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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

10th Annual - The Simple Portrait Project


Jonathan Robert Willis, Founder and Lead Photographer


Jonathan Robert Willis is an internationally recognized photographer whose clients range from Google to Good Sam to P&G. Jonathan, better known as JONBOB, and his family have travelled throughout Africa, India and Central America documenting the undaunted and effortless elegance of ordinary, everyday beautiful life. He and his family live in Fort Thomas on a street “with 50 kids” surrounded by woods where his children explore endlessly.


His portraits and travel work rally our better selves, reflecting the human aspect in bare, simple splendor. His photographs show us our humanity and individuality by capturing the instant a mouth becomes a smile, a long stare, the curl of a finger, dust, sun and silhouette. 

From his website: “It’s with a looking-glass take on time and good judgment, he sets himself apart”. 


When I arrived at Carabello Coffee in Newport to meet JONBOB, Justin Carabello, co-owner of the coffee shop (who is, by the way an absolutely delightful man who makes you feel you have arrived at your home away from home) described him as a tall, disarming, extremely talented man whose studio is just around the corner. After spending an hour with JONBOB discussing the upcoming 10th year of The Simple Portrait Project, I would add inspiring, interesting, enthusiastic - a keen listener and observer.


From TSPP website: the project is “embodiment of creativity, simplicity, improvisation and beauty”. For the 10th year running, photographers and families have shown up at a simple, unpolished space and have left with photographs that are insightful and wholly authentic. Starting November 4th at 706 York Street in Newport, KY for five consecutive weekends the family portrait will be reinterpreted over the course of 400 portrait sessions.


Families and groups schedule a 30 minute session. They show up, have a local beer or something stiffer, bring willingness and trust the photographer’s creative push. Families leave with at least four black and white, professional digital images.  


  • Schedule your session online
  • Arrive 15 mins early
  • Enjoy a drink - white, brown, or local w/ bubbles + plenty of juice boxes for the kids
  • 20 min portrait session with a world class photographer
  • Work with an editor to narrow down your strongest photos
  • Leave with your final images on a USB ready to print

TSPP is an opportunity to create a unique memory. It’s a collaboration between families, photographers and editors. When families and groups sign up they are trusting the photographer to take them to an interesting place and in turn the photographer trusts them to bring a willingness and take a leap of faith.


JONBOB describes the five week sessions as a creative marathon. Steamer trunks, rugged old world chests and chairs provided by Monmouth Street Antique Gallery are reinterpreted with each session. The atmosphere is fun, festive and spontaneous. Scenarios are setup to fall apart and come back together - becoming more interesting with each creative moment. 


For the photographers it’s an artistic challenge based around specific limitations. For families and groups it’s a unique experience and an opportunity to have the character and genius of your family dynamic captured elegantly with affection.

In addition to JONBOB, this year’s photographers include:

Steve Willis is based in Colorado Springs. He focuses on light and its transcendent effect on the human figure.

Best Day Ever are a husband and wife team based in Cincinnati. On the last day of the five-week session Amy and Aaron Hildebrand will take over the final sessions and wrap up the 10th year of TSPP. 

Jessica Ebelhar is based in Louisville. Her style is classic, raw and honest and she loves collaboration.

Jeremy Kramer is based in Cincinnati. He knows how to bring out the best in his clients and loves collaboration.


Over the past 10 years TSPP has created an anthology of portraits. From the familiar to the offbeat, adventures taken, sundry deeds, and brushes with fate - all visible in the particular bearings of the photographed. Moments forgotten, almost forgotten or deeply embedded - all there for anyone who looks closely. These portraits are biographies of memory - a most precious and elegant gift. 



  • Portrait session for 1-6 people
  • Large group portrait session for 8 +
  • Pet and family session
  • Session with JONBOB (sold out)
  • Pet sessions with JONBOB (sold out)

TSPP is a unique environment combined with an innovative and technically clean approach to portraiture allowing for unobscured moments of richness and depth. These photographers convey the ordinary and extraordinary. Their portraits helps us understand the beauty and fleeting nature of our lives. They distill time like alchemists finding perfection in the imperfect in a single frame. 


Contact:  |  (859) 866 -7462 | The Simple Portrait Project

1 comment:

  1. Have cherished our family portraits over the years with Jon!