James Moes




This week’s interview is with our host for The Experience // ARC in Vancouver, James Moes. Originally born and raised in Canada, James now works as a photographer and brand director in Seattle, Washington with his family.

Interview by Sachin Khona // August 2016


When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?

During my university years. Already in my first year, there were a few alumni who worked in the communication / marketing department of the university who took me under their wings: taking me on photo field trips and house slideshows and eventually sending wedding commissions my way.

Where is home for you and where do you work?

Seattle. My work is across the continent, and occasionally beyond.

Have you always lived there or was there a conscious choice to move there?

I’ve lived in Seattle for 8 years. Essentially my time in the United States corresponds with Obama’s presidency: I moved down a couple months before the November 2008 election and was soon able to vote for the first time as an American citizen. Who knows what will happen after this election. I grew up in Langley, a suburb of Vancouver, Canada.

In what way does your location influence your work?

I live close to SeaTac airport, so that helps. Seattle has a great community of photographers (wedding and otherwise) that have shaped my perspective and pushed my work forward. Moreover, Seattle is the birthplace of a lot of creativity in the arts and success in the corporate world. The music scene’s reputation, from Nirvana to the Fleet Foxes, is well-known; but perhaps lesser known is how many interesting companies were born in Seattle: the Ace Hotel chain, Starbucks, Sub Pop records, Amazon.com, etc… to name a few. There is a healthy culture of entrepreneurship in the water. To be honest, I’m not actually a fan of the fall/winter/spring weather, or the 3+ hour distance from the coast. I’d love to live in a warmer climate and closer to the ocean, even if for only part of the year.

Do you have a designated workspace or office?

I have a shared office space an eight minute walk from my house, and kitty corner from the neighborhood’s best coffee shop.

James Moes Interview

What has been the most defining moment in your career?

Being flown down to Machu Picchu to photograph a couple’s engagement portraits was a surreal commission. One that will be hard to top. A note to readers: I’d love to shoot in Japan.

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.

James Moes Interview ARC

Maleeha & Ian

Simple portrait, quiet confidence, understated fashion. That’s my favorite way to work.

James Moes Interview ARC

Jen & Jeff – Palm Springs, CA

Wide angle, real moment, naturally dramatic light.

James Moes ARC

Alex & Janice – Vancouver, BC

Guest moment. A strangeness to this image. I’m no longer sure even what’s going on. That’s what makes it great.

James Moes HOST ARC

Kate & David – Tulum, MX

A standard portrait, but with dimension from the heavy wind blowing Kate’s dress and hair. Without the dress and hair blowing, one doesn’t feel the photo the same way.

taylor-peter-James Moes ARC

Taylor & Peter – Dripping Springs, TX

I love architecture & interiors, and it’s a real treat when I get to shoot in a space that aligns with my aesthetic leanings. Prospect House is one such venue. A perfectly minimalist palette.

david-audrey-ARC James Moes

Audrey & David – Palm Springs, CA

Her dress was amazing. I didn’t want any distractions. No bouquet, no groom, just her, with a quiet expression and soft evening light.

James Moes Interview ARC

Cass & Ellie – Manzanita, OR

I like the work of Dutch painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Landscapes and cityscapes filled with lots of people. There’s something of that going on here.

James Moes Interview ARC

Jen & Jeff – Palm Springs, CA

Always a favorite moment, but it sure does help with the courtyard light falls perfectly on the bride and groom during the exit!

James Moes Interview ARC

Courtney & Mike – Calgary, AB

Strong, beautiful, sexy, fashionable, clean. I burned out the background – no distractions from her and her dress.

James Moes Interview ARC

Maria & Miles – Marfa, TX

Soft light, composed, clean lines, balanced, and relaxed posing.


What inspires and motivates you to create?

Curiosity. Connecting with people. The human condition.

Do you do any creative training outside of your work?

Art Degree. Graphic Design experience.

When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?

Coffee. Walk. Garden. Converse. Depends on the day.


How do you know when a piece of your work is finished and needs no additional work?

When I’ve hit the deadline. I rarely see a job as perfectly finished, but have come to know and respect what is good enough.

Are there any key lessons in your career that you’d like to share? OR  Best piece of career advice you were ever given.

Don’t overthink things.

Photography isn’t too complicated. Trust your strengths / vision. At the same time, identify and eliminate weaknesses that are holding you back.

Describe a photograph burned in your memory that you never took but wish you had?

Moments with my children. When they run to me for an embrace (after I’ve been away) and I’m holding them both. I’d need someone else to take this picture, but these are the moments I treasure the most.

Can you share one creative tip that you use when you are working?

