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1121 40th street, suite 2201
Emeryville, CA 94608

Company Name

joSon photo llc.

Company Type










Graphis Archives

Biography/Work Experience

This former-monk turned photographer first launched his photographic odyssey as a barefoot Buddhist monk amid the crushing chaos and poverty of post-war Vietnam. The only child of star-crossed lovers, joSon’s father, an African American Embassy employee, was killed mysteriously in the line of duty shortly before the fall of Saigon. His mother--a medical doctor of mixed Filipino and Vietnamese descent--soon fled with her infant son to the Philippines. There her boy’s mixed-race heritage was not greeted warmly. Returning to seek refuge with his grandmother in Vietnam, the Amerasian boy soon discovered a different kind of refuge altogether. Safe within the walls of a humble Buddhist monastery, from age ten to age eighteen the adolescent future-photographer would be strictly schooled in the ancient Buddhist art of meditation. “Americans simply can’t comprehend how truly poor we were back then,” recalls joSon today from his new home overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. “We had no shoes, no toys, no televisions--and only the most meager food.” Yet it was there inside the monastery that the camera’s lens first claimed him. Cradling a battered point-and-shoot his loving mother had once given him, joSon patiently taught himself the fine art of photography step by barefoot-step-- a skill which he still refers to today more simply as the “art of seeing.” Because for this slim brave little Buddhist monk, film soon became a form of meditation. And it remains so today. Eventually joSon’s spiritual teachers within the monastery, recognizing the depth of these gifts, gently ordered him to abandon the monkhood completely. “Your destiny lies outside these walls,” they insisted--“perhaps even beyond these shores.” So it was that a shy teenage ex-monk cradling a battered camera miraculously arrived on the snowy shores of California’s Lake Tahoe, vaguely planning to take up the formal study of photography somewhere within his father’s long-lost homeland. “Something about Tahoe’s purity and depth must have called out to me,” joSon recalled, looking back decades later at his unlikely exodus from Asia. After enrolling at Lake Tahoe Community College, the young immigrant-scholar eventually transferred to San Francisco, then completed his MFA in photography at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. A virtual avalanche of awards and accolades has followed him ever since. Today joSon’s images hang in galleries and private collections worldwide--and his work as a commercial photographer is in constant demand from Fortune 500 corporations, five-star hotels, and elite travel magazines globally. Yet of his signature photographs--those “Intimate Portraits of Nature,” of children, and most especially of flowers, "Had Richard Avedon taken up gardening, he might have ended up with photos like these,” observed Sunset Magazine from his book, Intimate Portraits of Nature, Graphis 2013. Today joSon still speaks of his art as if describing meditations: as images rooted deeply in the rich dark earth of love and loss, of war and peace, of destiny and desire and a young boys’ dreams. joSon's work has appeared in ads globally for clients such as Samsung Electronics, The United Nations, Time Warner Studios, BMW, Random House, HSBC, Coppertone, Claritin, Body & Bath Works. Over the years, his images have won major awards from American Photographer’s, Graphis, PDN (Photo District News) and Communication Arts, which also featured his portfolio under “Fresh” section of the magazine.

Professional Specialties

Fine Art and Commercial photography

Featured In:


joSon: Intimate Portrait of Nature, Graphis, 2013.


United Nations, Samsung, Time Warner, HSBC, IBM, Coppertone, and Claritin