WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
I finished my school at Los Angeles’ satellite of Emerson College in 2006 and haven’t stopped learning. See, I was a theory kid in college and studied and read everything, watched everything. This was before the digital revolution. We were shooting on film. We were developing film. We were buying it. It was fun, but it only allowed me to step up to the plate a handful of times. By the time I graduated, the field of video seemed like a place I could get more experience, even though at the time cinephiles were less than accepting of it. Video was associated with news broadcast and three-camera sitcoms and Skinemax. But as a child of the 90’s I think I always wanted to make music videos. Not that they are as prevalent or important today as they might have been, even in the mid-aughts, but they were everything I appreciated about creating pictures to capture hearts and minds.
They’re short content, created on very little to work with. Despite little time and budget (or some cases, charisma), you have to make it all fit. It has to elevate or ground a song. It’s a chance to make some real choices. To say something about who you are as an artist. Anyways I digress…
So I started to work at camera rental houses, and witnessed the tectonic shift to HD, and then the addition of cinema-quality glass, and then again with 4k and then again, when everything got smaller and less expensive. All of this happened in the span of five years and straddling a recession, no less. And with that, I learned a lot about production practices and budgets.
Long story short, I got fed up with customers breaking and stealing things, but before I left Division Camera, now Camera Division (“wink”), I met my lovely wife Jade and started freelancing full-time in 2013. Since then, I have worked behind the camera and in the field with clients like Macy’s, Becca Cosmetics, All Saints, and People Magazine to get them the content they need. Content creation – across the board – needs to be accelerated, and while the means of production continue to change, the chance to frame the world into a compelling square remains my life’s delight.
How do you stand out in your field??
I think the reason I have survived this long is my insistence on being a true gentleman who will deliver the shot.
I understand that every room I walk into has a role for me to fulfill. I am the man the crew needs me to be. My unique ability is deploying sensitivity and tact down tracks of spiraling possibilities to quickly arrive at elegant solutions in the field or in studio.
Johnny on the Ball is my middle name and I'm not going to take any more of your time and attention than is needed. What you need to know is that I am always working to understand what you need to get the shot.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
Developing a web-series from a concept I have been attempting to untangle forever. I have the means to produce it myself and I am enjoying calling in some long-owed favors. It’s about a disbanded cult and the evil machinations of a hypnotic sea-slug.
My personal photo work explores that valley between motion and still images. Creating a tasteful and remarkable GIF or loop can be challenging, and I’m working on my contribution to elevating this format and its power to seize eyeballs.
WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?
My style (bear with me) is somewhere in the gulf of cinema and still. I am fascinated with how the two mediums are so similar and yet so different and powerful in their own right. One technology stops time and frames an instant forever. The other collects time through a square and jettisons you through an ever-flowing stream of images and context. The capturing of the world is what really feeds my passion for this stuff. Sounds more like an approach to understanding the mediums, but they inform my style. My videos should feel like they are the view into a world that gazes back at the viewer confronting the audience with the beauty and power of a moment through time. My stills should feel cinematic. As if they were a single frame stolen from a movie and offered up to the viewer to start their own story with.
Where perspective is concerned, I feel like, as a straight white dude in his 30s, I have a overly-represented perspective and voice. At this point in history, my perspective should be as plastic as possible. My understanding of my own perspective’s over-representation should be used to assist others in sharing their under-represented stories and experiences.
I am particular to a fault when it comes to taste in music and film, but I do appreciate almost any creative endeavor for the lessons it can teach and the temerity it takes to put it out there.
Coming from a more technical, more hands-on world, I have yet to make something that is illustrative of my unique tastes. See above mentioned web series for the exception to this.
WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?
Specialists tend to be rewarded for their narrow expertise, but I always viewed that as a way to find yourself at a dead end eventually. If you’re the best, clients hire you to do that one thing you do and then you are off to the races to keep up with whatever the next trend is. I find this to be true across most my passions. I have never thought of myself as just a photographer, even though I have had the pleasure of working solely at that, for the last seven years.
I see cooking as a big part of my life and I love to do it. I get asked why I don’t go into that, and I warn them that I can’t make the same mistake I did with photography. Turning your passion into a job can leave you dispassionate at times, because it’s not just some low stakes thing you do for yourself to make you happy. Cooking is something I couldn’t bear any love lost with.
But I got ideas, man! I want to develop concepts and write more. There are so many stories and ideas I have for animation, virtual reality, video games, web-series, and some more traditional commercial formats like jumbo screens and in store displays. As a photographer, you are often confronted with the reality and limits of the real world and how much you can actually control from behind the lens. The unlimited bounds of just animation alone would be utterly refreshing to work with.
One day, I hope to put the camera down, and at some point, do more of the idea-building than image-building.
WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?
Seeing waste created by thoughtlessness – in terms of time, money, energy and respect.
It’s rare that careful, thoughtful consideration doesn’t produce a better end product.
IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?
Scan receipts, organize expense reports, update my social media accounts and website, so I could spend more time on writing, development, and putting my ideas first, instead of just keeping the lights on.
LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?
I am pretty happy with the path I am on and how I got here. If I had to use a time machine for personal gain and not altering the course of world history, I’d probably tell myself when to buy and sell some crypto-currency.
IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
A ruthless industry accountant or insurance agent. I would want some insight into how best to organize my business and family, in regards to taxes and liabilities.
WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I want to work hand-in-glove with clients on building cross-platform campaigns. From concept development to edit, I will fit anywhere into the process, to make ideas come to life.
DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.
Recently, a beauty client asked me to find the corresponding light for their new line of products: dawn, dusk, mid-day, but they all had to have water somewhere in them. I spent a few days getting up before the sun and finding the handful of places it could be seen rising over water in Northern California, then styled and shot all day, until the sun set. It was a creative task that was coupled to logistic challenges and a whole lot of tabletop prop styling in Pacific winds, but I couldn’t have been happier completing that assignment. My car was, no joke, broken into and I was robbed of my lights and batteries on day two of three. Even that couldn’t take away from my satisfaction of single-handing the assignment from creative brief to edit.
So, my ideal job would be something like that shooting a multi-media campaign in the field with a real lean crew. Where the priority is finding the right light and place.
WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE?
The following do not include equipment, but my cache of equipment is typically part of a deal sweetener.
$500 a day for lighting or technical direction.
$750 a day for camera operation
$1200 a day for single-handed still photo or GIF capture.
$1500 a day for Director of Photography
$2000 a day for single-handed DP/ Direct
HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
I always appreciate a phone call (213.309.5142). It’s like the new snail mail but less bills and government docs to loath. If you need me on your project, a boilerplate email or vague text message is my first step toward hesitation. I find that I have a lot of questions that go unanswered over the first few salvos of email, so if we are short on time let me know what sort of equipment we are working with or what you are looking for. Tech and gear are my wheelhouse and I have no qualms with spending time making sure we are all on the same page before we move forward.
HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?
Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.
This member profile was originally published in April 2018.