Jake Borden ( 1993) is an American photographer, National Geographic Explorer and cofounder of the Mon collective based in New York City. Raised on an organic sheep farm in upstate New York, his work in the medium began after discovering world renowned photographer John Stanmeyer lived down the road. He began an apprenticeship with the photographer, managing his extensive archive and assisting with the production of multiple National Geographic projects both at home and abroad.
Since 2017, he has been working on a series of personal projects in the United States and internationally, focusing on the longterm effects of conflict. The series “In Ruins”, chronicling the lives of IDPs living in the Republic of Georgia, won first place in the 2017 Tbilisi photo festival, was a finalist for the 2019 Burn Emerging Photographer award, and was later published by the BBC and Vice News.
In 2018, he moved to Beirut, Lebanon with generous support from the Alice B. Henriquez Memorial Fund to continue a series of work chronicling refugees from the Syrian conflict living in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, at the same time studying anthropology and Arabic at the American University of Beirut. He received mentorship from some of the leading names in the industry through the 2019 VII Masterclass in Poland and the Eddie Adams Workshop, two of the world’s most prestigious photography seminars.
In 2019, Borden was selected as guest artist to participate in the “Arts, Border Politics” exhibition along the Korean DMZ with the international collective Nine Dragon Heads. In 2020 he photographed on the frontlines of social revolution in half a dozen American cities, displaying work in his first ever solo exhibition. His work is permanently housed at the National Museum in Tbilisi and is represented by Ki Smith Gallery in New York.
He has worked for clients commercial and editorial including NASA, The BBC, Vice News, UNHCR, Reuters, Interview Magazine and Chai -Khanah and is a guest lecturer at the University of Connecticut. He is currently on the East Coast of the United States completing a degree in Anthropology and Art History at Columbia University, and typically refrains from talking about himself in the third person.
Borden is available for commercial and editorial assignments.
My creative practice centers around a deep curiosity to understand and translate the human condition. Continuing in the tradition of documentary photography, my work aims to distill complex social narratives into a single frame, creating a catalyst for dialog and reflection. In recent years I have focussed on the issue of staleness; examining what it means to be a non - citizen living within a host society. I am particularly drawn to individuals who live on the margins, using a combination of portraiture, photojournalism and documentary techniques to translate their stories.
My driving concept when approaching these stories is allowing myself to get lost. Before embarking on a project, I diligently research the geographic and political landscape surrounding the topic. Then I try to forget everything and let go. I allow the people I meet along the way to guide the narrative. Listening is as an important part as seeing in my creative practice, and I often rely heavily on local translators and knowledge to inform the direction of a story.
While constructing photographs, the camera is often the last step in the process. The majority of my time is spent building connection and relationships. This often involves sitting down and sharing a meal, or engaging in any work that is beingdone. Once there is an understanding of what it means to live in the other person’s shoes, I will take out my camera and begin work.
The aim of my work is to foster understanding across cultures. This often requires me to have an understanding of my own when engaging in a new environment, whether it be in a U.S. city or on the other side of the world. On long term projects requiring a deeper level of insight, I have moved to the area for months at a time before I start photographing. This allows me to familiarize myself with the environment, and discern between daily life and what is out of the norm. It also allows me to build deeper relationships and try to understand a situation from a local perspective. I often ask myself what someone would need to know to understand my home town.
I tend to take an ethnographic approach when engaging on a project. I am interested in how to communicate large, abstracts data sets into something relatable. I have been exploring the realm of portraiture in this regard, as the story of one can often tell the story of many. Getting an understanding of the individual in front of the camera is far more important than any technical aspects of operating the camera. Being able to translate another person’s experience is always the challenge.
The distribution and display of the final project is as important to anything else that goes into making a photo. I treat each project as unique from beginning to end, which includes how it will be viewed and who the intended audience is. Newspapers and magazines are the traditional outlets for disseminating images to a wide audience, but a show in a gallery with a small audience willing to sit and engage with the material can have a much more profound effect.
In all of my work, I supplement the visual material with text. This is important for giving context to the image. I tend to incorporate one or two lines of captions giving a description of the environment and include quotes when necessary. Recently I have been exploring the use of sound and mixed media when finding new ways to exhibit projects.
MA State Fire Fighting Academy 1&2
Eddie Adams XXXI
Hostile Environment Training
VII Masterclass Poland
American University of Beirut
No. 6 30 Under 30 Group Show -2016
Kolga Photo Festival - 2017
Beirut Image Festival - 2017
Eyes on Mainstreet 2019
Avalanche Art Space Solo Show 2020
Ki Smith Gallery - 2022
Columbia University Group Show 2022
Awards and Grants
Alice B. Henriquez Memorial Grant - 2016
Martha Porter Boschen Fund - 2017
Kolga Tbilisi - 1st Place 2017
Burn Magazine Emerging Talent Award - 2018
National Geographic Explorer -2021
Jacques Parker & Marie Deguard Arts Scholarship - 2023
Martha Porter Boschen Fund - 2023