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JT Thomas

MMW 13: Nov 2012

JT Thomas is a versatile photographer and science journalist with a passion for wide open country, wild rivers and the urban wilderness. His work repeatedly leads him to back to the places and communities he has come to know over the last 20 years.


Regardless of where JT works, he strives to practice creative, accountable and intimate journalism, especially in under-reported regions of the world.


In 2003, JT migrated from Western Colorado to New York City to attend the International Center of Photography (ICP), where he was awarded the New York Times merit scholarship for his work on social and economic change in Central Harlem. His subsequent project on Fountain House, a "clubhouse" for people in recovery from severe mental illness, resulted in an exhibition of images at the United Nations Parity in Mental Health conference in 2004.


His images and writing about water, energy, agriculture and conservation have appeared in Smithsonian, The Christian Science Monitor, High Country News, New York Times and many others.


Presently, JT's work focuses on the complex connections between hydropower development, food security and climate change issues in Southeast Asia, South America and the American West.


In 2011-2012 attended Columbia Journalism School as a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow in Science and Health Reporting where he began to develop his multimedia skills with the goal of developing long-form, open-ended photo essays that track issues and stories as they change over time.


JT participated in the November 2012 MediaStorm Storytelling Workshop. He had the following to say about his experience:


As a still photographer who has intentionally avoided video over the years, I approached the storytelling workshop with an intention to make the leap into DSLR video in a very deliberate way, alas.

Leap I did and I landed in precisely the right collaborative environment to explore all multimedia storytelling and production.

Prior to the workshop I had explored combining my still images with radio-styled audio interview of my subjects in order to create the narrative spine of my multimedia work. But I had dragged my feet when it came time adopt video into my workflow, largely out of the prejudice that video would encumber my personal process of achieving an intimate relationship with my subject.

But those prejudices were quickly diffused as soon as it became apparent that I had been serving my own objectives as a storyteller and not the needs and voices of my subjects, as Brian so clearly re-framed it for me.

I shot video all week and very few still images and I came out of the experience with an entirely different sensibility of how to build a narrative around the voice of my subject while still being able to move light, fast and attentively along with our subject as they shared their most authentic and personal moments.

Video has now easily become part of my storytelling workflow, and I especially look forward to pursue more collaborative multimedia projects where subjects - and their precious stories - can benefit from the media tools that are now readily available to visual storytellers.

Luv Shtick by Lukas Augustin, Jillian Kitchener and JT Thomas

Dani Luv is a musician and comedian at the well-known Sammy’s Roumanian Restaurant in New York. Luv likes to sing classics from the likes of Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong.