Behind CitizenCouture: Jason Jean

I met up with the wonderful Jason Jean from the infamous street style blog CitizenCouture.com. It was a bold last-minute move and because Jason had to catch a flight to London, it was unsure if we were going to be able to make it. But suddenly he was standing right next to me, leaving me all flabbergasted , shook up and a little starstruck. Jason has been enjoying Amsterdam for a few days already and the weather couldn’t have been better during his stay. I sat down with Jason to talk about CitizenCouture, his life, his work and more.

I have been following Jason and his work since his early days and I have been admiring his work ever since. Having him sit across from me was a little bit intimidating to say the least. But the first thing I noticed about Jason was how incredibly normal and down-to-earth he seemed, almost as if he were one of us. But then I thought about his work and all the iconic people he has shot – and back came my incontrollable nervosity. I have met with CEOs of international corporations and I have prepared them their business cases. But nothing is as scary as being in the presence of one you praise. I asked Jason about his current state of mind. He answered that he is actually quite looking forward to returning home to New York again. Jason has been traveling to and from one fashion week to another. I reckon that after a trip like that and sleeping in hotels for weeks or months maybe, your own bed is the one thing you really long for. We talked about the idea of perfect happiness. Some people say the perfect happiness doesn’t exist. That we always carry with us a certain restraint in our thoughts and emotions. That we’re never really able to be fully, perfectly happy with our state. Jason explained that what he does, does come close to it. That being able to do what you really love, is a true, unparalleled kind of happiness. It’s the kind of freedom we all long for I think. Jason went on that he was once an accountant, something you would have never sought behind a photographer of his esteem. That he was doing something at first that was not giving him a sense of fulfilment. His turning point happened when he was diagnosed with juvenile glaucoma, causing him to be partially blind in his left eye. It is incurable and there is a chance, though unsure how high, that it may result in a complete blindness in the future. That was the point he decided he had to pursue his passions. He picked up a camera and started photographing. But his creativity didn’t just manifest out of nowhere. Jason told me he has always had a penchant for the arts and creative industry and that, if it were up to him, he would have enrolled into art school. But business school seemed like the wiser choice at the time. He doesn’t regret it as even in the fashion industry a business degree has proven to be quite essential. After starting CitizenCouture.com in late 2009, it was always Jason’t ambition to become a fulltime photographer and to be able to one day photograph street fashion all over the world. I asked Jason what his next goals are, seeing as he has accomplished all that he set out to do in the beginning. For the next few years, Jason plans to take CitizenCouture to the next level. He would love to not only travel to metropolitan cities like Paris, London and Milan, but he wishes to expand his travels to other parts of the world as well, naming even Kazakhstan among the few. The world is big and vast and there are so many things he still wants to capture.

Finally, I asked him the question he always asks his interviewees. So I thought it would only be appropriate to conclude our interview by asking Jason for his quote to live by. Jason mentioned it earlier already during our conversation. It’s a Neale Donald Walsch quote – “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” 

I couldn’t have wished for a better way to end the interview. Life is too short to be living our life passively. Far too grand to be lived from a distance. Life is best lived when stepped out of that which you know and hold dear. I hugged Jason goodbye and could only hope that I will meet him again one day. Then, hopefully, in a different stage of my life.