Jonathan Hanson Captures These City Streets

February 3, 2014

By Barbara Goldman

© Jonathan Hanson

 Baltimore street life.

 Jonathan Hanson is a Baltimore and New York City based photographer whose passion lies in culture, exploration and storytelling. This penchant for exploration led him to leave his Midwestern roots and move to the East Coast where he could immerse himself in city life. Hanson shoots and documents lifestyle, youth culture, music, all with a sense of truth and integrity for editorial and advertising clients ranging from The Wall Street Journal, Ernst and Young to top companies like Adidas and Verizon. The Magenta Foundation named him one of the top emerging photographers in 2010, and he has been awarded a place at the Eddie Adams Workshop.

Hanson’s latest body of work came about as a response to the distraction and isolation social media has been causing in his own day-to-day life. “After growing frustrated with the lack of real social connection, I decided to hit the streets of downtown Baltimore, making street portraits of my fellow Baltimorians,” says Hanson.Through this personal project, he wanted to make an active connection with others that was real, visceral and void of artificial realities surrounding the experience. 

There is an honest and gritty kind of beauty that we don’t always see today in the work. We see real people doing daily their activities and living their lives. Hanson’s goal was to capture slight body language, revealing something deeper in each of the personalities he photographed. The city streets of Baltimore provided him with a wide range of people including musicians, working-class people, daily commuters, kids hanging out on street corners, military vets young and old, shop owners, people enjoying their free time and the homeless. He presents a limitless supply of backgrounds and synchronized moments where color, light and characters come together to create a portrait of a lived-in city.

Although Hanson loves photographing people on the street there are challenges.  He has to gain the trust of a stranger in a very short period of time. “ I kept myself open to opportunities and was not discouraged when people said no,” he says.  Even though Social Media and the constant bombardment with images have opened people up to share their private lives, it has also changed the way people react to a camera. When people did say yes or saw Hanson trying to take a candid portrait, they would usually go into a stream of practiced poses, making it difficult to create an authentic portrait. In today’s world where everyone promotes themselves and allows observation of private moments through social media, many people still could not present a more honest image. They felt they had to act or improvise. 

Currently the images are on Hanson’s website as a personal series, but he would like to see it grow into a book project. You can see more of These City Streets and Jonathan Hanson’s other projects at his site.