Jason Suder, an award-winning multimedia storyteller born and raised in Fort Worth, says he has always been a rebel. Currently living at the base of the Teton mountain range and writing for the Jackson Hole News & Guide, he jokingly calls himself “a square peg in a Jackson Hole.” Three years ago, equipped with a camera and freshly earned journalism degree, Suder left his job as a summer intern at CBS and moved to Santiago, Chile.
He was a 23-year-old rebel with a cause. Suder spent five months running in and out of riots, being sprayed with tear gas, and hit by police batons, while photographing students being brutalized in the streets. He was arrested twice for documenting the horrors.
“I had done nothing wrong or illegal,” Suder says. “In Chile, you are allowed to take pictures in a public space.”
There were six, including Suder, crammed in the back of the armored paddy wagon. The oldest detainee was 24, and the youngest was 14. “We just sat, all 12 of our knees rubbing together, in the cramped, unventilated sweat-box of a vehicle, wondering where we were being taken,” Suder says.
“That was my first true glimpse of how the other half lived, with the constant fear of aggression, the constant threat that if they tried to speak out against any form of aggression, they will be brutalized for it. It takes an entirely different level of courage to stand up to that.”
Suder is the middle child born in 1988 to Kathy Sherman Suder and Jon Suder. Jason’s older sister, Morgan, is an attorney; younger brother, Ryan, is a chef and philosopher.
“Growing up the Jewish son of a hippie artist mother and a liberal musician father made life interesting in Fort Worth,” he says.
Suder’s mom is a photographer who gained international acclaim for her poetic, oversized color close-ups of men boxing.
“Dad’s going to kill me for saying this, but mom is my rock,” Suder says. “She’s the angel on my shoulder.” His mom also gave him the camera that led to his profession in documentation.
“Dad is great too, a true Renaissance man,” Suder says. “I think I get my mannerisms from him.”
Suder’s grandfather, the late Scott Sherman, Fort Worth businessman and boxing promoter, taught Suder to be tough, he says. “I was going to Country Day School wearing Beatle shirts and belts with spikes on it. I was bullied every day because I was different. I was swimming in a sea of conformity. A true rebel will never fit in.”
Suder left Country Day and graduated from Arlington Heights High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado in 2011.
While a student, he traveled to an Ecuadorian rainforest as a volunteer forest worker. He shared a suite with a Chilean man his own age. While his new friend sang Chile’s praises, Suder says he knew it was only a matter of time before he would travel south himself.
“Toward the end of my internship with the entertainment wing of CBS, I knew I would leave to chase a dream of becoming a war correspondent,” Suder says. “A senior producer recommended I first chase lesser protests to get a feel for that sort of work. At the same time, a volatile student movement was ramping up in Santiago.”
Suder reached out to Chile’s English-language news source and said, “I’m coming.”
“I have always wanted to be a journalist in some form or fashion,” Suder says. “It’s a profession that forces you to try everything, from politics to paranormal specialist, artist and adventurer. You go wherever the story takes you, and so far it’s taken me to some great places.”
Suder says he has never been afraid to fail. “I have always tried to recognize the opportunity when it comes along, risk it all and cannonball into it, making as big of a splash as I can,” he says. “That is how I went from Fort Worth to helping Chile change its policy on censorship and police brutality to being paid to live in the most beautiful place on earth. If you are not willing to make yourself vulnerable and take a chance at getting where and what you want, then what’s the point?”
| photography by Alex Lepe |