Indie-R&B singer, song-writer and producer, JMSN, is not at all what you would expect him to be – he is himself.
I met him for the first time at Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, while on the New York leg of his east coast tour. There were still several hours before Christian Berishaj was due to perform, but somehow the venue was already crowded with excited fans heavily anticipating JMSN’s impending performance. And suddenly while I’m pushing through the crowd with JMSN’s manager, he appears in the most casual of ways. Emerging from beneath a big winter coat, I assume he partially wore to keep himself warm in New York’s uncomfortable brisk and also to shield his identity from fans unknowingly surrounding him from all angles, there he is. Despite seeing photographs of him beforehand, I’m still surprised by his appearance. It’s as mysterious as it is humble. His shoulder length hair seems unbrushed, his beard grown out, and his outfit of choice - an old t-shirt and Champion gym shorts. His look is something you’d expect someone to wear in the comfort of their living room, not on stage for a concert they’re headlining.
Strange as it may be, the lack of effort he put into his appearance is what ultimately makes him that more interesting and as a relief to me, very approachable. His casual demeanor is what eventually inspires me to shoot him in the sketchiest parts of Cameo Gallery without any second thought – their graffiti covered bathroom, their strangely wide open electrical closet, and on their dirty basement stairs. He doesn’t seem to care, in fact it actually feels like he’s having as much fun as I am photographing him in the next odd location we can find. He looks into your eyes while you’re speaking to him, he flashes genuine smiles at certain moments, he is fully present throughout the entire interaction. You’d be surprised that someone with this caliber of talent, whose star is so quickly on the rise, and whose collaborators already include heavy hitters like rapper, Kendrick Lamar, and Producer, Ta-Ku is this low-key.
And once he gets on stage, it all makes sense. JMSN doesn’t need flashing lights, a decadent set, or a stellar wardrobe to impress you. The passion in his beautiful voice, the dedication to producing immaculate music and oddly enough, his awkward but amusing dance moves are more than enough to hook you in. By passing on the massive record labels who tried to and once did sign Christian Berishaj with the intent to glamourize his look and pop-ify his music, he proved to them, to himself and to his fans- that he could only be the best musician he can be by staying true to himself. I had the opportunity to speak with him after his show and I found that that statement could not be more honest.
Read the full interview on Billboard. Gold Frame Impossible Project polaroids taken at Cameo Gallery, February 14th, 2015. Animal Print Frame Impossible Project polaroids taken at SOBs, February 15th, 2015. Though I wasn't aware of it at the time, both varieties of film happened to be expired when these were taken resulting in a few minor imperfections. Their unique flaws are what make them beautiful, an outcome of a dated photography form that can't authentically replicated in digital. These are truly one of a kind prints.