The Man Behind The Lens - Jon Setter

Sitting behind a wooden table outside a café in arguably one of Sydney’s most charming neighborhoods-Balmain, Jon awaits my arrival with his two dogs Hendrix and Bridget by his side. A quiet and introvert being, peering behind the lens of his simplistic metal frame glasses, a soft hello follows. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a fellow American accent in a place worlds apart. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Jon Setter is a photographer who is currently based in Sydney, Australia where he is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts from the National Art School. His photography primarily focuses on urban spaces and architecture. He wanders through cities looking to document a perspective that is normally not visualized.

Aiming to make use of repeated formal patterns such as colour, material and texture, he methodically organizes them to develop an abstracted expression of space. Hoping to establish that even the most vernacular aspects of a place can have a role in the way it is understood and represented. Jon has exhibited in several shows in Sydney and Melbourne. He has been awarded multiple photography prizes in numerous locations. Most recently with Life Framer and the International Color Awards.

What was your inspiration to get into photography? 

Getting into photography was something I never saw coming. It all started a little over two years ago when I was studying to be a painter. At the same time, I was also lucky enough to be travelling to lots of new places. I was taking photos on my travels but didn’t do anything with them, so a friend suggested I take some photography classes to get better at capturing my journeys and start sharing them on Instagram. Attending those classes really changed my view of what could be achieved with photography and made me fall in love with it. Additionally, to the classes I received a rapid positive response to my work online. So, I’d have to say the combination of the classes and online response is what inspired me to continue with my photographic pursuits. 

Can you explain why your work mostly consists of urban spaces with a focus on architecture? Was this an intentional direction? 
My focus on architecture and urban spaces wasn’t at all intentional. As I said before the reason I tried photography was to document my travels. Quickly though I saw that my work looked identical to lots of other travel photographers. Not interested in that, I began experimenting with alternative ways of capturing the cities I was in to create a look more my own. Architecture became the subject mostly because it was what I interacted with most and there was an abundance of material to play with. The good thing about focusing on architecture is that they are the structures that shape cities identities. So, by documenting them also helped me better make sense of the spaces I was in. The more I interpreted the structures the more in tune with a space I became, breaking down the preconceived ideas I initially had about them. As I continued photographing architecture my goal became to create work that could perhaps act as guides to help people take more notice of their own spaces. 

What kinds of ideas and things are you working on at the moment?

The thing I’m working on mostly at the moment is trying to complete my thesis project for my MFA. The main idea of the project is can capturing the normally forgotten aspects of urban environments into simplified formal arrangements enhance the way people perceive the spaces they interact with.

What does the future of photography look like for Jon Setter?

The future of photography for myself looks very bright. I’m really enjoying what I’m creating, especially the potential positive effects the work can have on those who view it. I also have a few project ideas to explore next year and am looking at planning some exhibitions to help get my work seen by more people.

If you are interested in any of Jon Setter's work please contact us at

Instagram - @jonsetter

Interview and words by Christina Annaheim

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