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Trove Artist Management is a woman-owned, women-empowering talent agency based in Austin, Texas. We are dedicated to promoting, educating and supporting women and culturally diverse artists and social influencers. Trove represents photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists and other artists working locally and nationally. Our roster has served clients such as Elle Magazine, Aveda, Betsey Johnson, Zac Posen, San Antonio Magazine, Austin Monthly, Modern Salon, Jack Ryan, By George and more.

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Dallas-based Jonah Gilmore recently shared a bit about his background and business with us:

Internationally-published photographer Jonah Gilmore grew up in the northwest, and has been shooting professionally since 2002. One of his first endeavors was starting a portrait and wedding studio in rural Eastern Washington State. From Washington he moved to Southern California in 2007, where he expanded his portfolio to include fashion, editorial, lifestyle, and advertising.

In 2011 Jonah moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where he currently resides, shooting lifestyle, advertising and a variety of commercial projects. Over the last 3 years he has been shooting an increasing number of commercial video projects as well under his company Studio Rocket Science.

Jonah’s creativity and flexibility of style in photography generates business in a wide variety of projects. He enjoys shooting everything from fashion & lifestyle to fine art and events. Jonah tailors his work to best suit the style of each of his clients to meet their needs. If he has to label his style he calls it “A.D.D. style” with a chuckle. A style that cannot be boxed into any given type, but rather is molded to every specific project.

He has also recently launched a new lifestyle photography brand in DFW called “Be+You”. Be+You is all about self-expression, having passion, and loving life.

Be+You, Defining Lifestyle Photography in Dallas Texas. Lifestyle & Editorial Photography by www.facebook.com/studiorocketscience Be+You, Defining Lifestyle Photography in Dallas Texas. Lifestyle & Editorial Photography by www.facebook.com/studiorocketscience

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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.

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Blake Gordon is a landscape and adventure photographer, who trained as a landscape architect at Auburn University and Design at The University of Texas in Austin.  He takes a modern approach to landscape photography, exploring how people fit into the picture.  He splits his time between Austin, TX and central Colorado when not traveling.

So, how’d you get started in photography?
I started shooting as a way to explore place during site visits for our studio classes in landscape architecture. During my education we spent extended time in a wide variety of places: southern Utah, New York City, the borderlands of southern California among others. Our first larger outing was a 3 week canoe trip to Algonquin Provincial Park north of Toronto after an intense readings class on ecology. I borrowed my mom’s camera for the trip and never gave it back.

Photography can be part of the design process. It facilitates a deeper reading of the site where a design intervention occurs. You’d go back and forth from the studio to the field, but it’s that initial exploration in the field that grabbed me.  That’s when I realized the camera gets you out into the world. And I wanted to explore place, so the camera facilitated that.

The bulk of landscape photography that I initially found is pretty pictures of national parks and while that is appealing, I found it didn’t really fuel me creatively or add much to a cultural dialogue. What is communicated 95% of the time is, “this is beautiful and I wish I was there.” I’ve always been interested in a deeper understanding.

I’m interested in the idea of landscape, how that continues to change, and what that says about culture. Landscape has been described as the meeting point between culture and physical terrain. I find that intersection fascinating.

Do you have any mentors?
I don’t know if I would say that I have any mentors but there are a few photographers I’ve worked with that have been good learning experiences.

Working with James Balog, an amazing National Geographic photographer/artist/conservationist was influential. I helped him design/build some remote time lapse camera systems in 2007 for his Extreme Ice Survey Project. I went to Iceland for the install of the first camera systems. With Jim, it was very much a working relationship but to be with him in the early stages of such an enormous project was very insightful.

I connected with Balog through John Weller, a friend and incredible photographer/conservationist in his own right. He received a Pew Fellowship and has been doing a lot of work for the Pew Foundation as well as continuing to work on a conservation project for the Ross Sea in Antarctica – something that he has been pursuing for 5+ years. We talk a lot about the structure of a journey, learning from the natural world and trying to communicate those profound moments that seem just beyond the boundaries of language.

