With a rare and skillful pairing of poetry, prose and photography, Sage Jones (@sage_jonesy) has made friends and built quite the reputation across the world of Instagram. His photography draws you in with beauty and depth and once your attention has been captured there his literary musings pull you in to a deeper experience. This powerful combination really minimizes the meaning of the term “moody” when applied to photography. He has been using Mextures for some time to enhance his pictures and so we spoke to him recently about his overall progression. Check it out!
For starters, the name is Sage and I am on level 26 of this “life”. January 17th will make 27 - a frightening thought.
I currently call the Pacific Northwest home — Portland, Oregon to be exact. I've lived in a few other states before this, both ends of the coast and in between. I likely won't ever really stop moving - there is an unquenchable thirst & hunger to see, feel, & experience all this world has to offer before my time is up.
At the beginning of this year I had my sights set on the PNW, but ended up moving in the opposite direction for work (carpentry/painting). Unfortunately, circumstances pushed and pulled me away from this place and back to Southern California where I lived in Long Beach for about three months before sincerely growing tired with the restless vibrations I've known all too well of California. So I packed only two bags and a skateboard, bought a one-way ticket to Portland to take a tremendous leap of faith and dive into what I had set my soul on six months prior. I left “home" and everyone I knew to chase a wildly unconventional life - to find, more than anything else, a new road; one less traveled and one that to me that was entirely unknown.
Before moving, I had no idea what I was getting in to - “Into the Wild" minus the part about the berries. I lived on the streets for the first three weeks homeless (see, reckless). I had enough saved to buy my first car. Bought it. It died. Got another worse than the first, traded it and now I am on my third. When life gives you lemons...
As for the artistic spectrum, I write a great deal and clearly I ramble as well. Most call it poetry. I solely call it wordsmithing. It sounds less novelistic.
It's been a passion of mine since third grade. Since I've always been terrible with communication it was my muse growing up - to purge stories, emotions, angst, etc. A voice for a voiceless boy. I've always loved words. The power of them. The way they can transport a vessel or even a mind to a far off place. The same can be said about photography. There is rawness in a photograph - a captured moment of time that cannot be duplicated, but merely reciprocated to invoke emotion in the viewer. To me there is an incredibly romantic sort of allure in that.
Music is another gift I dabble with, though I have yet to release anything longer than 15 second clips via Instagram. It's definitely on the forefront of to-do's but I'm still growing into that skin/voice.
WHAT WAS IT THAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO PHOTOGRAPHY?
I have always been attracted to photographs in general. Something about being able to freeze a moment in time intrigued me as a kid. Whether it was a person's life or even the changing season of a landscape, being able to look into the past has always fascinated me. For instance, seeing a photo of your parent(s) in a younger stage of life - it's crazy to think, looking back at even your own past in a photo that we were ever once that small of a being.
I remember the first camera I ever picked up as a kid. It was a Polaroid camera. I was always fascinated by the idea that one could capture a memory beyond the senses. As I got older I’d buy disposable cameras. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I started to take it a bit more seriously . Something about documenting decay completely intrigues me.
YOUR PICTURES ARE ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY A BIT OF POETRY OR SON OR PROSE. CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW THAT BEGAN?
Well, to be honest, I love to inspire or evoke emotion with imagery alone, but I feel there is always more to be felt or experienced beyond just a photograph. I have been obsessed with literature and reading since I was a kid. Something about communication fascinates me - language, dichotomy every bit of it. I just love words. I’m completely enthralled, entranced, and excited by them. It's amazing to me the weight they carry and how powerfully they can move individuals to either obstruct or construct their ever-changing course in life.
When I started my Instagram account three years ago I actually didn't write my own captions. I would get on quote pages and search out the best fitting caption to pair to the posted image. I'm not all that certain why I had never thought to share my own work before that, but at some point I was hit by what I'd call a wild wind. I had come to a point where I felt stagnant and grew increasingly tired of using other's voices to represent my own. In a way, I was tired of recycling timeless work so I decided to brave the storm by writing/sharing my own.
I've been "writing" (penning) since the third grade. I have anthems back home (shoe boxed thoughts) all of which make me cringe when I look back on them, but you know, that's life I suppose. There are three subjects that will always predominantly linger in the verses I use. Though I feel that they are apparent and go without saying, I love the idea of mystery and imagination over all else. Duality is another strong undertone. Everything I write can be read from two perspectives - embodying light and dark views. Over the years my voice continues to change, though these topics still are the foundation of everything I decide to share. I'm still growing into the stillness of those buried moments left unsaid.
