Posts by Roxana Serna


From being an activist, an artist, a teacher and worldly traveler, Nine Francois has definitely lived a fascinating life to say the least. I was recently lucky enough to talk, laugh and live her adventures through her stories.


Where did you grow up?

My family emigrated from the French West Indies to Thibodaux, Louisiana. Before that we’d lived in Martinique and Puerto Rico but the chunk of my young life was in Louisiana.

Are you close with your family?

My Mom lives in Louisiana and my Dad lives in France so half of my family is on a different continent. The distance puts some stress on the relationship but I take my kids back as often as I can.

What/Who would you say were your biggest influence?

My brother attended Tulane University on an architectural scholarship and he was also a marvelous painter who hung out with that crowd. The people I met through him were very inspirational. I wanted to pursue art at Tulane but my parents told me that there couldn’t be two artists in one family. My second love was traveling so I thought, I’ll be a diplomat or something of that nature, so I got a degree in political science thinking I would travel the world. I got a job at the Louisiana’s World Fair working as a liaison between the city and the fair. I worked with lots of city officials and politicos including Governor Edwin Edwards and his entourage. This really opened my eyes and I learned a lot about myself, like that I really don’t like politics. I was frustrated at the time because here I have a degree in politics and I didn’t want to do anything with it! So, I left and moved to New York for two years with a boyfriend. He was an amazing illustrator. At the time, I was also into drawing, in a very photo-realistic style, but he was so good at it and so much more creative, that I decide to do something completely different, so I chose photography. I think that this boyfriend really influenced me as he introduced me to Jazz and cool avant-garde art.  It fed the part of me that I had to cut off when I was choosing my major in Tulane and it got me back to where I started, which was art.

What inspires your current work?

My aesthetic is clean lines and it’s in everything I do. It might have to do with the years that I studied graphic design and worked in Advertising. There’s just something about clean lines and well-defined space that inspires me.

What other careers were you involved in before committing to photography?

Lots! There was politics and that morphed into civic action. I’m an activist at heart but I put that aside when I moved to New York. I worked in advertising for a couple of years and learned that it was too cut throat for me. When we left New York, we moved to Austin because we heard it was great and I wanted to go back to school to study journalism. During school, I worked at an outdoor store called Wilderness Supply. We’d go rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking — I’ve always liked the outdoors so this felt really right, especially after working in advertising which was absolutely stressful. The nature part was very healing to me.

Were there any professors in school that influenced you?

Absolutely. Mark Goodman at The University of Texas at Austin was a big influence for me. I’ve been told that I’m good at critiquing and understanding photographs and if I’m good at that it’s because if him. He’s amazing. He has a way of getting inside a photograph and finding out exactly what’s it’s about. He not only inspired me with what he did but he also allowed me to teach with him as a TA and it was magic. When we’d critique work from undergraduate students I remembered thinking what a great experience it was and students would say that about his critiques as well.

At what moment did you know you wanted to become a professional photographer?

Before I entered the Masters of Art degree program I took an undergraduate photography course with Mark Goodman. It was towards the end of the semester during finals when

…I found this incredible special in the newspaper that said: Flight to and from Caracas – Seven Nights in a Hotel – $300.

I remember very clearly going to his office. He was sitting at his desk, I spread a newspaper out for him to see which advertised round trip tickets and 7 nights in a hotel in Caracas, Venezuela for only $300. I looked at Mark and asked what he would do.  He looked at it and said, “I would take some really good pictures to make a dynamite final portfolio for this class.” So that’s what I did. My first picture ever published came from that trip and that’s where it started.

What is your thought process when combining travel and photography?

I’ve been traveling a lot since working on the Animalia series so I make sure to research where I’m going and what it can offer in terms of photographs for this series. This usually leads me on the coolest adventures. I went to Costa Rica recently where there was this reclusive woman who used to be a high powered corporate executive in Ohio. She came to Costa Rica some time ago and started an animal sanctuary that you can only get to by boat. Besides a few people that work for her she lives by herself where she has about ninety animals that she takes care of. When you get to her place, you go on a boat and dock at this beach and you can’t even see the entrance to her property because it’s just jungle. You walk through it, get to her compound and you’ll see that she’s living with these monkeys that she’s raised and panthers and other different animals. I went there to photograph a sloth and we spent the whole day with her and it was out-of-control cool. So, whenever I go somewhere I dig around to see what I can find.


