J.D. Scott – ChatterArtist July 2013

Our ChatterArtist for this month is Atlanta-based photographer J.D. Scott – a Cancer, born on July 19 – a “late” Cancer making him close to the next sign of Leo. When you are born on the “cusp” between two signs, you will naturally take on some of the characteristics of the other sign, as well as your actual Sun sign. So with J.D., for example, we see the “nurturing” Cancer in much of his work, which is all about education, family, healthcare, humanitarian issues and so on. And then the Leo comes out in his love of the creative arts, and his ability to have fun with what he does, which in turn allows his subjects to have fun too.

Self assigned work documenting senior citizens in Atlanta. © J.D. Scott

One classic example of J.D.’s connection to Cancer’s nurturing nature, combined with his love for the creative arts is his 15 year pro-bono work for a local dance group Moving in the Spirit, which works mostly (but not exclusively) with inner city kids, using dance as a vehicle for the kids to learn about responsibility and trust. We talked about the importance of having other influences besides your immediate family, and this is a place where the kids appreciate being treated as adults.

Darion Thompson, 17 year-old Dancer with Moving in The Spirit. © J.D. Scott

J.D. says, “It’s not just about the dance, but also about people learning from one another. Many of the kids come in very raw, and then they become polished, well-spoken people… I literally see these kids grow up – that’s the beauty of working with them over a period of time. It is an honor to give to this worthwhile cause.” Over the years, J.D. has photographed their rehearsals, and just recently as part of their 25 year anniversary, they had an exhibition of life-size dance images taken by J.D. that were 4 x 8 feet tall, which were shown alongside images of them in street clothes along with copy about their stories and the changes they had been through.

Women’s garden project workers in Elliot, South Africa. These women initiated a garden collective, sold their produce and then used the proceeds to form a sewing collective to employ many other women. © J.D. Scott

J.D. and I first met when I was working at the Black Book, and he was one of my favorite clients in Atlanta. My territories back then were half of New York, and the South East, so I made quite a few trips to Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami, which I didn’t mind at all! In fact, I quite miss those days. It was always an interesting challenge figuring out how to get to each photographer’s studio for my appointments, driving in a strange city, in a strange car, and yes, on the other side of the road! I clearly remember my sense of accomplishment when I managed to find my way out to see J.D. for the first time, and no, there wasn’t any GPS back then, so I had to put my map-reading skills to good use and hope that the instructions I had been given also made sense!

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa. One of the highlights of my professional and personal life. Mandela is one of the people on the planet that I’ve always wanted to meet. I was able to spend over an hour photographing him while a small private audience (my client) of about 10 people were able to banter with the brilliant man. As he was leaving the event he beckoned me over to say, ” I don’t believe that I”ve shaken your hand young man.” Thrilling! © J.D. Scott – And by the way, Nelson Mandela is also a Cancer!

We hit it off right away. It was as if we had known one another for ages. And we could talk about business without it feeling like it was all business. When we talked on the phone in preparation for this article, it had been several years since we had spoken, let alone seen one another, and yet, it was like no time had passed at all. Except that it has, and much has changed in our industry. J.D. is thankful to have survived and continues to stay busy.

Assignment for the Carter Center Praziquantel drug distribution program in a small village in Plateau State, Nigeria. The drug treats Schistosomiasis and other parasitic diseases simultaneously. © J.D. Scott

From his website: J.D. Scott specializes in imagery that captures the spirit of people, whether they are corporate CEOS, children in a daycare center, symphony musicians, or farmers in South Africa. His photography has taken him to Bosnia and Croatia, during the conflict in the early 1990s, as well as to a host of other countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa. In the U.S. and internationally, J.D. has documented humanitarian and social projects, created evocative photographs for advertising campaigns, and pursued his own projects. Clients include a range of national and international organizations and businesses.

Ivan and Ivana, Lipik, Croatia. Siblings whose orphanage was one of the first buildings targeted for mortar attacks. Portrait for “Innocents, The Trials and Triumphs of Children of War.” “Innocents” compares the psychological similarities between children in declared war zones and America’s inner cities. © J.D. Scott

J.D. has helped bring the efforts of a number of humanitarian organizations to the attention of a wider audience. These includeCAREThe Carter CenterWorld Vision, and the Synergos Institute. In addition, he has independently pursued projects such as Innocents, a traveling exhibit that shows the similarities between children living in deprived neighborhoods in the U.S. and their peers in international war zones. Shortly after 9/11, J.D. was part of an expedition into a remote desert region of West Africa that was organized by the U.S. Ambassador to Niger to highlight Muslim areas, people and culture seldom seen by Americans.

Doll factory worker in Capetown, South Africa. This small factory run by the NGO Ikamva Labantu provides employment for disabled women. I came to know Ikamva Labantu and their founder Helen Lieberman while on assignment for another client. I fell in love with them and stayed for an extra week making pro bono photographs for the organization. © J.D. Scott

At the end of that day, J.D. says he is committed to telling people’s stories. I told him how perfect this was since the sign of Cancer is associated with and loves History, and when you break the word History down, it is simply “his story.” J.D. added that he is grateful even after all these years making photos, and after the economic downturn, that he is still passionate about making beautiful images and telling stories – hoping that they will help change something and make the world a better place.

Ikamva Labantu trained this beautiful woman, who happens to be blind, to be a massage and aroma therapist. © J.D. Scott

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