However, I will be extremely honest, it isn't easy in the least bit to write a caption for every photo. Everything written is in that moment. I sit down and sometimes the words come before the photo, or vice versa, but there have been a few occasions where I'd lost heart completely, blank faced or uninspired and even considered deleting my entire account, just dissatisfied with my own work. Though the only thing that has ever kept me going was literally the idea that what I'm baring - my own self or soul even - might provide someone with a sense of encouragement or to feel like they aren't the only one who may feel a certain way or whatever the circumstance. Timing is everythin. I've come to learn that more times than not my work hits the strings as it is meant to.
Even in my discouraged moments I remind myself of all the times I was without a voice and consider that someone might be feeling the same way. To feel alone or whatever the case. But being alone and knowing another feels the same is a comforting thing. Truly, it just means we aren't really ever alone. I stay grounded in that idea. It's an anchor point to think that what I share of myself might someday, or even now, help someone else communicate or provide a sort of encouragement to not only resonate but to rise knowing there is an undefeated strength in being vulnerable.
WHEN YOU SIT DOWN TO EDIT A PICTURE, WHAT DOES THAT PROCESS TYPICALLY LOOK LIKE?
Damn. The editing process. My face immediately lights up. I truthfully capture images based on that process. I envision so many factors when I shoot that they've already been edited a handful of ways when I capture them. Lately I've been posting solely black and white edits. I absolutely love black and white photography. I feel like it's an extremely unappreciated form. Having an unquenchable admiration for it, doesn't really help my habit either. As much as anyone could slap a filter or just hit the black and white switch, I don't feel it is in any way that easy. There is so much to consider, especially with these sorts of edits.
Every shot has a different process, there are so many elements to a shot that either need be enhanced or driven with a specific emotive - the foreground, the middle ground, the background - all of it needs a considerable amount of attention. Depth and detail is everything! Or at least it is to me. It becomes easier and a more fluid process once you know what your trying to convey through a photo.
My entire editing process is strictly done on my phone. I have a handful of apps I use and that's it. Mextures being my top for photography. Usually I run the shots through Snapseed to enhance certain qualities of a photo - the depth or specific focal points. I use the selective aspects as opposed to editing the image as a whole. It brings out more in the shot (contrast, brightness, saturation, etc). Following that I'll touch up the shadows, save it, and then run it straight in to Mextures.
I have about 266 formulas I’ve made or something ridiculous like that. It literally is a catalog of how much my work has changed over these last few years. But it makes the process a little bit easier if I'm ever being lazy and just want to quickly edit. However, I normally use the Landscape Enhancements, Light Leaks 2, Grit and Grain, and Radiance packs. It's never the same. It always varies depending on the shot itself.
In addition, the adjusting tools add a significant amount of weight to the edit. I'll often go in adjusting the brightness, contrast, and sharpness of the image. But it's always different. The variation that is provided with this app is insane! Hence, Mexturs is hands down my favorite app to use.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE MEXTURES OFFERS ANYTHING UNIQUE TO YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
Truthfully, Mextures is in its own league. It has been my go-to app for the last few years. I've tried others but nothing is as diverse in my opinion nor as exciting when it comes to being able to adjust or even alter the feeling of a photo. It provides editing with such a versatile palette to create with. From the light leaks to the gradient film feels. I can't even begin to tell you how stoked I was when the 2.0 update was released. The fact that you could get even more detail & depth with the app had me even further sold on it.
My absolute favorite thing is recommending Mextures to anyone who asks what apps I use for editing. Mextures is always the first to fall from my mouth and likely will continue to be.
The best part is most of the people I’ve suggested try Mextures are overwhelmed and respond like it’s some intricate maze when in reality it's one of the most simple and precise apps out there. You can be extremely delicate with an edit or you can be extremely eccentric. It's all a matter of preference and the presence the editor wants to convey. I could very well be considered biased at this point, but I don't feel any other apps could be compared to Mextures. It is in its own realm. This is definitely an app I will always recommend to anyone who asks for a good photo/editing application that provides both simplicity and intricacy.
HOW HAS EDITING IN BLACK AND WHITE CHANGED THE WAY YOU USE MEXTURES?
I'll say this for the record, I absolutely can’t stand "butchering" edits. To see a shot murdered or over-edited bugs me. At times you can see the blemishes of a photo once you run it through whatever software/app of your choice, but editing in black and white via Mextures has allowed me to use techniques or tricks I hadn't used previously when editing in color. It's been a crazy little process and more so the means that I use to add an element or emotion to a photo. For instance, when I used to do an edit with lower saturation I wasn't able to use certain packs because of my own personal preference. But as of late I've been able to use packs that I never thought to use before.
I feel it's extremely easy to overdo a photo and there are so many different avenues you can take with an edit through mextures. But overall this process has taught me, in more ways than one, and I feel it will continue to. As long as I am continually growing in this process, learning or even experimenting in ways I never thought to initially, then that is all I could ask for.
