Jason’s a final year Product Design student on a 6 month exchange at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. He likes taking photos, loves a good AirBnB and I reckon he eats too many burgers for his own good.
Did you always think you’d end up doing an exchange? And why the Netherlands?
I was interested in doing an exchange until I actually started my degree, it felt a bit counterproductive to me. I wanted to focus on my studies and I thought that doing an exchange was more about being overseas and new experiences rather than building relevant skills. Once my friends started doing design exchanges I became more interested as the type of work they were doing was completely different to what I was learning and I felt that I was at a point where I needed to learn new workflows and ideologies. Netherlands has such a rich design history so I wanted to be in an environment that was so design conscious. It was also the only place that I was able to do an Industrial Design exchange.
What’s it like studying there compared to Adelaide?
It feels refreshing to be in an environment where my life revolves around studying. I’m not worrying too much about socialising or work. I don’t have opportunities to fall back into bad workflow habits such as playing Mario Kart all day with my roommate or getting bubble tea in the city at 10pm on a Tuesday.
The added responsibility of being completely independent helps me to make the right choices and take advantage of being here. I came here to work so I keep reminding myself that. Also, being in an environment where nobody knows anything about you your identity becomes embedded in who you are right now and what you have to offer, which is intimidating but also freeing. It puts me in a good mentality for graduating this year and teaches me how to build confidence in the right ways.
How does it feel being away from home for so long?
I still feel like myself and I’m able to express myself in various ways so I never really feel like I’m away from home although I do miss my friends and family. The challenging part has been having to adjust myself socially and learning how to navigate situations where I have no idea what the norm is. You learn which parts of your culture you don’t need, that in fact weigh you down, and you’re able to be more objective and honest with yourself.
I’ve noticed you’ve been travelling in Europe a bit since you’ve gone to the Netherlands, tell us about the trips you’ve been on!
I spent a couple of weeks through London, Paris and Amsterdam on my way to my university. I’m probably the most disappointing person to travel with. I’m more excited about hotel rooms and AirBnBs. I just leave the house to go find the best burger in each city (Bleecker in London). I’m trying to find the line between knowing what I’m about and when I should put myself into new experiences. The most memorable was meeting a couple of Australians at my university and then two weeks later renting a car with them and driving around Germany for a week.
And your photography! When did you start taking photography seriously?
I’m not sure if I even take it seriously now. I started travelling around Australia and internationally by myself at a young age. So photography was just a way for me to document the things I was doing and the things that I saw. After a while wanting to document objects evolved into wanting to convey the emotions and experiences. It’s just another way for me to understand and interact with my environment and I love it when my friends say great work bro.
What’s your preference, film or digital?
Even though film has a great character and preciousness, a good photo is a good photo regardless. Whichever you enjoy more is the way to go. For me it really comes down to what I’m doing that day. It’s easy to get trigger-happy with digital but then you come home and realise there were things you took for granted at the time. If I want to stay light and be more immersed in my environment I’ll carry my film camera. I don’t have the luxury of taking unlimited shots, so I have to be more conscious and question why I even want to take a photo right now and what I want to achieve. Sometimes moments are better off being lived than remembered.
Do you think a change of environment affects your creativity?
I’d say it affects the perspective I have on my creativity and the things that I get out of it more so than just feeling motivated to be more creative. It’s inspiring to be in places where people have so much drive to create and are supported for doing so. When the language that surrounds you is so foreign you can’t help but to find solitude within your own native forms of language whether it’s art, music or dance. My workflow seems to stay the same wherever I go, I’m just observing different behaviours and understanding the context behind different styles and belief systems. I assimilate these things into what I do already but it also helps me to have more perspective on myself and understand who I am and why I’m that way. The more I speak my own language the more I figure out what I actually want to say.
Aaaand last but not least, what’s the first thing you’re going to eat when you get back to Australia?
It depends where I’m flying to. I’m trying to fly through Sydney on my way back so I can go to Bar Luca (best burger in the world). My usual routine when I fly back to Adelaide is going to Cam Wah (not a burger) for some soup but after 30+ hours of transit I’m probably just going to eat an avocado and then sleep for 2 days.
Interview conducted by Sascha Tan
Photography by Jason Barton