Leica Q2 in 2019, and just picked up a Q3 in 2023. The Q series of cameras is the near perfect camera for me, as I prefer to simply carry 1 camera and a spare battery in my pocket for an entire day, and not carry a bag. The build quality, image quality, weather sealing and amazing viewfinder enable me to get the shots that I do. I for sure wouldn’t be where I am with my photography had I not picked up the Q2 five years ago.

What exactly does your photographic process look like?
I never know what to expect when I head out. Sometimes I walk a lot and shoot a little, and sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes I’m more social and outgoing, but generally I’m fairly reserved. I try to shoot appropriately for the mood I’m in and not try to force anything. Of course, coming home and finding a photo that works is always a great bonus, the daily practice of getting out, walking and discovering beautiful moments and new ways of seeing is what keeps me going. Regardless of the type of day it is, I tend not to look at my photos while I’m out; instead I try to review my work nightly. I’m not looking to make any big decisions during this review, but rather look for the lessons from the day: technical mistakes, mishandled moments and details I missed at the time, and therefore didn’t compose correctly.

What do your pictures tell us about the countries, and what significance do colour, form and light have for you?
I’m mainly interested in portraying interesting and authentic moments of daily life. I’ll use historical places, monuments, old buildings, religious symbolism, etc. to add interest and draw the viewer in; but the essence of the image will be something that the viewer can hopefully relate to, regardless of if the image is taken in their home country or a place they’ve never been. While I love viewing black and white photography, I only shoot in color. I dream in color and have always been very drawn to color.

What is your next travel destination?
After I leave Japan, I will go to Istanbul, Turkey in May to teach a workshop, and then from there I hope to go to Mongolia to begin working on a new photography project that I’m very excited about, both because it is new, and also since I have never been to Mongolia.

Apart from the impressive photos, what experiences for your life do you take away from your travels?
After living the way I have for this many years, I feel very content, and for that I feel very fortunate. From a material standpoint I own very little and don’t find myself wanting or acquiring more. In addition to collecting candid moments through photographs, I collect knowledge of cities and countries that now feel like second homes, and cultures that feel like second families. While I do love getting memorable shots, often the camera simply acts as a motivator, as well as a passport or permit for me to go out and gather these life experiences.

Originally from Arizona, USA, Jonathan Jasberg is a seasoned independent photographer who embraces a minimalist lifestyle, condensing his possessions into a single carry-on suitcase. His extensive continuous travels have spanned over 65 countries in the last 14 years. He has garnered more than 40 international photography awards, his work has been featured in numerous publications and exhibited in both group and solo exhibitions worldwide. Notably, many of his award-winning pieces are included in his recent debut monograph, Cairo: A Beautiful Thing Is Never Perfect. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram page.

Leica Q

Full Frame. Compact. Uncompromising.

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