How long have you been teaching? What classes do you teach?

I’ve been teaching at Austin Community College since nineteen ninety-five but in between that time I’ve also taught at Texas StateUT Austin and Southwestern University in Georgetown. Right now I’m part-time at ACC where I teach Introductory to Photography and another class that I love very much called Expressive Photography. In this class we collectively pick a theme and do all kinds of research on what that theme might means to us. Each student works all semester long on a portfolio trying to develop that idea and at the end they have an exhibit.


What was the story or thought process when creating the Composites series?

Sometimes the story is the first step and then you build the work to follow the idea but sometimes the story comes after you build the work. For the Composites series, it was the latter. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to do so I hung a big piece of white cloth right by the entrance of my door and in front of that was a chair and then my 4×5 camera. When anybody came into my house, I’d ask if they’d sit for a portrait. Then, all of a sudden, I had all of these pictures of people that I captured on Polaroid type 55 and each was its own object. At some point, I got into using the photographs as material and I started cutting, then sewing and stapling and pinching. Then, I began to see these objects as material that I could manipulate. From there, I created a different series that recombined faces, sometimes with people that were completely disconnected, sometimes with other family members or with different photos of the same person. I don’t know what it means but they looked really good together. That started another series I did called, Family AlbumMy favorite piece from that is at Nicholls State University in Louisiana where my mother taught for 30 years. It’s a 4×6 foot grid of individual photo tiles and each tile is comprised of glass, a photograph, masonite board and then a rod that sticks it off the wall. Each rod is one inch, two inches or three inches long so the tiles are undulating. I photographed portraits of myself, my mother and my grandmother and found other photographs of us in albums from all the different stages of our lives and I meshed them together. I created these composite portraits on regular photographic paper but they’re backed up against an MDF board which is full of pollutants. So you have this portrait that’s a combination of three generations of women and the images are bleeding and fading. Some come forward while the others recede. It’s a living portrait. I love what happens with time and the chemistry in the photographs that I can’t control.



Family Album from left: Passage, Heritage-1

Family Album from left: Passage, Heritage-1

What keeps you motivated to continually create a unique body of work?

I think the most beneficial motivator for me would be to take off and do a residency because what I’m lacking in my life is an extended period of time when I can just concentrate on creating. You need time to create. It takes a lot of open time to think and explore.

My consistent advice to my students who are about to graduate is – Sell everything! Leave now!

One of the things I remember as a kid is that you don’t have a sense of perspective because you live so much in the moment and think that it’s going to be like this forever. Sometimes you don’t realize that it takes one thing like marriage or a trauma or children or a job that changes the whole balance of your time. So, I tell my students that if they have the option to defer their student loans for a couple of years, they should just sell everything and get out of here! As someone who is bicultural I think that getting out and exploring the world is something that really needs to be pushed in our society for so many reasons. For people to become tolerant and for people to become more inspired. When you leave your country , your safely zone, and go somewhere else, you see things so differently.

What’s your favorite part of creating a new body of work?

The discovery. When you have an idea that’s turning in your head and you’re trying to make it work, then take that one seminal photograph that goes click. It says yes, this is the path to take; this is how you’re going to talk about this. The idea and the technique to me really have to work together. For the Animalia series, the giraffe picture was the very first one that I took. The story behind that happened when I had finished graduate school. I was so burnt out I didn’t know what to do so one day I took up a toy camera – a little plastic camera with a plastic lens – and went to a friend’s wedding in Louisiana. It was outdoors on a farm and I got side tracked by this rooster that was parading around. I slipped out of the wedding party and started stalking it, so while my friends were getting married I was chasing this one rooster down. I captured a photograph with these streaks of colors of the bird as it ran. When I saw the image I cut it out and put it in my journal. Years later, I went back and saw it and thought, well this could be something. I started going to farms and taking pictures where I photographed light colored animals against a dark background which developed into a series of work called The Farm. I kept that process going until one day I drove past the Exotic Sunrise B&B off of Ranch Road 12. They had zebras, giraffes and ostriches and other types of animals. When I saw the giraffe I realized I had to change everything. I switched it around and started photographing animals against the sun so the animals became dark and the background blew out white. That started the whole aesthetic for that project.


