Jason Reblando’s photographs are sharp: intensely crisp images of gritty reality, perfectly contained in their rectangular frames. How does he get them so clear? “I remember this critique Bob Thall [faculty in the Photography department at Columbia] gave me years ago. He very gently, but very directly told me that my photos were a little sloppy,” Jason says, laughing.
He remembers how hard it was to do something that seemed so simple: keep the important things in the picture and leave the unimportant things out.
For two years in the program Jason worked at Columbia’s Museum of Contemporary Photography. There he worked with the curators, surrounded by incoming work and portfolio reviews, which he said helped expand his views on photography.
“I originally had a social justice theme that pervaded my work. Now, I’m not moving away from that theme exactly, but I feel that the concept is larger than the issue,” Jason says of the change in his work. “The image is more important than, or at least as important as the issue. I want to leave room for people to interpret the images as they want, without being heavy-handed.”
Jason started using his camera primarily as a freelance photojournalist, working for Catalyst Magazine and Chicago Reporter. Then he took a graduate level class on portraiture and felt inspired by the level of conversation and critique happening among his peers, something missing in the freelance world.
“A friend told me about Columbia. They told me it was this cool art school that reminded them of the movie Fame,” he laughs. “And now the school’s embedded in my DNA.”
And vice versa. The tight-knit graduate Photography program at Columbia is three years long and, for two of them, Jason has worked in the school’s Museum of Contemporary Photography. There he worked with the curators, surrounded by incoming work and portfolio reviews, which he said helped expand his views on photography. “By seeing what was being produced and sharing in the input, I really got to see the different layers of documentary and fine art, and where they intersect,” he says.
Jason’s work is on a two-year loan as part of the MoCP’s Midwest Photographers Project. He also had two solo shows at the Rotunda Gallery at Roosevelt University and at AVA Gallery in Chattanooga, TN.
Now some of Jason’s own work is on a two-year loan as part of the MoCP’s Midwest Photographers Project. He also had two solo shows at the Rotunda Gallery at Roosevelt University and at AVA Gallery in Chattanooga, TN. The show at Roosevelt University is additionally poignant, highlighting the connection between Jason’s work about the current state of Lathrop Homes and their 1930s New Deal origins, under the presidential administration that inspires the name of the show’s university.
Columbia’s Photography program has teaching assistantships available for second and third year students, and Jason has even taught photography classes across town, at DePaul University called “Photographing Chicago’s landscapes” and at an After School Matters program geared towards high school students. After Columbia, he plans to stay in Chicago, take pictures, and continue with what he’s already doing: teaching, freelancing, and selling prints.