Jason Evans has a serious talent for capturing the unfiltered emotions of athletes. Aquidneck Island is lucky enough to call him a full time resident, although, as a photographer of all things sports and movement, his professional life has made him somewhat of a nomad. When he isn’t on the road, though, he loves to relax and surf with his girlfriend here at home.
His dramatic and skillful work has been recognized in Photo District News, American Photographic Artists, and two solo exhibits at the Newport Art Museum. Those accolades have won him upscale clients from Nike to Men’s Journal to the International Yacht Restoration School and now again, for the fourth time, the International Olympic Committee.
This August, Jason will be on assignment photographing the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, guts, determination, glory, and all. Like so many medals in the Olympics, much of Jason’s work is captured in hundredths of a second. But in the precision of those split seconds we can learn so much about the look and feeling of place, and the dedication, motivation, and sheer mechanics of the human spirit. We caught up with him just before he left for Brazil; here’s what he had to say about travel, sports, and coming back home again.
How did you get started as a photographer?
The first picture I remember taking was of a bolt of lightning over the desert in El Paso, Texas from my grandparent’s balcony. There are a couple of other photos from that roll of film that stood out to me as important family moments. I guess the idea of capturing memories stuck with me. In my early twenties I went on an amazing trip to Europe with some friends. It was during that time I explored photography further and realized I had enough curiosity with it to give it a go. Then an old family friend stepped in and really showed me the nuts and bolts.
Congratulations on the opportunity to cover the Olympics in Rio this year – that’s a huge honor. How did you end up getting the job?
Rio will be the fourth Olympics that I’ve covered for the International Olympic Committee. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics was one of my first [solo] jobs after assisting for many years. The right combination of factors all came together at the right time for me to get the job. A photographer that I worked for recommended me to the IOC, and the committee chose me out of a group. There was a steep learning curve at my first Games, and I guess I worked hard enough and took good enough pictures for them to keep me around for the next ones. I have a great relationship with the IOC and they have become one of my best clients.
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What are you most excited to see when you’re there?
There are a couple of new sports in Rio – golf and rugby. I’m excited to see how they’re received and played. Beach volleyball and football [soccer] are going to be crazy and fun because of the passion the Brazilians have for these sports.
What would you consider your best work or greatest accomplishment so far?
This is not really something that I can answer. Of course, I’m excited to show my Olympics work and some of my other photographs, but I don’t have favorites or bests. I leave it for others to judge what they like and see what stands the test of time.
What’s your favorite place that you have traveled?
I’ve enjoyed something about every place I’ve been. But two of my favorites were Laos and Abu Dhabi. Laos because of the people and scenery and Abu Dhabi was a unique experience.
There are amazing, warm, and friendly people around the world and it’s important for everyone to experience other cultures. There is respect and understanding for other people that comes from traveling and being an outsider – being outside of your comfort zone, and outside of your culture. Traveling teaches through experience. It can’t be taught. If more people traveled and got to know other people, there would be less bigotry and hatred in this world. My goal is to travel to a different country for every year I am alive. If there are about 180 countries, I guess I shouldn’t run out of places to go.
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What keeps you in Newport?
I originally moved to Rhode Island from Massachusetts for work. My girlfriend pulled me from Providence down to the island. I grew up with a love for the ocean and being in water, but she got me into surfing. Now I can’t imagine being away from the ocean for very long. My life in Middletown is very simple and calm. I enjoy that. The chaos and craziness can happen on the road and I can come home and be peaceful and relaxed – except for a few busy tourist weekends in July and August.