Eric Paul Janssen. Nov 6, 1972 – Oct 16, 2017
Time-wise I didn’t know Eric Janssen very long. But how long you knew Eric didn’t matter, because for a guy like him, time was all relative.
He was the guy you instantly knew, and who instantly knew you. People and inspiration were drawn to him. He had his own gravitational pull.
The products of his work lived in the digital realm. The efforts he put into that work thrived in very real places most of us wouldn’t dare enter.
Abandoned buildings. Empty spaces.
Hospitals. Railroads. Rooftops stuck in time.
In his photography he used hashtags like #neverstopexploring, #abandonment_issues, and #forgottenspots.
I asked him once if there was anything in particular he was expressing in turning empty spaces into canvases. “I don’t know, man. They kinda represent a lot of this town,” he said. “A lot of this town has been forgotten, abandoned over the years. A lot of neighborhoods forgotten, left behind.”
When we spoke, about Memphis, there was both love and frustration in his eyes. “Memphis. Man, this place. People don’t know what the fuck to do with it. Part of it is just stuck, man. We should act more like Nashville, like a big city.”
He spoke like a man jilted. But he clearly loved it. He loved Earnestine & Hazel’s and his South Main and Martyr Park overlooking the three bridges. He loved the rooftops he explored and the faces he photographed.
“This crazy community is the part of Instagram and photography that I love even more than the photos,” he wrote in a post. “Meeting cool people. Hanging with old friends. Sharing new adventures. That’s what it’s all about.”
And he loved Memphis. He loved its people. It’s easy to see that love in his photography.
Another hashtag he used highlighted a mantra and a nationwide community he was part of, that is here to “inspire fellow individuals to live out their own great stories.” It’s called Live A Great Story. Eric did just that, filling his photos with messages, thoughts, feelings, observations, inspiration.
I didn’t know Eric Janssen very long. But damn I will miss him. So will Memphis.