Tell us a little bit about yourself. What sparked your interest in photography initially?
Well, I moved to Los Angeles from Denver in February of 2014 for a job opportunity. I've only had my Mark II for about 7 months. My father gave me my first camera when I was a sophomore in high school (so about 6 years ago) and ever since then, my love for the art has grown. He actually gave me two Minolta bodies, with 3 lenses, and a plethora of add-ons that he had laying around since he was a pretty avid photographer when he was my age.
What made you realize that you wanted to pursue photography as more than just a hobby?
What really ignited the spark was my realization that my camera was an extension of me. During my high school and college years, you could usually find me out shooting in abandoned places or just shooting events that I attended. I was just that guy with the camera. Not too much else caught my interest back then - so I just took what was natural to me and ran with it.
Tell us about your experience transitioning from a new photographer to an experienced, passionate photographer - what were the biggest hurdles and misconceptions?
The biggest hurdles for me were just opportunities. I went to high school in a small town in Indiana, where there really isn't much happening. Everyone does the same monotonous routine everyday, so there isn't much excitement unless you were to make the hour plus drive to Chicago, but that just didn't happen for me. Back then I was more into landscapes but there wasn't much happening in Indiana on that front. So I mainly went to abandoned buildings since I love the mood they give the photos - there's always a story behind them. As for misconceptions, I thought it would be a little easier than what it actually is. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that you need to accomplish - deadlines, investments, technicality, and hitting the correct criteria with your client.
In your growth as a photographer, what has been the hardest thing (concept, piece of equipment, mindset, etc.) to learn that also provided the greatest reward once you learned it?
The hardest thing to learn is consistency. Photography is a field where you always need to be generating new content and you always need to find ways to improve your craft. Certain things can deter you, like criticism, but you need to take everything with a grain of salt. When it comes to equipment, lenses are the hardest thing to get adjusted to, but practice makes perfect. Improvement is a direct result of consistency, and criticism will make you grow as an artist.
What advice do you wish you had when you first started out? What advice would you give someone just starting their photographic journey today?
The advice I wished I had received is to actually immerse yourself in the art. Read some books, watch Youtube tutorials, get technical. The best advice I can give to a beginner is to find an artist you look up to and set a bar for yourself. "Work until your idols become your rivals."
How has your aesthetic of L.A. helped shape you as a photographer?
LA has helped shape my style in the direction of a more street style. If I were to describe my work a couple of years ago, I would have said it was a lot more traditional but now it has become a lot darker. I've been heavily influenced by some of the photography meets I've been attending. A lot of people aren't familiar with these types of meets but in short - it is a public gathering of artists across all mediums that meet collectively and create together. Different brands will host these events, usually once a month, where hundreds of photographers, models, street performers, etc. come together. The results are these huge, photo tours that feature things like fire breathers, steel wool spinners, and smoke grenade enthusiasts, it's pretty out there. They are pretty chaotic, yet systematic (paradoxical, I know) and are some of the best photography events I've seen. I always recommend going to a "Conquer_LA" meet because you can get some pretty fantastic collaborations going, with any sized groups of photographers. As a photographer, your environment is a big influence in the outcome and feel/mood of the photo. Sometimes If you shoot with other people, your styles can start to mimic eachothers. One of my favorite styles of photography is urban necrosis, and LA has plenty to offer....the hard part is just finding the spots. Los Angeles is great geographically because you have so many options to choose from, in terms of what you shoot - there are so many variables. With all these factors, I'm never limited in what I can create. I have noticed that a lot of LA photographers share similar styles, and yes, it's good to take in other styles and find ways to incorporate them into your work. At the same time, you want to be true to your own style as much as possible. The key is let it happen organically, don't force it one way or the other. I do have to say that LA is like a photographer's playground; there are a lot of talented and artistic individuals, so if you have a chance to collaborate with another artist, take it - it can yield great results.
How were you introduced to Lensbaby? How have you used Lensbaby lenses to help shape who you are as a photographer?
I was looking to pick up a fisheye specifically for events. I had done my research for what the best bang for your buck is. When I went into Tuttle Cameras, I already had some sort of idea of what I'd pick out, but just to be sure, the associate actually let me use the lens on one of their show cameras and I loved it. The Lensbaby has been clutch for the events that I have recently started shooting and it translates well into to any situation that I need it for.
Here's a link to James's Instagram, definitely check out his work if you haven't already.
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