Brent Humphreys is a friend in Austin who I’ve worked for in Austin and Brent’s work is editorial/commercial oriented. He’s very meticulous and detail oriented as well as constantly pushing to create a better photo. Brent is very design oriented in his thinking and is as interested in project development as much as he is the singular photograph. I find that similar to myself and so enjoy watching how he thinks about photographs.

…the camera gets you out in the world.

What influences and inspires you?
There is a lot of music, art, and ideas out there that inspire me, but experience is the ultimate teacher. I try to keep a creative distance from produced work because I think the best stuff comes out of the process. I do enjoy hearing about how other artists approach their work and work through their process. That is more relevant to me than the work itself.

 You have a wonderful body of work from the Nature Conservancy for the latest issue on The Edward’s Aquifer, in San Antonio.  Tell me more about the project and how you got involved?
The assignment came through Wonderful Machine.  The photo editor, Melissa Ryan, contacted me several months before the shoot.  They liked some previous work I had done, namely the Nightwalks body of work.  We got to talking about doing a little more of a conceptual shoot rather than the typical illustrative editorial images and I spoke about my interest in how people and landscape interact.

The focus of the story is on the Edwards Aquifer and how The Nature Conservancy is protecting land to protect the aquifer. One inherent challenge in photographing that story is that it is an underground body of water, so I started to look for signs of moments in the landscape where culture and the flow of the water intersect – the recharge zones of ranchers, water table signs along the interstate, sinkholes, spring-fed pools, pumps for the city water supply, etc.

It was a great assignment that I shot for about a month.  I stretched it out, but I really enjoy the continued focus and refinement of a longer exploration. I was engaged with the all the way through into the design and layout which is a rare treat. I proposed shooting on medium format square as it would help convey the. We were able to run the images large and on their own page with a consistent pacing which allowed the subtleties and complexities of the situation to come out. The story wasn’t inherently a strong visual one and this really worked well. The layout is beautiful. It looks like a journal.

You shoot  some amazing landscapes. How does TNC’s latest issue relate to your personal work?
I was excited to put a lot of resources into the assignment as a commissioned work. I have to push personal work to the point where I am tired of dealing with the idea I am exploring or else the questions will continue to lure me. Melissa came to me wanting my personal vision to come through in the assignment. That was a very enjoyable thing but also comes with a burden of having to produce under different circumstances. The constraints of an assignment are very different than with a purely personal exploration.

I’m really interested in the perception of place and the relationship between people and their environments.  This was a great example in that we were looking at how a water system and cultural system interact. I try to step back and think as broadly as possible about those relationships as it lets you look deeply into otherwise mundane things. Part of a photographers is to bring forth wonder. That is easy to do in an exotic location or adventurous moment, but takes bending the mind a little when you’re looking at a water pump or road sign.

The larger focus from a conservation standpoint is to try to make people aware of this water system that there lives depend on. The hard work of public officials and modern engineering has made it so that the general populace doesn’t have to think about all the details when they turn on a water faucet. But that convenient lack of awareness there can put a city, or civilization, on a dead-end path.

In my personal work I also like to step into a realm of thinking that is different from how we ordinarily experience the world. And that is what makes it a valuable exercise.

Do you use a majority of natural light in your work?
Being aware of my surroundings is the first step in my process, so I enjoy finding light wether that is natural or artificial. I will also bring in and use strobes at times – more so with portraiture. I think using found light is important is critical if you are trying to give the viewer an experience of the world as is. I enjoy working with lights but also enjoy a very streamlined process regardless of aesthetic.

I primarily shot natural light until I began the Nightwalks work in which I started shooting urban nightscapes. I found I was more interested in the process of shooting at night than the actual product so I continued to refine how I went about shooting. I went out for a night here and a night there, and realized it’d be a stronger experience if I turned it into a multi-day outing. Waking up and going to bed within the same experience exponentially enriches that experience. I developed it to the point where I was dropped off on the other side of Austin without a phone, money, or ID and gave myself 5 nights (sleeping during the day) to wander back to my house.

