I’ve always had a passion for beauty.
In high school, I spent my days in Southern California scouting the next ‘great faces’ of my generation. I would find new models, offer to do their hair and make up, and then take pictures of them that I tucked away in an 11×14 black box.
My career then launched as a celebrity hair and make-up artist. I traveled the world working with supermodels, actors and actresses such as Cindy Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Farrah Fawcett. That gave me behind-the- scenes experience with highly respected photographers, watching their every move and observing their techniques. One of my clients was the owner of JCrew. We got talking one day while I was doing her hair and she mentioned that models were talking about what a great photographer I was.
She wanted to see the photos hidden away in my black box.
I knew I loved taking photos, but I had never shown my images to anyone and was incredibly uneasy about revealing them. Not to mention, if the photographers I was working with found out, it would put an end to my career as a hair and makeup artist!
I never liked talking about my photography. I never wanted to be vulnerable and put myself out there to be judged. But when Emily saw the images, she absolutely loved them and asked me to start shooting for JCrew. Thus my career launched from a little black box!
Q&A with Jim:
How did you catalyze your commercial photography career?
Ironically, my real industry experience comes from years of trial and error. As a celebrity hair and make up artist, I spent over 15 years working on set with photographers such as Herb Ritts, Douglas Kirkland, Peter Lindbergh, Steve Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, and Helmet Newton. I did not have real professional training in photography, however, through my role as a hair and makeup artist, I was able to watch and learn techniques on set from many of the best photographers in the world.
I built my professional network through relationships with the talent I worked with, and by using an online database called “Adbase” to find clients. This database helped me identify contacts at the biggest companies and agencies, and then enabled me to make new connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise found. I organized these contacts in my personal database that I customized using “Daylite” by Marketcircle.
What’s the most fun shoot you’ve ever done? Was it a personal assignment or a paid client assignment?
All of my shoots are personal, even if I am commissioned to do them. The most fun shoot I’ve ever done was a big story in Africa. I was there to shoot native tribes and abundant wild life. I vividly remember being up in the air, hanging out of a vintage bush plane, to capture a herd of giraffes running below me. It was a rush unlike anything I had ever felt before.
What’s it like to work with art directors and editors?
I love having art directors and editors on set with me. Some are a lot easier to work with than others. Some want to take control of every moment and aspect of the shoot and others create a concept and give me an idea of what they want and trust me to roll with it. I can conform to all personalities, which is why I have become good at what I do. I think the best art directors are ones who hire amazing photographers and then convey the look and feel they are going for. IdealIy, the art director lets me collaborate with them on their ideas. They come up with a concept or idea on paper but when we get on set, things could be different. I prefer to be in the moment on shoots and let things naturally unfold. On the actual shoot, being real and staying calm is critical to creative success. Music is a huge part of my set and shoots. I play music to lighten the mood, start conversations and help the entire creative team feel comfortable and even giddy. I also try to keep my set as small and intimate as I possibly can.
Where’s the most interesting or exotic location you’ve traveled for an assignment? How much gear did you pack?
The most exotic locations I’ve ever traveled to for a shoot are several islands in Thailand. Depending on the job, I normally travel with my personal equipment, which includes about 7 bags filled with gear. Some of the equipment you are guaranteed to find in my bags include 4 Broncolor Scoro A4S power packs, a Broncolor 6-foot Para umbrella, a few Sunbounce Pros and Wind-Killers, Profoto strobes and generators, Pocket Wizard Multimax transceivers, my Drobo back up system and my Lexar Media memory cards. I also usually bring a laptop and my Wacom Intuos4 Tablet to edit images and upload them on the spot.
Where do you see commercial photography in five years? Ten years?
With DSLR cameras and high quality digital backs, such as my Phase One IQ180, I imagine film may become almost obsolete. Now that most DSLR cameras come with the 1080p video feature, I see many photographers getting into motion photography and directing. Depending on how good technology gets, some photographers may shoot only video and take their still images from that footage.
What’s your Go-To Gear?
• Seagate internal hard drives to put in Drobo 8-bay backup system
• California Sunbounce Sun-Scrims & Wind-Killer
• Broncolor 6-foot Para Umbrella
• Lexar memory cards and readers
• Tamrac bag
• Wacom Intuos4 tablets
• Phase one Digital Backs and Media Pro Software
• LiveBooks to create custom galleries for my clients
About Jim Jordan
Born in sunny, Southern California, Jim was inspired to create from a very young age. He traveled abroad as a hair & makeup artist, working with actors and actresses for fashion magazines and photographers.
Then, Jim picked up the camera and created a style of his own.
His work can be seen in such magazines as Interview, Elle, Marie Claire, J. Crew and Vogue.
Now he travels the world shooting pictures for advertising campaigns, fashion editorials and celebrities.
Jim is a free spirit who thoroughly loves his work. He lives and works in New York City and Los Angeles, but the majority of his time is spent circling the globe.