American photographer Jason Langer (b. 1967) is best known for his psychological and noirish visions of contemporary urban life. Secret City, his first monograph published by Nazraeli Press, depicts night and dusk scenes of various cities with “carefully crafted compositions reminiscent of the symbolist photographers, and swathes of meticulously printed deep black tones characteristic of the gelatin silver process…as much Hopper and Raymond Chandler as Steichen” (Bomb Magazine).
Langer’s love of photography dates back to his childhood in Ashland, Oregon. Groomed on a Mamiya C330 twin-lens reflex, Langer developed his work in a makeshift darkroom cum hall closet in his family home before moving on to more advanced technology at the University of Oregon, where he earned a degree in photography. Following graduation, Langer worked as an apprentice and printer for some of the Bay Area’s most renowned photographers, including Ruth Bernhard, Arthur Tress, and Michael Kenna, who became a lifelong mentor and friend.
Over the past two decades Langer has developed a photographic language which has been described variously as “cinematic” and “poetic”, “contemplative” and “iconographic”, “haunting” and “romantic”. Avoiding staged tableaux on the one hand, and the “deadpan” aesthetic popular in much contemporary photography on the other, his images strive always to capture the unanticipated or chance moment, layered with timeless drama and dynamism. Langer descends from a tradition of photographers—George Krause, Ralph Gibson, Roy deCarava, Bill Brandt, Matt Mahurin—who photograph what is physically happening in the world, but a world in which the unexpected appears for brief glimpses before returning to generally accepted social norms. Like these photographers, Langer's presence is felt in his images through his interpretation of what happens in front of the lens rather than any direction or manipulation of figures or events.
Besides his typically nocturnal studies of city streets and parks, red light districts and speakeasies, Langer has also dedicated his time to photographing a variety of intimate scenes ranging from male and female nudes, couples in the act of lovemaking, as well as—not incongruently—inanimate objects captured in moments of lifelike feeling: puppets, statues, and mannequins to name only a few. Love, sexuality, ruminations on mortality and the impermanence of things, a search for solace, a yearning for completeness—these are some of the frequent themes that bind his work together. Langer’s photographs remind us of the mystery and wonder of having a body and finding our place in the world.
Winner of Palm Beach Photographic Centre’s 2006 Rising Star award, Langer has had numerous exhibitions in national and international galleries. Langer’s work has appeared in numerous publications including American Photo, Black and White, Harpers, Life, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Photo Metro, Popular Photography, Time, and Vanity Fair. In addition, his work belongs to the permanent collections of Gap/Banana Republic, the JGS Foundation, Rutgers University, Sir Elton John, Sir Mick Jagger, Yale University Art Gallery, and Zimmerli Art Museum.
He has published three monographs: Secret City (2006, Nazraeli Press) and Possession (2013, Nazraeli Press) and Twenty Years (Radius Books, 2015), spanning 20 years of his career. It is the first survey of his work.