It was such a departure from my day to day life.  It also raised interesting questions, like where to sleep.  I did pack all the food that I ate for 5 days and allowed myself to ‘forage’ for water. I’m out there trying to make this aesthetic art thing, but basically living as a street person, which puts me at odds with the majority of people in the city and how they view their surroundings. I realized a different set of rules as to how I can and should operate. My goal was to gain the greatest amount of freedom in order to explore the urban environment in abstract terms of light and space. It was incredibly insightful.

I’m really interested in the perception of place and the relationship between people and their environments.

How did you establish and evolve your personal vision?  
Never being satisfied is certainly one method. Exploring various processes and letting the process speak will also push that envelop. I’m continually playing with a new process or challenging the assumptions of what I take for truth. exploring something else. There’s also a process of self understanding that has to occur too. That just comes with making work. It’s not something that can be forced. Engaging in what you enjoy is a starting point.

Best career move so far?
I went to the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2008, and that has been as pivotal as any career juncture as it immediately put me in touch with a strong photo community and some talented colleagues/friends. I didn’t know any photographers when I first started shooting.

Career development is a pretty slow process though.  I thinking being open to opportunity is helpful.  There’s a fine line between developing something on your own and being open to something that comes along.  I’ve been more focused on what kind of work I’m generating than how much. With freelance work, it’s easy to keep yourself busy chasing to keep the wheels going and you have to be comfortable with the ups and downs of freelance life and balancing art and commerce.

Do you have any hobbies outside of photography? 
Too many. Lots of sports: skiing, climbing, hiking, biking, baseball, basketball, whatever comes along. I swim a lot in Austin, primarily at Barton Springs.  I’m on a sandlot baseball team/social club – The Texas Playboys. I grew up playing baseball and pitched in college. Pitching is one of the most enjoyable things I know. I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and body. During the past two years I’ve been building out a trailer as a autonomous studio space. That is more of a design project than a photographic one.

I always find it enjoyable working on something physical and bringing that into the photographic process.  I think good photography comes out of that.

Favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
I like exploring the Texas mythology and how the idea of Texas and reality of Texas can be quite different. I grew up in Georgia and it took me a couple years to get accustomed to the culture, mythology, and contemporary landscape of Texas, but at this point it’s a part of me. The state has some bravado. It’s a really fascinating and diverse place. I think anything with a really strong culture is rich territory for a photographer.  There’s a rich mythology, and there’s no shortage of interesting people.  There’s also a freedom in Texas where people are continually re-inventing themselves and what Texas can be.  It’s an evolving place.

I think about it now as a lifelong pursuit… Don’t feel like you need to prove your work too quickly…

Advice for anyone just getting started?
It really took me a long time to get my career going, primarily because my background was not in photography. Part of that was my youthful impatience and not understanding what all goes into operating a photo career (as opposed to just taking a photo).  There is a ton of accessible photography out there, but it’s not all professional. I always thought my images were good enough and I should be further along than where I’m at, but I don’t think is a beneficial thought. There was a long gestation period, so I’d say, don’t rush it. One of the speakers at the Eddie Adams Workshop retold a quote (I’d have to dig around quite a bit to find out who first said it): “Do what you can with what you have where you are.”

I think about it now as a lifelong pursuit – photography is something I’ll always practice and it will take different forms. Don’t feel like you need to prove your work too quickly,  The more time you spend with the work and putting your effort into refining your work, will strengthen what the work is. That’s something I still tell myself. If you don’t know what you want to say and why, you’ll get chewed up by the industry.

On the business side, find people you really want to work for. Find clients that you will willingly go beyond what is required to get the job done, because that’s what it takes to make it and to be satisfied creatively. It’s not enough to just get the job done unlike other professions.