INTERVIEW // Jacob Loafman
The Lou, Missouri
We are truly honoured to have Jacob Loafman be featured on ARC. Hailing from St Louis, Missouri, Jacob shares with us his goals as a photographer and his sincere passion for creating interesting work. Tinkering with different styles, Jacob talks about his self portraits, describes his style via a series of 10 images and shares with us the importance of taking risks.
Interview by Sachin Khona // March 2016
PHOTOGRAPHY WORK & PRACTICES
HI JACOB! Where is home for you and where do you work? Have you always lived there or was there a conscious choice to move to where you currently live?
Saint Louis, Missouri is my home and where I primarily work. I’m born and raised in The Lou! Plans to move in the future, though.
In what way, if any, does your location influence your work?
Saint Louis doesn’t have a lot of amazing landscapes, really. So, I enjoy the challenge of putting Saint Louis on the map. Getting creative in the city, or making what landscapes we do have somewhat interesting.
It’s all about creating interesting work. That is my goal and always will be.
When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
I started back in high school in the darkroom. I loved the process from start to finish. So, that’s when I first fell in love. Then, life happened and I started working full time and fell out of the art. I picked up the camera again in late 2011/early 2012. I knew from that point on that I wanted to take this to a more serious level.
Do you have a designated workspace or office? (Do you have a picture to share of that?)
-Yeah! I actually just moved into a workspace with two of my good photographer friends. It’s great to share a workspace and always have peers around to bounce ideas off of. We all get along so well, so that helps!
What has been the most defining moment in your career? OR
Do you feel there was a turning point, monumental time, or series of events in your life that you were felt as though you were on the right path in regards to your photography career that bought you to where you are now?
You know, to be honest, I have never really thought about this. I guess the most defining moment thus far was being published in Popular Photography magazine. That really solidified the idea that maybe folks really do enjoy my work! Haha.
Can you describe your style via a series of 10 photos that you feel define the work you’ve done in the last year and where possible describe why each one was included.
I don’t feel like I have a style, to be honest. I’m a mixed bag! Every shoot is completely different to me. Some are moody, some are poppy and fun, some are very outside-of-the-box, etc. Here’s 10 photos to describe what I’m talking about! :)
1. The bride had an awesome dress, and she was not afraid to show it off on the dance floor. Just a wonderful moment that takes you into the scene.
2. I was walking down a path at this location and turned to look back at the street and noticed the trees in the reflection of the pond. Had to take advantage.
3. Another storytelling moment. These twins were both bridesmaids in this wedding. Just a classic type of moment.
4. I wanted this portrait to be similar to an old black and white photo from the 20s or 30s. I enjoy having couples make their ‘bad ass’ faces, at times.
5. This bride has horses. Another movie poster type of image was my thought for this one. A beautiful day.
6. I’m ‘kind of’ known for my prism work. This is a shot from a recent L.A. session using the prism. Get creative.
7. This is a recent shot from a California wedding. I was definitely going album cover on this one. A double exposure with the second exposure taken upside down.
8. This was just a quick shot. I just wanted a simple image of them walking through the wheat field together. Keep it simple.
9. The light in this room was just beautiful. The window was letting in just the right amount from the left side of the camera. Another cinematic portrait.
10. We were walking back to the venue when I noticed an awesome reflection in a window and contrast of colors between the wall and the door. The window sat between the wall and door. So, I placed the subjects between the wall and door, focused on the reflection in the window, and converted to black and white, to help show that great contrast.
What inspires and motivates you?
Films and music are my number one. Watching films to get ideas of interesting compositions and colors really inspires me. I also enjoy looking at various album covers to get inspired and motivated. Other than that, I try to motivate myself by tinkering with new ideas here in the studio.
What creative training do you do outside of your work?
I tinker a lot. I try to put things in front of the lens, like a dinner plate, car keys, light up toys. Just……weird stuff. I also try new styles of multiple exposures. Rather than adding an element to the underexposed portion of the frame (additive mode), I enjoy the average mode, where it is just layer after layer of elements. I take a lot of self-portraits while doing this, so I can immediately see the effect of adding a human subject to the photo. After I feel like I have accomplished what I am going for, I incorporate the technique into my client work.
When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?
I GET OUT THERE AND SHOOT MORE! Even if I am unhappy with what I am creating, I still just feel the best thing to do is to push through by constantly trying.
Some folks take breaks, and I understand why, but for me, pushing through is the best option. Plus, the things I learn from creating things I am unhappy with is a bonus.
How do you know when a piece of your work is finished and needs no additional work?
I used to spend a lot of time on each photograph. Staring at the screen for an hour on two photos. Then, I started to ask myself why. Most of the time, there was no reason to edit that much on a photograph. The end result after thirty minutes of work was not too much different from when I was two minutes into it. So, now, I keep it simple and don’t spend a lot of time on each photo, unless the photo truly calls for it. I know it is finished when I get the feeling of “the moment or idea comes across here very well”.
Are there any key lessons in your career that you’d like to share? OR Best piece of career advice you were ever given?