Animalia: Giraffe, Zebra-1

What has been your best career decision so far?

I think teaching was an excellent decision. I come from a long line of professors and I never thought that it would be my thing but it’s the right mixture for me of supervision and freedom. When you teach at an institution you have a lot of freedom to run your own class. It’s getting more constricted and institutionalized these days but even within that there’s a lot of space to be creative. I teach part-time now and in the end, it’s really great  because I have time to work on creative projects and my fine art.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Austin?

I really love riding my bicycle during the East Austin Studio Tour. I’ve been living on the east side for over 12 years and I love it here. I feel like I live in a zone of creative people who are always exploring, thinking, stretching, and creating. It’s very inspiring.

What are you favorite restaurants?

Justine’s and the Blue Dahlia. I also like the Hillside Farmacy.

In the world of photography, many groups and organizations work to promote photographic education and serve as a platform for up-and-coming photographers; we have the American Society of Media Professionals, the American Photographic Artists, Professional Photographers of America, and the Society for Photographic Education to name just a few. While any group of like-minded individuals with a common goal aids in bring new ideas and conversations to existence, arguably none has been as influential or as hard working as FotoFest.

Dating back to 1983, FotoFest was already a promising organization with its highly-regarded co-founders Frederick Baldwin and Wendy Watriss. Born in Switzerland, Frederick Baldwin moved to the United States at a young age and served as a Marine in Korea where he would later receive two Purple Heart Medals for wounds taken in battle. His early years were spent freelancing for such behemoths as Life, National Geographic, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, and many more. By 1981 Baldwin was teaching at the University of Texas at Austin in the School of Communications and also directed the Photojournalism program at the University of Houston. That same year, Wendy Watriss was presented with the prestigious Oskar Barnack Award for her work that exposed the effects of Agent Orange as experienced by Vietnam Veterans. After receiving the award from Leica Camera AG at the oldest European photography festival, the Rencontres Photographiques d’Arles, Wendy along with Frederick Baldwin and the European gallery director Petra Beneteler incorporated FotoFest into the Houston, TX photographic ecosystem.

FotoFest 1 Pic Credit W_Pickering

Photo by Walter Pickering

Since, FotoFest has served the community of photographers through fourteen international biennial exhibitions, numerous educational programs such as Literacy through Photography, international exchange programs, and the coveted portfolio reviews referred to as The Meeting Place. Together along with various multi-cultural organizational spin-offs, FotoFest serves as the most important platform for new ideas, exchanges in inter-cultural art, and looks to the future to sustain a relevant interest in all photographic happenings around the globe. for new ideas, exchanges in inter-cultural art, and looks to the future to sustain a relevant interest in all photographic happenings around the globe.

For the Fifteenth FotoFest Biennial, VIEW FROM INSIDE, the world takes a look at contemporary Arab photographic art and highlights 49 Arab artists from 13 different countries. With the War on Terror in the Middle East still fresh in American’s minds, this collection of work showcases introspection and expression from a culture that most Americans have yet to experience. “This generation of artists grew up when satellite television, photo digital technologies, the internet and social media became widespread in the Arab world,” says FotoFest Senior Curator Wendy Watriss. With the internet and social media offering channels between different cultures, it’s not the differences but the similarities that will most likely be talking points for discussions among students and artists, alike. This year’s biennial also comes on the heels of the new executive director, Steven Evans. As a revered artist and curator, Evans looks to bring a fresh vision to the organization but intends to keep the basic principles of spreading knowledge the same.

FotoFest is a biennial multimedia festival that is held in Houston, TX. There are various reasons as to why artist attend each year, whether you want to network, experience new culture or view amazing art. Creators have their most recent work reviewed; empowered and enlightened minds will be surrounding the event giving them a chance to connect with other well-known artist. Curators, art buyers, book editors, and art enthusiast will be attending assuring that countless opportunities to network ¬¬will be available. In addition, you can admire the work of talented artists that had the privilege of being selected for such a prestigious exhibit. Each artist creates a body of work that impacts the viewer making it an invigorating experience that will last long after the event is over.

“What’s great about FotoFest is the photographers and artists that you meet. They fly from all over the world and sometimes it’s a once and a lifetime chance to meet certain people. There are friends that I’ve met at FotoFest that I still keep in touch with today.”- Photographer, Walker Pickering


Karin Adrian Von Roques, a renowned curator, will be providing her assistance and knowledge of middle-eastern art. She studied Islamic history and has a background in contemporary Arabic and Iranian art cultures.

