New York and the internet have introduced me to some of my favorite people ever in life. Brandon and I met what feels like eons ago and he’s still the goat to me. He’s picked up his cam and crisscrossed the world in the last few years and I’m stooooooked that he’s on iSo14Below talking about his travels.
Name/Social Name: Brandon Lennox John, @bj0hn on IG
Hometown: Danbury, Connecticut
Fave Bar or Restaurant in NYC: Pies’n’Thighs… dem Honey biscuits tho!
Favorite Place to Travel in the World: Currently obsessed with Africa, let’s go with that.
I don’t remember you being the photography guy when we first met, but I’ve watched your work develop and it’s ridiculous. How have you carved out your style?
Thank you! I guess I was interested in photography back then but it wasn’t until 2014 til I got semi-serious and picked up something other than my phone to take photos. I owe a lot to my bike and cycling. Seeing New York on two wheels is unrivaled. It’s the perfect pace. That and Instagram. Instagram’s purity as a social media motivated me to develop my own style of images. Sometimes I miss those strictly black and white days. IG also put me on to a lot of photographers I never knew about.
One thing I know about you is that you’re super quiet, but you see everything. Does that play into how you’re able to capture people in their bare humaness in your portraits? I don’t like to think I’m quiet, per say. I just like to listen! And assess. I really don’t know how that plays into my portraiture style directly. When approaching portraits, I look for those that seem to have a strong and almost inquisitive characteristic in their glance.
Where was your first trip abroad and how did that set the stage for your current travels?
I won’t count family excursions. My first real trip was Malaysia and Singapore in 2014. I have a close family friend from Melaka, Malaysia who was returning home and asked if I wanted to tag along. This was my first time leaving this hemisphere getting a sense of the size of the world. This trip was huge for me. It was really on this trip that I learned I wanted to pursue journalism and bring issues into more of a light. Driving from Malaysia to Singapore showed me firsthand the thousands of acres of palm tree oil plantations. I looked up more on all that and it turned into a future project I would still love to be able to capture today. It’s an immensely destructive process.
Singapore! I literally had 48 hours in that city and did my darndest to see as much as I could. You went the G route and biked it. Give me a snapshot of that experience.
Singapore has a special place in my heart. I was only there for 4 days and I was alone the whole time so I didnt really care for experiencing nightlife and such. After walking all over the city and hitting Marina Sands Bay and Sentosa Island, I wanted to see what the rest of the island was about. I rented a fresh ass bike for two days for like $40 and crushed nearly the entire island. Everyone thinks of Singapore as the gorgeous cityscape the downtown area presents, but it still has much of it’s rural roots on the Northern and Eastern sides. Seeing that was really cool.
How did this NZ trip come about? I’m casually scrolling on IG and you out here climbing volcanoes and such.
I have a friend at NYU who is from Sydney. She had some friends from there visit over the summer last year and we hit it off. One of them, Ben, is a photographer as well and he told me about his upcoming trip around New Zealand. Essentially I invited myself and I was back in Sydney kickin’ it with them three months later. After three days there, we bounced to South Island, New Zealand where we lived out of a campervan and saw a good 80% of the island in two weeks on the road.
What are some must do things in NZ?
ANYTHING adventure related honestly. They have everything from aerial diving to zip lining through dense forests. I would recommend everyone get a van and camp the way we did. Definitely the best way to see the country and they make it really easy with a plethora of diverse camping grounds. If that’s not really your thing, I’d say go for some hikes! There are beautiful peaks in South Isle that provide views unmatched anywhere on Earth. Make sure to hit Isthmus Peak, though it was a daunting 5-hour trek up and a 2 and half hour descent back! I was crushed for a few days after that one but man, THAT VIEW!
Let’s talk Ethiopia! I’m currently on an Africa-only kick right now and it’s a country high on my travel bucket list. Tell me everything!
Addis… Amazing. The best part for me is now having FAMILY there. My brother married an amazing Ethiopian girl who has the most amazing, accepting family. We’re really blessed tbh. I’ll say one thing, a week is WAY TOO SHORT. It honestly wasn’t fair. There’s a reason the minimum VISA granted is one month. Sheeeesh. Beautiful country. I’d recommend going to Addis Ababa, definitely. Everyone was so beautiful and vivid. I wish I was able to go to Mount Entoto, the highest peak in the area but with my brother’s wedding, I didn’t have much time to adventure my usual style. I loved being there with my Dad and siblings, that was incredibly special.
The colors in your photos from Ethiopia remind me so much of Bed-Stuy in the summer. What was the energy like?
The energy reminded me a lot of Grenada, where my parents were born and raised. Vibrant and down to earth atmosphere.
Where are you off to next?
I’m actually going back to Grenada with my mom in April. This’ll be my sixth time there. The older I get, the more I enjoy it. I’m excited for this trip because it’s the first time I’ll be going with a real camera… people are gonna hate me for these. After that, I’m planning a cross country trip to North California and Oregon. My friends and I are trying to hit Bonnaroo and then keep it going to the west side. Fly back to NY. I’ll let you know how this one develops.
What are some of your ultimate must-see places in the world?
Right now , I would love to see more of Africa. Madagascar! and Tanzania. Kilimanjaro is a goal. Same with Australia too, everyone there was so cool. Cuba’s on there. Jamaica. Mumbai and India always interested me as well.