I have so often heard the same tired critique of Houston’s urban landscape by outsiders: “It is a beige, expansive, boring concrete jungle devoid of beauty and culture.” Those of us who call this city home resent these false stereotypes. The Houston skyline is a wonder of architecture and design, towering over the surrounding neighborhoods like the nucleus of a giant atom. The historic wards that make up Houston proper are bustling with life, color and more culture than can be contained within the borders of entire states. Still, even among those who love and admire this city, few are truly aware of all its hidden beauties. The decaying ruins of abandoned warehouses on the east side, the dark alleys of Downtown at night, the lights of the freeways from overpasses and rooftops – these are the places where street photographers like Jason Bundage create their art.
Jason, or JAYBUN3030 as he is known on Instagram, has been shooting urban photography for the past six years or so. An admirer of photography since childhood, he would scour the pages of National Geographic as a kid, soaking up the images and developing a love for the artform. Jason is a self-taught photographer, learning how to handle his first DSLR by hitting the streets of Houston and shooting as often as possible. Today, he has amassed a large online following thanks to his gripping, crisp and visceral imagery. He specializes in low-light shooting, exploring the streets and hidden corners of Houston by night, a hobby that is both difficult to master and inherently risky. But he rarely works alone. Jason is part of a large and ever-growing community of Houston photographers that use Instagram to share their work and connect with each other.
Houston’s impressive skyline and culturally rich neighborhoods make it more than a photogenic city. It has become something of a muse for hundreds of talented amateur and aspiring professional photographers. The ubiquity of social media, particularly the rise of Instagram, has provided a medium through which these local artists can share their work, which in turn has led to the creation of an unofficial community. This community not only supports each other’s work online, but hosts meetups, gallery shows and other organized events. Jaybun is among the community’s most talented and followed artists, also one of its first. “When I started going out exploring, there wouldn’t be anyone else out there. Now when you go to Downtown, there are photographers everywhere.” But he doesn’t see this as a drawback. While he admits that oversaturation and competition make it extremely difficult to earn a living as a photographer, he applauds anyone who wants to make Houston their favorite subject and welcomes them into the community of Houston Instagrammers. As he puts it, “Most of my friends today are people I met through Instagram.”
Recently, Jason’s friend and fellow photographer Brandon Brown (bzillions) published a book of photography titled No Captions, which includes Jason’s work, as well as his own, and that of nine other talented photographers from different cities and backgrounds. The project was Jason’s first time being published, and along with a social media deal from Mountain Dew, marks his crossover from online hobbyist to paid professional. He hopes that these types of deals keep coming, and looks forward to traveling more this year, shooting scenes outside of Houston and possibly expanding beyond street photography all together. Of course, H-Town will remain his first muse and most important subject through his inevitable ascent.