There is more to be done as well more to learn. I believe the biggest accomplishment here would be how one tries to improve self with their style of expression. As long as you can overcome the creative blocks we present before ourselves we will always oust and grow in a perfectly sensible series of upward progression.
ANY CHANCE THAT YOU'D BE WILLING TO SHARE SOME OF YOUR FORMULAS?
Of Course. I may sneak one or two colored formulas in here but expect more black and white. Also, these are never applied and left as they are. I always adjust the orientation of packs, saturation, exposure, fade or sharpening.
Exposed - DATMXMX
This is a formula code I often use for my double exposures, and it's just as it's titled: an over exposed take on black and white.
//THE•STEED// - UBKVULA
This is a color formula more along the lines of having a sort of film feel to it, but of course low saturation and higher contrast.
COMEONBACKSON - ILVYKAK
Another colored formula that has a lower saturation quality and a more film like feel to it with warmer undertones than the other.
FIYA - WISJYKK
A black and white formula with an emphasis on landscapes for a heavier and darker overtone. (I suggest rotating the landscape packs here as needed.)
//BREATHE// - KNDXIRV
One of my favorite black and white formulas, solely because it adds such a simple yet powerfully solemn/somber feel. Higher contrast with lower exposure for more of a film feel compared to the others.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PICTURE TO CAPTURE SO FAR?
That isn't even a fair question!
Every shot I share is a favorite . I have so many that are favorites for different stories or even moments. Every story is a different adventure . I cannot give you one that I enjoy.
But if forced I'd happily choose this image as one of my all time favorites. For so many reasons I won't really list. But the "poetry piece" posted with this image serves its purpose.
I've had the pleasure of working with some amazing artists and there are still more to come. I’m thankful and grateful for the scale of emotion that this shot provokes in me. A rogue wave most definitely.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND INSPIRES YOU TO TAKE PICTURES MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?
I've found that the one thing that keeps me going no matter how discouraged or uninspired I may become at any given point is very much the sense of adventure, to thrill seek, that uncertainty or unknown that comes with going out and taking photos. Not to mention, as of late, I've been given treasured moments that I couldn't replicate or for that matter just throw away. Meeting new people, other artist, finding places I've never been.
The idea that what we often shoot is subject to change - whether a face or a landscape - drives my curiosities incredibly. There is something extremely tranquil and rewarding capturing moments and almost tucking them away for a later day to visit.
Going out and taking photos is my idea of meditation. Solemn moments where it's just myself, the goal, and my device. Always seeking to learn more, whether it's an internal lesson or an external one. It's absolutely the thought of learning something new that keeps me persistent in everything that I choose to do.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MOST INSPIRED YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY AND CREATIVE PROCESS?
There are so many people both via instagram and real life experience that have inspired me through my own progression of photography and other creative endeavors. I honestly am struggling at the moment to even gather a handful of names because there are so many. How crazy that is to think or even look back. I was just talking about this last night with a fellow friend of mine who is a writer. I was telling him, no matter where I may be going, what I have done, or what I may or may not become, I have yet to forget those who have invested or even helped me along the way, in past, present, and future creative aspects. In all ways really.
Every last individual has truthfully created both cause and effect in what I do in one way, shape or form. To those I've met and to those who have merely invested a hello on this digital platform, every bit of it affects what I consider inspiring and in a much broader sense it affects the world we live in. I'll just say this, everyone in my "followed" list is someone I draw inspiration from or just absolutely love seeing their work. And my favorite thing to do is to stumble upon artists that are not very well recognized or even known. I can't tell you how stoked I get being able to find gems among social media giants.
My first and all time hero will undoubtedly be my mother. This woman has given far too much to me when I was far too undeserving or still to this day a pain in her ass. It's been a hell of a road and though I have this little grin on my face at the moment I love her far too much to not give her the recognition or credit she truly deserves. For every bit of the life she had, has, and continues to sacrifice for me. Though we hardly ever see eye to eye, I am thankful for every time she has questioned not the motives of my heart, but more so the strategies I choose to enlist and succeed with. She constantly has challenged me or even asked me to be better solely by challenge. And for that she will always be an incredibly huge staple in what I continue to do in this lifetime.
My second one would have to be a man who I knew for 13 years of my life, another incredibly important role model and example and this one would be the man I called my father figure growing up: my grandfather - who is no longer here in this world. He has been the very reason I continue to press forward learning and sharing everything I find in this world. He’s the reason I strive and seek to explore or to continually learn. He is the reason I wish to become the man I do today. It's not an easy verse or sentence to put out there, but I miss that dude immensely. Every year I pay my respects.
See more of Sage’s photography and read more of his words here!