“The FotoFest 2014 Biennial will be the first presentation of contemporary photo-based and video art from the Arab countries to be done in the United States in recent years. We are looking at the work of the most important artists from several Arab countries.” – Curator, Karin Adrian Von Roques\

FotoFest 3 Pic Credit W_Pickering

Photo by Walter Pickering


Other programs and events include Arab conferences, lectures and symposiums. Topics to be discussed are: The History of Visual Art and Photography in the Arab World, Photography in the Arab World Today, Religion and Spirituality in Contemporary Art, The Role of New Media in Contemporary Art, and Gender Art in the Middle East and North Africa. This will be held Saturday March 29, 2014 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (MFAH). Artists will be presenting to local schools, colleges and universities. Arab literature, music, poetry and films will also be showcased at the event. Visit to stay informed on all dates and locations.

FotoFest 2 Pic Credit W_Pickering

Photo by Walter Pickering

Arab exhibitions will be held from March 15 – April 27 2014. The following are the four venues where the art will be displayed and open to the general public.

Spring Studios, 1824 Spring Street, Houston, TX 77007
Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter Street, Houston, TX 77007
Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, Houston, TX 77007
Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056


I had the pleasure of talking to Eric Doggett recently and picked his brain on what made him click as a successful commercial photographer in today’s competitive industry. We spoke about his career decisions and the creative influences that made him the photographer he is today.

What/Who were your biggest inspirations growing up?
I came to photography late in life. When I was younger, I was more inspired by other creative areas like music and art. I spent four years in the Air Force at the Pentagon, and at the end of that tour I started thinking more about creative areas I was interested in. One of the big ones for me (and still to this day) was film music – I have a crazy appetite for film scores. It’s a bit of a weird type of music to get hooked on, but I love them. So when my family and I moved to Austin, I did music for independent films and commercials in town. Now that I’ve moved into a visual medium, all that music inspires me while I’m working. I can match up a certain soundtrack with a mood I’m in, or the mood of an image I’m working on, and be very happy.

Do you have any influences that inspire your current work?
Sure. Like many of us, I have several. Some of my favorites include Dan Winters (who, interestingly, I run into on occasion as he lives about 20 minutes away), Randal Ford, Jeremy Cowart, George Lange, Art Streiber, Brian Smith, Dean Bradshaw, Erik Almas, Frank Ockenfels and lately, Matt Hoyle for his humor work.

What career path were you involved in before deciding that you needed a change?
My background was in information technology/web development. We would create applications for various organizations at the Pentagon. It was an interesting place to be at when I was in my 20s. But (like all development-type work), it takes a certain mindset to put up with those fluorescent lights all day. I just knew it wasn’t for me. For example, I would have more fun creating promotional videos or images for various projects than I ever had writing code. In fact, one of my favorite accomplishments from that time was creating the official logo for the government’s Y2K effort. This was back around Photoshop 3, when layers were new and all the rage.


What moment made you realize that you wanted to pursue photography?
2005. I was doing web development work for a health company and our first son was born. I somehow convinced my wife that we needed a new camera to capture all of his little life events, and somehow by the end of that year I found myself shooting weddings.

How did you get started?
The first one was one of those ‘friend of a friend’ weddings that was going to be small. There was a good three-month period where I remember getting my hands on any photography book I could find and reading it over and over. The funny thing about weddings for me was that my most favorite time of the whole event was when I had ten minutes alone with the couple to create images. In my mind, I was spending eight to ten hours of shooting to get those ten minutes of fun. And as I did more and more of them, I started sketching ideas for shoots we could do during that time. And they started involving more and more humor. In fact, consultants would look over my portrait and wedding work and see this consistent humor thread. I shot weddings until some time in 2010, when I started becoming more interested in editorial and commercial work. They were a break from the reactionary world of wedding photography. I was able to spend time planning a shoot, focusing on what was needed to create the image I had imagined.

I really enjoy the humor in your photography. What is your thought process when creating those concepts? 
It depends. Sometimes I get a client who is looking for a funny idea, and those shoots are always the best. Other times, I think of an idea on my own that’s funny to me and I set out to create it. Usually, those personal humor shoots are the ones that people remember. They sort of start out with a “wouldn’t it be funny if..” and then go from there.

