The Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts admitted high school senior Jonno Rattman after several rounds of applications for its summer program in 2008—the final year of the school’s existence. After studying photography with accomplished professionals and building a portfolio, Rattman was ready.
“As soon as I got to work in the darkroom there, I knew, ‘Wow, this is so great. This is for me,’” Rattman said. “I came home from my summer…and I built a darkroom that week.”
Rattman, a 2013 New York University graduate, is now an accomplished photographer himself. His work has appeared in numerous publications such as The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. He has had solo shows in Stroudsburg, Pa., Hartford Conn., and now Southwest Minnesota State University.
His show, “The Complicated Present: Selections from Historical Fictions & Ritual Characters and the Insomnia Series,” runs from Feb. 2 to March 18 in the Whipple Gallery. Rattman incorporates journalism into his photographs to create a dramatic narrative.
“One of the best things about what I do is that I have a ready excuse to meet new people and enter into the worlds I never knew existed,” Rattman said.
Pictures in the Insomnia series were taken in 2010 when Rattman was a sophomore in college. Instead of sleeping, he went out in New York City at night, snapping pictures of the world around him. Exploring Bleecker Street, Rattman found a woman from a cover band, men catcalling from their limo and an early morning mustache trim.
“When I’m photographing, I’m often grinning ear to ear, just in awe of it all,” Rattman said.
Works from the ongoing series Historical Fictions & Ritual Characters show American culture by reminding the audience that the past is deeply rooted in the present. His work poses the question “How did we get to where we are?” The piece “Inuit figurine” demonstrates how an entire culture has been reduced to one object.
“I’ve been a student of American history,” Rattman said. “It was a natural extension of my interests to photograph history in the present.”
While on campus Feb. 2-3, Rattman gave a presentation on his work in the Whipple Gallery and visited students in classrooms.
Taking photographs didn’t always interest Rattman. He started out making films, but began studying photography when he joined his high school newspaper. The Governor’s School did not offer filmmaking classes, so Rattman shifted his focus to photography.
He now is an assistant designer at Yolanda Cuomo Design in New York City. He hopes to travel around the United States, Canada, Mexico, and South America, documenting history and culture through photography.
“I ultimately want to continue on the path I’ve started, making a career that blends art, journalism and social documentary photography,” Rattman said.