I am still young in the industry, but what I have noticed is there is this underlying notion that photographers feel like their work MUST be validated by other photographers to feel accomplished or successful. “Would xxxx xxxx like this photograph? Hmmm, maybe I should fix it to the point where I know they’ll enjoy it.” This is not a popularity contest. We should all create to make ourselves satisfied. And, you know, maybe I am wrong about that, but I feel like there is a bit of truth to it. So, my advice would be to stop caring about how other artists view your work and focus on creating for yourself. It is 100% okay to be inspired by other artists, but do not feel like you have to create for their approval.
If you are not happy with your own work, then what are you doing this for? When you get to the point of being confident in your work, your client base will be filled with people that hire you for your eye.
Do you have a photograph burned in your memory that you never took but wish you had?
Oh, man. Who doesn’t?! It was actually a street scene of a man riding his bicycle in Palm Springs just past a bus stop back in November. I pulled out my camera too late and missed him. Sounds like a boring description, but it was something I really wanted badly, and I missed it.
Can you share one creative tip that you use when you are working?
Make your photos interesting. Whether it be a different angle, like standing on a chair and shooting down on the subject. Finding nice symmetrical features to add in the frame. Look for light that you’re not used to shooting and use it. See a tiny batch of harsh light on the side of a building? Throw your subjects into that light and shoot it! Just keep things interesting. Take risks. Taking risks is the ultimate way to progress in your work, in my opinion.
What are the 3 most important things in your personal life?
-Kindness. I try my best to be kind to others. We should be here to help each other, not hurt each other.
-Honesty. I live an honest life. It’s the best way to live.
-Fun. Always have fun. Be silly. We only get one shot at this thing called life, so why not make it fun?
Do you work in any other fields of business?
Not currently, no. I came from the electrical industry selling light fixtures on local construction projects.
Can you share a bit about your daily schedule? What within your work do you not like to do and why?
I try to arrive at my studio around 10am and work until 4pm on editing, marketing, etc. I also work for lookslikefilm.com, so that takes up a portion of my day, too.
What was your hardest / painful creative failure to deal with and what did it teach you?
I’ll consider myself very lucky, as I haven’t experienced a creative failure yet that was very difficult. I’ve tried some ideas that didn’t pan out, but I’m the type that just moves on to the next thing, rather than letting it get to me. I’m sure I’ll experience something sooner or later!
What will you be doing (or hope to be doing) 5/10 years from now?
In 5 years, I really want to be living in a cabin with my dog in the Smoky Mountains while shooting 20-25 weddings per year.
In 10 years, I hope to be living overseas somewhere, maybe. Or, I don’t know, just traveling around doing awesome stuff.
Can you share an image that you’re particularly proud of and tell us why?
I’m very proud of this one, because the idea came to me while the bridesmaids were standing in the room earlier in the day. I took a quick test shot of them standing in the middle of the room and the seed was planted for the idea. Four hours later, I took the bride and groom up to the room and create the image. It’s just always a great feeling when you execute an idea properly. It’s fun to see your visions come to life. That’s the ultimate reward.
THE CORE // FOUNDATION
Are there any mantras that you live by?
You never know what someone is going through, so be understanding and kind. Not really a mantra, I guess, but it’s something I live by.
If you were no longer able to use a camera, how else would you express your creativity?
Probably as an actor or I would start a YouTube channel reviewing dog beds.
If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend your day?
8 hours with family/friends. 8 hours with my dog. 8 hours volunteering somewhere.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
To be more loving, caring, and understanding.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
I doubt my talent every day. I’m not even sure how I’m here for this interview! Haha. Honestly, I’m confident in my work, but I know I can always get better. So, I spin the doubt into a positive, I guess.
A question that I haven’t asked but should have or something you’d like to share with others?
Yes. YES. I love tacos and burritos. It’s true. It’s not a myth.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Your favourite podcast(s)
WHAT IS A PODCAST?
Fav Music // Share a (Spotify) playlist:
Film / Documentary that is a must watch?
Your favourite book // A book you are currently reading.
I’ve only read one book in my life. Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis.
A website you regularly follow?
Last place you travelled?
Los Angeles, California
Favourite photographer or photo project outside of your genre?
Liam Warton and his Dead series
Do you have a favourite poem or quote?
“Babies are born in the same buildings where people go to pass away.” -dredg (the band)
Reminds me to appreciate life. It’s truly very special, and can be lost at any moment.
Gin and Tonic
Your favourite photography book:
A creative you’d love to see interviewed on ARC?
Links to your personal work // projects
Can you share a short assignment / project that has benefited you in the past OR create / describe an assignment that you feel can help those reading this interview?
In 2013, I started a photography exhibit/fundraiser to help animal rescue facilities. We’ve raised over $12,000 for a few animal rescue organizations. It’s very rewarding and an excellent way to give back to the community.
Reach out to your local rescue organizations to see what they need help with. Even photos of the animals for their adoption profile on the website goes a long, long way.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME Jacob!
You can see more of Jacob’s work here // Web
UP NEXT …
Stay tuned for an interview next week with former writer for British street artist Banksy, turned documentary wedding photographer, Nick Tucker.
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