I started to appreciate photography in high school, but I never took a photo class because I was focusing on other forms of art. I eventually picked up a camera about five years ago, when I was 24. I was getting a Master’s degree at the Columbia Journalism School and I took a one-credit class to learn the basics.
I was feeling burnt out by the time I got near the end of grad school. Working full time, going to school a part-time, and living in New York City for a few years really wore me out. I decided to do what anyone looking to start a career in journalism would do: become a camp counselor!
I went to a camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California to work as a staff photographer. For three months, all I did was take hundreds of pictures a day: kids on a high ropes course, water skiing on the lake, sailing at sunset, at dance parties – everything camp had to offer. It was so fun! The best part was I left knowing how to work a camera really well.
After I left camp, I kept thinking in frames. I would walk around thinking, “that’s a picture!” The problem was: I didn’t have a camera. It really ate me up inside. I felt like I had all this pent up artistry inside I couldn’t get out.
At this point, I was working as a news producer back in my home state of Indiana. Thankfully, a worker’s husband was a photographer and he had an older Nikon DSLR he wasn’t using, so he gave it to me. That was the game changer!
After that, I started shooting as much as I could! Events. Portraits. Landscape. Engagements. Documentary. I was shooting whatever I wanted just for fun.
I started with very little equipment. I rocked a Nikon D300S and a Nikkor 50mm lens for the first three years I shot. I finally upgraded to a Nikon D750 last month and added an 85mm lens into the mix, too.
After a year or so of having a photography Instagram profile, I decided to streamline it. It just looked messy: I had color photos next to black and white, weddings next to fitness photos, and detail shots next to wider photos. I wanted it to look cleaner so I streamlined it into black and white only, and I’m super glad I did.
It took me a long time to call myself a photographer. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to do that. My portraits are very simple, basic even. My edits are light, and that’s intentional. For a while, it was because I couldn’t do any better, but now I embrace the simplicity. I want my work to be straightforward, pure, and clean. I do feel a plateau is coming, though, and that soon enough I will want to push myself more creatively. But in the words of Elle Woods, “I’m not afraid of a challenge.” I don’t know if I will ever be a full-time photographer, but I do hope it becomes a bigger part of my life in the years ahead.
View Jason’s Hub profile here.