What is your favorite part of creating and executing those concepts?

I love to sketch out ideas on paper. Drawing it out helps me think of new possibilities. Seeing it drawn out is definitely a fun part. Another is when the person I’m photographing ‘gets it,’ knows what I’m going for, and really gives a great ‘performance.’


How do you keep yourself motivated?
Since I usually retouch my own work, I love keeping up with the latest techniques and software. Seeing what other people are doing with Photoshop can be a big source of motivation for me. I also keep a running list in Evernote of shoot ideas that I think would be fun to do.

What is your favorite part of being a photographer?
I love to experiment a lot in post production, so I definitely enjoy that process. Also, whenever I feel like I’ve put in a good day working, I’m happy. This is tough sometimes as we all can approach this job in a reactionary way, dealing with whatever fires are going on that day. However, if I’ve done a good job planning tasks for the day/week and then get them checked off, I really enjoy that feeling of accomplishment. The challenge here has been separating a task from busy work.

What advice or motivation would you give for anyone inspired to start their careers in the photography industry after being involved in something different, then competing with other photographers that have been involved in the industry for most of their lives?

I think the best piece of advice is to be sure that what you are offering to the market is your own unique voice.

It’s easy to get caught in a mode where you are constantly copying other people’s styles or techniques as a test for yourself, only to find that your whole portfolio consists of tests you’ve done over a period of time. You end up with no overall direction – just a bunch of well-crafted images that are completely different in look and approach. Find inspiration in others, try to recreate techniques they have done, and then put all of that knowledge in the back of your head and store it as an ingredient for your own style.

What has been your best career decision so far?
Probably accepting that I’m not the perfect match for every client. Artists by their very nature are pleasers – we want people to enjoy the work we create, and we want the opportunity to serve as many people as possible. So it’s a bit of a leap to say ‘I’m not the best person for you on this project‘. I like it when someone can look at an image and know that it’s mine before they read that I shot it. It means that I am developing my own vision and style. That process has taken years for me, but it’s the only way that I would do photography today.

What is your favorite piece of equipment that you use?
A photographer named Joey Lawrence. once talked about how he used neutral density filters combined with flash to get a really shallow depth of field with the punch of a flash. It’s a great look, and I’ve found myself using that set-up more and more. I’ve also developed an addiction to tethering – I love having a laptop on set whenever I can.

What current projects are you working on?
I’ve done lots of editorial work in town and so every now and then I’ll have a magazine project come up. I’m also working on some projects involving 3D. It’s an area I had a little work in a long time ago, and I’ve been working on some fine art images that blend photography and CG images. I also do fun holiday card images for clients every year at They take up a lot of time starting around October, and it’s always a challenge as every client is unique! Additionally, I just launched an Introduction to Compositing e-book with Peachpit Press. It’s a great deal at $5, and they have several for sale at

Who is your dream client?
A lot of creative types will say that a dream client is one that will let you create whatever you want. I’ve found, however, that I like a little bit of constraint. I’d rather have a client give me their input about what they think would work, because more often than not, it sparks new ideas and directions that neither of us would have envisioned on our own.

What is your favorite thing about living in Austin?
I love the fact that everything is usually no more than 20-30 minutes away. We’ve been here since 2002 and we love it. We can’t imagine living anywhere else. There’s always a new restaurant to try.

Favorite restaurant?
This is tough. Really tough. I’m just going to rattle off a few of my favorites: The Grove Wine Bar, Hop Doddy for burgers, Perla’s for fancy stuff. Magnolia Cafe for tasty breakfast. I’m also looking forward to trying out the new food trailer area off 360. Oh – and any place that will sell me a real copper mug with a Moscow Mule drink. If they serve it in a glass, it isn’t real. :)

fish plate

Tina Bell Stamos recently moved from California and now she calls Austin home. I spoke with Tina about her roots, influential icons and successful catering business that led her to becoming the talented visual artist that she is today.

Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from a small town in Western Kansas called Stockton.  Population 1,300. Alice’s bakery was a regular Saturday morning stop and had the BEST donuts I’ve ever eaten. My kindergarten class toured her bakery and I swear, she was frying donuts in a Folger’s coffee tin on a camping burner; I think there’s something to that technique. We moved to Lawrence, Kansas when I was high school and I consider that home.

