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In Conversation with Jonathan Daniel Pryce, aka Garçon Jon - London Based Photographer

In Conversation with Jonathan Daniel Pryce, aka Garçon Jon - London Based Photographer

Jonathan Daniel Pryce, aka Garçon Jon, is an acclaimed and well-travelled professional photographer, originally from Scotland and currently based in London. Shooting for the likes of Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair and Esquire, and covering major fashion events throughout the world, Jonathan’s love of travel directly informs his artistic sensibilities, fueling the inspiration that his unique work and life demands. We sat down with Jonathan recently to chat about life, travel, the serendipity of movement, and the intricate art of capturing the still image.

On the daily routine and the importance of face-to-face

One of the great things about being a photographer is that no two days are the same. There is never a boring week. Behind the camera I get to meet a lot of people, and I could be on set chatting with an actor, an architect, a model, a politician about their life. I could also be traveling and out scouting new locations for shoots. But a huge part of my job is work that doesn’t involve a camera. This could be editing or meeting with clients, networking or interviewing people. I’ve also been lucky enough to produce a few books, which involves meeting with art directors and editors, sorting through photographs, artwork, copy. There are a broad range of activities with my job.

You could meet five different photographers and find that all have different motivations. For me, it's definitely people. One thing I learned about myself over the lockdowns is just how important people are to me and how much I am motivated by conversation. Of course, I had some understanding of this before, but it’s when something is taken away that you recognise its importance. 


I often get asked what the most important skills for this job are. Of course, you need to know about light and you need to know about the technical equipment. But a larger part, actually is about making someone feel at ease, knowing how to talk to someone, and creating a safe environment. I like to think of the camera as a metaphorical passport into someone else's life. I've always loved this idea because people really open up and are quite vulnerable in a way that they wouldn't necessarily be if you weren't taking their photograph.

On work, life and travel

I think it was Diana Vreeland that said, the eye has to travel - this idea that you're inspired by seeing newness and going to different places. I remember one of the first seasons of fashion week that I attended in Milan, and I was probably about 20. The first thing that astounded me was the light. Growing up in Scotland, good light is not in abundance. In Italy, an internal switch went off. I was suddenly aware of how natural light has a profound effect on an image. Over the years that informed my work, as I lived and travelled abroad. I studied in New York for a year and found that an overcast day in New York yielded far better light than an overcast day in the UK. All of this informed my image making – seeing unusual architecture, meeting people from different backgrounds, having food in new places, seeing landscapes that looked entirely different to what I was used to. Simply observing, is very inspiring.


For over a decade, I consistently worked the main fashion weeks - so that's New York, London, Milan, and Paris. I travelled a lot over these years and gradually became accustomed to seeing these places and understanding how these cities worked. Of course, I travelled to other places, but these four cities became something of the routine. It wasn’t until after Covid, when I went to Mexico City as part of a book launch and shoot, that it struck me how exciting new places could be again. It was nice to be reinvigorated.

I was on the tube in London the other day and I looked down the carriage and saw a whole mixture of people from every walk of life – every country of the world could have been represented. It reminded me of a statistic that I once read showing that metropolitan areas tend to have less social friction and breed more open-minded culture – in these settings you can see that some kind of harmony is viable.


On travelling well

When I was younger, I made some rookie errors in traveling, and I definitely learned my lessons on how best to travel. When I think about ‘traveling well’ now, there are some fundamentals - I need to have a checklist; make sure that my bags are packed well in advance and a strong focus on timekeeping. I would much prefer to be early for a flight than experience a feeling that I'm going to miss a plane. For me ‘traveling well’ is all about a stress-free experience.

More specifically, I like to travel with good luggage, strong wheels that are going to roll smoothly and aren't going to squeak. I try to pack as light as possible because I don't want to be lugging around huge bags. Of course, that's not always the case with camera equipment, but I try to keep things as easy as possible. I drink lots of water. I wear lightweight layers to keep warm. I like practical clothing, maybe a combat trouser with pockets to keep essentials.

I've heard so many remedies and anecdotes about how to overcome jetlag like putting your bare feet on the soil of the new land. I've also tried homeopathic remedies, but for me, the main thing is just getting as much sleep as you can and then trying to adjust as quickly as you can to the new time zone.


On life behind the lens

Being a photographer gives me an excuse to explore. I recently did a job in Marrakesh and had a few extra days, so I went off by myself. The experience of taking photographs there felt different and I was intimidated at first. I had a sense of not wanting to be in people's space too much, despite the fact that’s almost impossible in the Medina. After an hour of walking and shooting, I started to relax. I think the camera gives me motivation to go and explore. There can be a sense of safety behind the camera because you are perceived as having a purpose.

On the shot that got away

There is a book called Photographs not Taken about images that photographers weren’t able to capture. I have experienced multiple moments like this – shots that got away. In my early twenty’s, I spent a lot of time with a man called John Calder. He was a publisher in the UK and transformed both in the publishing industry and British law. He was the first publisher of Lady Chatterley's Lover and was vocal in his opposition to censorship. One of my biggest regrets is not taking a great portrait of him.

On travel and serendipity

I've become obsessed with serendipity recently. I don't know what role it actually plays in my daily life, but I’ve noticed many reoccurring themes. It usually happens in the moments where I'm not doing anything - maybe when I’m bored or distracted. Earlier this year, I was watching a film on a plane and in the credits, the words ‘weather the storm appeared. In that moment I happened to glance over at my fellow passenger’s screen and he was listening to a song called “Weather The Storm”The probably doesn’t mean much, but it makes me smile. I often have strange moments where a song will play I’ve not heard in years and then an hour later, I'll hear that song in a shop or a friend will mention itThere's an idea that your most creative inspiration comes in moments when you're breaking free from routine. I think there's something about travel that opens up a part of your brain that you wouldn't normally visit if you were walking your usual path.


Rapid Fire

Favourite hotel?

The hotel I stayed at in Marrakesh is called the Aman and it was absolutely incredible.

Favourite airline?

The great thing about flying with the same airline is that you gain a lot of points. I’ve built up a lot with Virgin Atlantic, so I think it probably has to be Virgin.

Favourite airport?

One thing the UK does well is airports. As much as you could get lost in Heathrow it has everything you need, it’s comfortable, clean, and has enough seats. I like Heathrow.

Favourite city to visit on a work trip?

I like going to New York on work. There's a real energy to that city - it has a lot of swagger. I feel uplifted on my return.

Go to travel gear?

I tend to have a uniform both in life and in traveling - simple basics like nice t-shirt, high quality knitwear, good pair of trousers.

Plane or train?

I like taking flights. It still astounds me that we can travel through the air in the tin can.

On a long haul

A mixture. Flying is a great excuse to really zone into a movie that I wouldn’t always allow yourself the time to do. I also love reading – that gets me ready for bed.

Wi-Fi or disconnect?

I try and avoid connecting to wifi on planes. I feel like it's the last socially acceptable place to not be reachable.

Starve or in-flight meal?

I always like an in-flight meal.

Booze or water?

One drink on a plane is usually enough for me.