Years (and years) ago, I was planning to shoot a new season of prints in Jaipur and needed a local photographer. I had heard rumors about a Belgium fellow who was fluent in Hindi, a brilliant photographer, and he lived in Jaipur. My connection with Jonas Spinoy was fortunately made. From Goa to Kashmir, Jonas has shot many of our collection photos, and we have had many adventures together. I could not think of a better companion… or photographer. Jonas captures the unexpected, quirky, and charming world of India in his own work. I’m happy to share his world with you here, in addition to some of the photos he has taken for me throughout the years. If you can’t get to India, Jonas will take you there.
John waiting for a train in India. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
Models wear sunglasses from the John Robshaw x Mondelliani collaboration. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to live in India.
I grew up and studied fine arts photography in Brussels, Belgium while working with my father in the field of interiors & furniture. Needing to see new places, I moved to Spain, worked in a friend’s restaurant in Andalusia, and learned a lot about food. I then moved to Morocco, where I worked with architects developing decorative elements to restore old Riads in Marrakech, and that's where I met my future wife who was from India. We were both working on textile & interiors projects. When her project ended, she went back, and I joined her there. We got married in New Delhi, moved to Jaipur, and have been happily living there with our family ever since.
A striking natural landscape. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
A moment of a man looking out his window is captured beautifully. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
When did you become interested in photography?
I have always liked to travel, and growing up without social media, looking at photo books was the most exciting thing! My dad had an old analog camera. When I was 16 I learned to print and process my own rolls with a friend who had a dark room. I still prefer film photography.
Jonas captures the historic architecture of India. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
A car in a custom John Robshaw fabric slipcover. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
How did you choose your subject matter? Tell us about your work.
If I like a place or certain people, I most definitely would like to photograph them. Sometimes I go back to places I have seen or people I have met months later to take one photograph. Otherwise I don’t normally plan images very much. I love to shoot places and people that I connect with.
A performer poses for a portrait. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
A motorcycle rider carries a stack of pillows as cargo. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
Any funny stories about shooting with John?A camel eating John's hair? Or pillow-covered donkeys running away from the frame? Most of the time we arrive on location with a plan, but we get inspired by other places and elements. The process is always very fluid to allow space for improvisation, the constant element being a car full of pillows and bed linens, those are the real prima donnas of our shows!
I think we both really enjoyed travelling around this incredible country to make those shoots happen over the years. We’ve travelled so much together it's hard to pick one funny story.
John on a boat. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
Portraits of John. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
John sits on a dock. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
What other photographers or artists inspire you?There are so many it's hard to choose a few. I love the portraits of the Malian photographer Seydou Keita. He’s self-taught, and his portraits are so sophisticated, a rare combination. Dayanita Singh is known for her intimate portraits of unusual spaces and Indian families. I also love the extensive coverage of India by Raghu Rai.
Portrait of a man riding his bike. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
Beach landscape. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
A rickshaw driver carries a load of textiles. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
Do you have a favorite photograph?No, but I have a favorite photo book, “A Way into India“ by Raghubir Singh. It's pure street style photography centered around the Iconic Ambassador Car.
A band plays to celebrate the launch of new pillows. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
Portrait of a well-dressed merchant. Photo by Jonas Spinoy.
Jonas with his wife.