What college did you attend?
The University of Kansas – home to the great KU Jayhawks. That’s the only sport I watch and only if they are doing well. I’m a fair weather fan and don’t have cable.

The catering business took off so I decided to ditch the museum plan and go with food

Were there any other career options that you considered before going into food styling?
My degree is in Art History and was planning on grad school in museum studies. I love art but sadly, cannot draw my way out of a paper bag. So, I guess studying art/artist is the next best thing.  In the early stages of grad school, I decided to start a catering business to fund my education.  The catering business took off so I decided to ditch the museum plan and go with food.  I found my creative niche! I catered for 5 years and then segued into styling.  I’ve always wanted to work with food. It’s my best fit. I also develop recipes so I feel like it’s a balanced career. Visual + taste.

What made you decide on it?
While catering, I was contacted by Hallmark to assist on their newly launched magazine.  The first day I cooked bacon with tweezers and fell in love with styling.

I was really drawn into all aspects especially the visual approach to food.

Catering was taking it’s toll on my body and I knew I could not do it forever, so the timing to make a career shift was right.  I assisted my mentor who lives in San Francisco for about three years. Some of my first gigs were in Napa and San Francisco so it was pretty charming start. It’s a job that is challenging, you have to think on your toes and no two days are alike. I like that kind of work day.  I also have a pretty insatiable case of wanderlust and there’s a lot of traveling with this job.  Plus, I get to cook everyday and hang out with photographers…it’s pretty sweet!

Who are your biggest influences?
Iconic food inspirations would be James Beard, Alice Waters, Julia Child, and Martha Stewart (this is not always met with enthusiasm from others, but I love Martha). Every year, I attend a food retreat called Eat Retreat and always come back inspired and changed. It’s like summer camp for adults in the food world.  I think Chad Robertson from Tartine is a genius.  I can’t stop looking at Edible Shelby by Todd Shelby.  I want to eat at every single restaurant mentioned in that book.  I love Afield by Jesse Griffiths and photographed by Jody Horton - so beautiful!

Have you thought about becoming a food photographer?
No. I love styling.  I love photography and can take a halfway decent photo but I’ll keep it as a hobby.

Are you an all natural food stylist or do have tricks to make some of the food look real?
I don’t use a lot of chemicals on a food shot, but it’s kinda understood, you don’t eat the food on set. It’s been handled, might have a tee pin lodged in it. If it’s meat, it’s probably raw.  You have to be efficient on shoots and since you only see one side of things, you only cook one side.  So vegetables that look roasted have actually just been quickly browned in oil and only cooked on one side.

All food is prepared in components and then reassembled to work for the shot.  Meat looks best seared on the outside and finished with a torch so it’s totally raw on the inside.  You want it to stay plump and maintain it’s shape.  And then there’s ice cream or anything frozen.  Since you have about a 30 second window before it loses it’s barking you either have to go to set with dry ice and shoot fast or fake it. I always have a batch of fake ice cream in my kit just in case, so yes, I have tricks.

Do you have a favorite type of food to prepare?

At home, we try to keep eating out to a minimum and eat pretty healthy. It gets pretty wacky because I try to not throw away any food and I never follow recipes. I cook very instinctively and try to piece together what I have available.  Occasionally, I’ll obsess about perfecting a particular dish and will make it over and over again for months at a time.  After I got back from Spain, my obsession was the Spanish tortilla. Lately,I’ve been into making shrubs which are drinking vinegars.

Who is your dream client?
When I first started styling, it was Gourmet.  I still miss that magazine.  Right now, I’m in love with the direction digital magazines are headed.  For a bit, the quality of photos in magazines was really suffering but it seems like that’s on an upswing.  I’ve worked on several magazines that have sadly folded and that’s always been my favorite work.  It’s where you get to be the most creative, but as far as a dream client, I don’t
have one.

What projects are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m developing recipes for 2 chapters for a Better Homes & Garden’s Pantry Staples cookbook that will be coming out in 2014.  My chapter topics are quick casseroles and great grains.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to go into this profession?
Have buckets of patience!  It doesn’t happen overnight.  Not even close.  Assist as much as possible.  Practice, practice, practice. Have numerous skill sets that you can do.  Like styling + recipe development, or food and prop styling.

