Carroll spoke about the influence of White’s idea of the equivalence theory. In 1963, White wrote about the theory: “When any photograph functions for a given person as an Equivalent we can say that at that moment and for that person the photograph acts as a symbol or plays the role of a metaphor for something that is beyond the subject photographed.” *
While White argues that it can’t be distilled into a “linear definition,” Carroll extracts a core concept from it. “When a photographer is trying to force the viewer to see a certain point of view from their images, there’s always going to be another layer added by the viewer’s own experiences.” Thus deepening a resonance lacking a specific time period.
Theoretical approaches such as this have influenced Carroll to the point that he almost exclusively photographs in black and white. “When there’s a bigger point to be made, I just feel black and white is much stronger,” he said.
His Instagram feed, @imjoncarroll, demonstrates his sentiment, and he’s working to get hired more for his commitment to the form. When speaking of editors and others in the field, “I think it makes them realize at this point I’m dedicated to black and white. It’s not a fluke, it’s not a one-time thing — it’s my actual process.”
So much so that when he photographs, Carroll has set his Fujifilm X-T1 camera to a default black and white setting to see in black and white through the viewfinder, with a profile type that directly syncs with an exact camera profile in Lightroom. “That way I know exactly what I’m getting when I shoot,” he said.
It’s paying off. Carroll has developed a sense of style that echoes the return of the self by documenting his hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey. Often exploring issues of diversity within the city, he says, “I’m always looking for some little symbol that’s a piece of me as well.”
Additionally, he’s trying to expand on this idea while working on a commuter series. Some of his work involves multiple exposures, like the lead photograph here. While commuting to work, a man tapped Carroll on the shoulder and remarked they were wearing the exact same clothes.
“Normally this wouldn’t have been a memorable moment,” he said. “I really wasn’t in the best mood considering I was desperately trying to get away from my current soul-sucking job where I had already felt like I wasn’t doing anything unique or self-fulfilling, despite the fact that I was a photographer utilizing the skills I went to school for.”
While working on his commuter series later, he was looking for things that reminded him of how he felt during that commute and saw two men wearing plaid shirts that were similar. “I knew if I captured it right in a photograph, it would have the ability to remind me of my own experience from the past. And to me, it did so to great effect.”
Carroll used a double exposure on that image to help give it a voice of his own and ability to layer details and emotions. “You start to see so many images, you think, ‘Oh, wow, everyone sees things similarly.’ I am just tired of just doing straight photography all the time.” He wants to push against the narrative of adding redundantly to the visual conversation.
Carroll describes the overall experience to start doing what he loves before it’s too late — another timeless aspect many of us face at some point in our lives. Through exploration of his voice we can all draw larger lessons in the schematic of black and white — namely, why we’re photographing and a return to the notion of where we all began. ■
Jonathan Carroll was the in-house photographer for a small fashion resale company named Madison Avenue Couture for seven years. This opportunity gave him steady pay in order to develop a more personal portfolio on the side and keep his knowledge of studio photography sharp.
Now he is a freelance photographer in Jersey City, New Jersey, focusing on long-form visual storytelling, spot news and social events, as well as a contributor to the local paper The Jersey Journal. His talents lie in getting up close and personal with his subjects so the viewer feels a part of the moment being captured.
Educated at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, he was taught to look within, which is why his photographs have a tendency to focus on diversity and daily life in underrepresented communities.
As a proud member of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), he approaches every subject with respect, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender or socioeconomic status. If you have a story to tell, he would love to be there.
Ross Taylor is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. He’s on the board of directors for
NPPA and is also the chair of the quarterly multimedia contest. He is the creator of imagedeconstructed.com. Website: rosstaylor.net.
*Photographic Society of America Journal,
Vol. 29, No. 7, pp. 17-21, 1963