Photographer Spotlight: JW Photography

CJC: JW Photography, Photographer extraordinaire, What is your background like?

JW: I grew up in a busy household, being number 7 of 11 siblings. Growing up along the wild and rugged coast in Oregon. My husband and I just celebrated 40 years of marriage last Sept. We raised 4 amazing children in California’s Tehachapi mountains and near Portland, Ore. Now I enjoy living in the foothills of Mt. Hood on the Sandy River.

CJC: Were you always passionate about photography? How did that journey begin?

JW: I discovered my love of photography in the 6th grade using an old box camera of my Grandmas.  I was able to follow that love and passion in High school and college. In the late 70’s most photographers were male and not a serious choice for girls. I had to set it aside to raise our 4 beautiful and delightful kids. NO regrets!
In 2002 I was able to get back as a full-time traveling Photographer for a company based out of Gallatin, Tennessee.  After about 10 years of that I branched out on my own.  I still do a little of that but most of my sessions are now from my home studio or using the great backdrops the Pacific Northwest has to offer.  I started doing book covers about 4 years ago and am absolutely loving the creative collaborations with models and authors!

CJC: What does a typical day look like for you? 

JW: Good question!  A typical day depends on the season.  Most days I spend about an hour over my coffee getting my thoughts together then hit the road running. Taking my morning walk in the woods.  Then, I will usually do a few chores then take the long trek upstairs in my bunny slippers to work on the computer if it’s not a shoot day. Fall is my crazy time where I work 2 months 24/7 then winters, I will rest and work on model edits and catch up on laundry and rest! I try to spend time with the Grandkids in spring and summer and go on trips to the beach getting in as many model shoots as possible.

CJC: Do you prefer shooting in or outdoors and why?

JW: BOTH!  Indoors, cause well, it’s Oregon.  It rains a lot here.  I also love the control of the studio for lighting.  Portraiture is my first and biggest love in photography. I adore outdoors for the fresh air and location backdrops. They have totally different feels and both outdoor and studio come with rewards and challenges but fulfill different needs. I don’t typically use strobes outside saving those for studio work.  I just prefer the even natural light nature provides.

CJC: What is your photo shoot process like?

JW: Well, lots of mumbling to myself and lots of lists!  I try to be organized but it always eludes me.  Ideas are fluid and when collaborating with models I try to start with concepts but be flexible enough to let those go and go with the flow of ideas that develop from there. The best stuff happens then!

CJC: If you could travel anywhere in the world for a photo shoot, where would you go and why?

JW: Ireland!  Which is strange I suppose since it’s so very green here in Oregon as well.

CJC: Is there a photo shoot concept/theme you have never done and have always wanted to?

JW: So so many! Sometimes it takes years to get the right model and the circumstance to realize those concepts.  Then like magic when the time is right it happens.  There is a cliff near me that turns golden in the sunset.  I really want a very golden blonde model wrapped in gold thread material overlooking it.  I bought the material about 3 years ago. Still waiting for the right time to make it happen.

CJC: Are there any business learnings you have learned over the years that you wish you had known at the beginning? What advice would you give your former self?

JW: Yes, The old saying is true.  Under promise and over deliver! Also, get a dang bookkeeper.

CJC: What is something most people don’t know or might be surprised to learn about you?

JW: I can’t think of anything interesting lol. Maybe that my first guy models really had to push me out of my comfort zone to let them take off their shirts for pictures.  Now, it’s so normal. I don’t even blush anymore.

CJC: What do you like to do in your downtime?

JW: Spend time with my Grandbabies!  Walking in the woods. Reading, swaying in the hammock, but I don’t have as much time for that as I used to.

CJC: Do you ever experience a creative block and how do you overcome it?

JW: Yes! I got the shingles a few years ago and was not sleeping well enough to dream.  It was very distressing to me that I wouldn’t wake up with those threads of ideas and inspiration that dreams bring.  I was so relieved when I got better and started to dream again. Doing a personal project just for myself will usually bring back creativity in other areas I have found. I usually rope my Grandkids or at the end of model shoots just do something crazy and fun. A few have even sold surprising me.

CJC: What do you find to be the most rewarding and challenging part of your business and what hurdles have you overcome while striving towards your goals?

JW: The biggest hurdle was even starting it. I felt I was too old to start on my own. When I left the  Nationwide studio I was working for 10 years ago at age 50 it was a big, difficult decision.  I faced something similar a few weeks ago as to if I should invest in a new camera and gear at 60! I decided to go for it, invest in myself and just have fun with what I do for the next few years before retirement. Giving myself permission to follow my dreams was so difficult! Wish me LUCK!

CJC: Are there any final thoughts you would like to share with the CJC Photography readers?

JW: Number one, I think you Christopher are amazing and such a fun refreshing personality and talent! Thank you for all you do for the cover and photography world.  Next, Follow your creative dreams!  Writing, modeling, photography whatever no matter how long it takes! Enjoy the stories and images that accompany the books that authors work so hard to get out to of us.  Have a great day!

CJC: A special thank you to Jean for taking part in this interview. It was such a joy to get to know her more and for sharing all of her amazing work.

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