Be flexible, agreeable and check your ego at the door.

Food shoots are about collaboration of ideas and esthetics, but your ultimate job is to make the client happy. If they want you to loose the parsley sprig, do it.

What has been your most successful career decision so far?
To commit to the hustle.  We’ve been in Austin less than a year.  Before that, we were in California and before that, Dallas.  All within a three year period!  When we got to Austin, I didn’t want to go through the steps to reestablish myself in another place.  I was being very mopey about the whole thing.  I finally got over it, redid my web site and started building local connections.  I’m so glad I did because I’ve meet great people and gotten a good amount of work from my efforts.  I’ve accepted the fact that I will always have to tend to the not so fun parts of working freelance.  There’s not one thing or another that I did that was successful except for committing to this career and taking care of the details that go along with that decision.

Where is you favorite place to eat in Austin?

Oh lordy – so many!  I’m still exploring so it will probably change next week.  I love the son-in-law at Sway, everything at Elizabeth Street Cafe, the lobster roll at Perla’s and the ceviche at La Condesa.


Originally from Houston, TX, architectural photographer and videographer Jonathan H. Jackson has called Austin home for the past 9 years. I talked with him recently about his life, career and inspirations.

Who would you say were your biggest inspirations growing up? 
When I was in 6th grade, at Gregory Lincoln Middle School, I was able to take photography classes that included dark room and camera training. My father was a hobbyist photographer. He taught me the basics and let me use his equipment for the class. This was the beginning of my understanding of photography.

Do you have any influences that inspire your current work? 
Hillman Curtis was a film director and graphic designer. He died in 2012. His book  Making the Invisible Visible had a huge impact on me. It deepened my understanding of the creative process, identifying themes, and the elements of communication through visual arts. Hillman would email with me from time to time and I always considered him a mentor of sorts, even though it was only occasional communication.

Julius Shulman who died in 2009 was the “father” of architectural photography. He certainly did not invent it, but his contribution to mid-century modern architecture is immeasurable. I’ve always studied Julius Shulman’s work through books, online, etc., but a few years ago I had the privilege of seeing a film by Eric Bricker’s called Visual Acoustics.This film was my first exposure to a more real sense of the person Shulman was. He had an amazing personality and was an amazing photographer and artist.

Terry Lickona is a big influence on me today. He is not a photographer or artist, but he has been in charge of Austin City Limits for 36 of the show’s 39 year history. His management of the crew, booking, and all other elements in producing this legendary show has been a hugely educational experience for me. He does not micro manage anyone. He surrounds himself with quality people and trusts that the outcome will reflect that quality.

His ability to recognize talent and encourage the creative process is a main part of why I feel so honored to work with him and the show.

Where did you attend college? 
I spent a few years at Texas Tech, but there was not much of me actually attending classes there, so I went to the University of Houston, which was only a couple of blocks away from my childhood home. I wanted to be a filmmaker and the university did not have a film program. Alternatively I chose photography and graphic design at the school of fine arts.

Did you have any professors that influenced you creatively or otherwise?
Not really. I had a few rivalries in college that motivated me. A few of them were professors.

What breakthroughs (if any) did you experience when deciding on a career in photography/videography? 
My career started in graphic design. My first professional job out of college was at Savage Design in Houston. There I worked as a multimedia artist and developer, but I also did a lot of photography for them, including photographing the firm’s portfolio. Later in running my own design business, I found my clients needed photography to go along with the design projects. I called myself a designer at the time, but I worked as a photographer on a regular basis. Many of my projects were for retail businesses, neighborhood developments, and industry. I became well versed in photographing buildings, homes, and environments. Eventually it became obvious that my strengths were in photography and I decided to focus my work on architectural photography.

Once I did this, I became busier than ever and I’ve never looked back.

Were there any hardships or sacrifices that you had to make to get where you are now? 
The ups and downs of workloads and money flow as a freelancer have been the greatest challenges of the past. Except for one year that I worked as an Art Director for a manufacturer, I have been working as a freelance artist for the last 14 years. Early in my career, there would be times where I had no idea when, or if, money would come in. I remember often noticing my friends who had successful corporate careers involving large salaries, stock options, etc. This would cause doubt in my mind about the career path I had chosen, but the freelancer experience agreed with me overall. I enjoyed taking ownership of the process. In working as a freelancer, I was able to reap the rewards of my work. It did not matter if it was on a smaller scale, it was my own and I could not get enough of that feeling. Eventually the scale of the projects grew, and now I get to work on projects I could only imagine when I began.