Line things up perfectly in camera. Be ruthless about symmetry and you’ll be happier when editing the photos!

Can you share an image that you’re particularly proud of and tell us why?


Kristen & Michael – Hug Point, OR

It’s an in-between moment that wasn’t posed. There’s a strange symmetry in their hands. A quiet magic.






Do you work in any other fields of business?

I have another job as Brand Director for a local Seattle ice cream shop, Molly Moon’s.

Can you share a bit about your daily schedule / routines?

Wake up with my kids. Pour them cereal. Make some stovetop espresso for my wife and I. Toast. Instagram. Emails. Commute to my photography studio or to Molly Moon’s HQ. Family dinner. Park time with kids (when the weather cooperates). Bedtime stories and songs. Connect with my wife. Watch some television and/or surf the web and/or read a magazine/book. Confessions: I’d like to add more daily exercise to stop this dad bod expansion. I’d also like to create a creative routine with journaling.

What within your work do you not like to do and why? Do you achieve “work/life balance”?

It’s less about not liking a task, and more about not liking the feeling of having my head in the sand when I feel I’m doing the same thing over and over.

Which person do you respect most in your life?

Good question.


What was your hardest / painful creative failure to deal with and what did it teach you?

I nearly lost all my files from a wedding I shot in Brooklyn. It woke me up to a personal loss of perspective and a practical failure in backing up my files.

What will you be doing (or hope to be doing) 5/10 years from now?

Taking deeply personal photos, running a small hotel/bnb and curated shop, designing objects, and traveling to warm places in the winter.



I’m not that lofty.

The actual practice of photography quiets my ego’s desire to change/control things…

janice-alex-wedding-0528 (1)

If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend your day?

With my family and close friends. On the coast. Open air. Waves crashing. Delicious food prepared by a local chef.

Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?

I often doubt my talent!
One shot at a time I build it back up.

If you were no longer able to use a camera, how else would you express your creativity?

With words.

The Experience // arc is in a few months in vancouver. as host of this event, what are you most looking forward to?

The team at ARC have organized a highly intentional and intimate conference. The scale and pacing of the conference promises to foster a lot of interactivity and surprises.

I’m looking forward to the conversations on-and-off the stage. I’m excited to learn, and be challenged by the diverse perspectives present.

Something special is brewing.


Are you a wedding or portrait photographer looking for an edge?
We’ve just raised the bar..

This is NOT your typical photography seminar.

Welcome to The Experience // ARC, a one-of-a-kind event for passionate photographers and creatives.

ARC-EXPERIENCEWe’ll have 10 expert speakers from all over the world joining us over 3 days.

Speakers include:

Ryan Muirhead
Ross Harvey
Nessa K
Jon Duenas
Kelly Tunney
Gabe McClintock
David Guenther
The Shark Pig
Dan Cristea
The Manchiks

alongside our host James Moes


Live Interviews // Live Judging of your images
6 BIG IDEAS, mini presentations
Food Trucks // Concert // After Party // Live Bands and DJ’s

It’s time to find your voice, challenge your perspective, refine your vision and become a better artist and entrepreneur.

You’ll experience expert training, creative challenges, bold new techniques, powerful connections, amazing adventures and have a hell of a good time, all in one of the most breathtaking cities in the world as our backdrop, Vancouver, BC.

Learn more by visiting our new site for The Experience.

Read about the event, meet the speakers and check out our schedule of events

Limited tickets remain! Grab yours HERE



Your favourite podcast(s)

Off Camera with Sam Jones, The Moth, Risk!, Men in Blazers

Fav Music // Share a (Spotify) playlist

Drake on repeat.

Film / Documentary that is a must watch?

The Diving Bell & The Butterfly

Your favourite book // A book you are currently reading.

Currently reading The Soul’s Code by James Hillman

A website you regularly follow?


Last place you travelled?


Favourite photographer or photo project outside of your genre?

Jody Rogac

Favourite drink


Favourite TED talk:

Last gallery / exhibit you visited


Your favourite photography book

Hans van der Meer: European Fields: The Landscape of Lower League Football

A creative you’d love to see interviewed on ARC?

Ben Blood

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?

I’m always collecting images to unearth themes and tones of attraction. Tumblr. Pinterest. Magazine clippings. Every so often I take a closer look at these collections and ruthlessly remove images that don’t belong: because I sense inconsistent quality, feelings, tone, etc…

This continual culling reveals more clearly what I am attracted to, and also challenges me to match this consistency of light and feeling in my own photographs.


You can see more of James Moes’ work here // Web

And connect here // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram


Stay tuned for an interview next week with Canmore Wedding Photographer, Brittany Esther Staddon


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