Why architecture photography? 
My commercial photography career has always been focused on architecture. Not that it was my favorite thing to photograph, or that I was obsessed with being an architect, but architecture was a subject that I had come to some level of understanding with it. It was just important to me. I never formally studied architecture, but I did have a slightly obsessive interest in the “why?” aspect of design. I have always been interested in the human interaction with design. Whether it would be in graphic and visual elements, environmental, furniture, or architecture, I wanted to know what was the common appeal of design to human nature. My father was an interior designer in Houston and he taught me a bit about drafting plans. From time to time, he would draft plans of a fantasy home he wanted to build. It was never built, but I enjoyed the ever-evolving ideas and plans. I think this idea of influencing one’s environment was what I loved. Now, I think of my work as the opportunity to capture what the architect, interior designer, and their clients have created.

What are your views on the future of videography vs. photography? 
I believe technologys’ advancement will continue to blur the line in the equipment used in photography and videography, but they are two different animals all together. I know photojournalists may have assignments that now involve both videography and photography, but for the commercial photographer or videographer, the approach is totally different. The Chicago Sun laid off their entire photo staff. I think this kind of thing will continue to happen as things change. I don’t think all photographers see the changes as a threat. Once a client asked me if I see the advancement of technology in cameras as a threat to my business. I assume he was implying that if everyone has a great camera, what’s the point of hiring a photographer. I told him the joke of the photographer who goes to a dinner party, he/she meets the host and they say “I love your photographs, you must have an amazing camera.” Later at dinner the host serves dinner and the photographer says, “this food is delicious, you must have an amazing oven.”

What is your favorite piece of equipment that you use? Why? 
I’m not sure that I have a favorite, but I do really enjoy using a ladder with a tall tripod. I think too much architectural photography is done at eye level. I enjoy finding the perspective that helps tell the story.

What has been your most successful career decision so far?
I often think of the moment I decided to send a direct message tweet to one of the Austin City Limits producers asking to shoot a time-lapse of a taping day. They liked the idea and I made a time-lapse of Pearl Jam’s taping (part of Season 35). The resulting video was very popular online, and due to the video’s success in promoting that episode, a role was created for me at ACL. Since then, I have created over 50 videos showing behind-the-scenes at ACL, the opening sequence for seasons 37, 38, and 39, and a “backplate” for every episode. I also help film the interviews and as of right now, I am editing a preview for season 39.

I also volunteered to shoot the AIA homes tour for 2009 and 2010. This was a huge move for me as it introduced myself and my work to many of Austin’s best architects, some of which are still clients.

Who is your dream client? 
I am currently working for my dream client as a videographer. As an architectural photographer, I would love to travel the world and photograph architecture for some type of publication.

What projects are you currently working on? 
At the moment, it’s all video editing. I am working on a video covering the Ride Festival, a music festival in Telluride, CO, a preview of ACL’s season 39, and a sizzle/demo reel for Lickon Vision, which is the company that produces ACL.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers? 

Focus on a niche.

Aspiring photographers write me often and ask this question. They will send a link to their portfolio and tell me about their experience and education. I advise them to narrow their portfolio, from their favorite and best images, to the images that represent only the work they want to do. Too often I see aspiring photographers who show wedding and event photography, along with their nature photography, shots from their last vacation, and a few images from a series they did in school, etc. I know they are trying to establish their experience through such a diverse portfolio, but it actually communicates the opposite idea and makes their work seem scattered. If a potential client is searching for a particular type of photographer, they will be more likely to hire the photographer that communicates their expertise through a dedicated portfolio, rather than a portfolio that communicates all the different types of photography.

What is your favorite thing to do in Austin?
I have two daughters ages 7 and 4. Much of my time is spent with my wife and the girls, which is exactly how I like it. We enjoy taking them camping, hiking, mountain biking, and outdoor activities, but since I am answering this question in August, the answer is Deep Eddy. When I have time to myself, I often spend it hanging out with my friends, dirt biking, or playing soccer. I also see a lot of live music.