Model Gigi Hadid - photographed by Jodi Jones
A DISCUSSION WITH JODI JONES / OCTOBER 3, 2014
Today we have Jodi Jones of Jodi Jones Studio speaking with us about her work as a photographer and general student of life. Jodi's photographs have been featured in Time Magazine, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, and others. Miss Jones was also the focus of a television show called 'Women on Top' - who filmed an entire episode about her life as a photographer. Zero was so glad to have the chance to interview Jodi; a professional, an avid reader, and a terribly nice human being. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Jodi!
Jodi, when we spoke you talked about how you originally moved to LA to act. What sparked the change in career path?
I spent a few years studying acting and really fell in love with the process, so I finally took the plunge to move out to LA, driving across country in my '76 Toyota Corolla with $300 bucks chasing this dream that I had to express myself in the medium of film. I loved the cross country drive. I pitched a tent along my 6 day journey to Cali from Florida, and got to see the country. It was really a great experience just getting there. On the cross-country drive we would pass the time away smoking pot and playing guitar in the passenger seat with barefoot feet hanging out the window. Once I arrived at the Grand Canyon I dropped acid at the edge of the cliff and spent the night staring up at the stars. I was such a free spirit, a little bit of a hippy I guess. I was looking to expand my mind, my limitations of what life was all about.
During this whole time on my way to becoming an actor, I would carry a camera around with me and shoot "life" on black and white film. Taking photographs was a way to express myself creatively in between the acting gigs. So I guess you could say I was always a photographer. It just so happened that people started hiring me, and I realized then that I could transition it into a career.
Do you think that time in your life forged your career path into what it is today?
Yeah, reflecting back, there were so many experiences from my past that led to my current career. I definitely see how my training on the other side of the camera as an actor has allowed me to have a certain connection with the people I photograph. I loved acting. Actor training is the study of human behavior. I find it fascinating, and it applies not only how I relate to my models, but also my crew and all the people I need to direct on set. Making a series of still images can be similar to being a director of a movie, whereas I need to have a vision and make sure that the entire team actively participates in the creation of that vision with me.
"ACTOR TRAINING IS THE STUDY OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR. I FIND IT FASCINATING, AND IT APPLIES NOT ONLY HOW I RELATE TO MY MODELS, BUT ALSO MY CREW AND ALL THE PEOPLE I NEED TO DIRECT ON SET."
During shoots you are often asked to switch from taking still shots to shooting video. What has to change in your mind in order to switch roles like that? It reminds me of when directors who also star in their own films say, “I just do it.” Do you have video mood-boards along with still mood-boards for those shoots?
On days where I will need to shoot both stills and video, I prefer to start with the video if possible. Models tend to be very used to posing instead of being fluid, so if I can first get them in the mindset of motion right off the bat, things tend to move quicker. Usually when I am doing a video shoot on my still set, I work with a videographer that is part of my studio, as opposed to shooting it physically myself. I direct my crew and the model just as I would with the still camera, I'm just not the one usually holding the motion camera. Most all my shoots have mood-boards. I find that to be essential to keeping everything on track towards the vision, otherwise one can easily get off track.
You also run an Ultimate Photography Workshop with Phase One, where you teach photography around the US plus at an exotic location. At what point did you decide to start teaching your craft to others? Why an exotic location?
I never really decided that I wanted to start teaching until I started getting a lot of requests from photographers asking me how I did this and that on set. Plus, for some strange reason last year, I was being asked to speak on photography as a speaker, and that was a whole new terrain. In the beginning, I was pretty terrified of the thought of public speaking, which is why I started to do it. I figured if it scares me, then their must be something to gain by just trying it and conquering that fear. Teaching others ended up being a lot of fun and quite rewarding. It's one thing to do your craft, and it's another thing to break it down, dissect it, and teach it to others. I am such a student myself in life.
I am constantly reading and listening to a new audio book every single day. I love knowledge, growing and learning. It's what gives me happiness. Since learning gives me such pleasure, it seems only natural that I, in turn, want to teach others and help them be successful pursuing their dreams. And why an exotic location? Because I love to travel, and it's a great excuse to combine learning and relaxation. I think it's amazing for the students too. We all get to have a really intimate time over the course of a week. I teach them all I know about photography and we get to do so, with sand between our toes. It's nice to teach the business of photography then go grab a surf board and all hit the waves together. It's a total experience for everyone. An adventure. That's what life is all about to me.
"WE CAN CHOOSE TO FEEL LIKE LIFE IS HARD, AND FEEL SORRY FOR OURSELVES FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S SUCCESS AROUND US, OR WE CAN CHOOSE TO BELIEVE THAT WE ARE THE CO-CREATORS OF OUR OWN LIFE, OF OUR REALITY. I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE THE LATTER."
How do you decide where to travel next for your Phase One Ultimate Photography Workshops?
To all the coolest places on earth that I want to travel! My next exotic photography workshop is coming up February in Costa Rica. I've rented the most beautiful private villas for the students and we will have access to stunning turquoise waters and private beaches. I'm so excited. I still have a couple of spots open for that workshop. Email the studio (firstname.lastname@example.org) to PRE-REGISTER FOR THE WORKSHOP.
I thought, if I am teaching someone photography, why not get out of NYC every now and then and do it in an amazingly beautiful, breathtaking location, where I can work very closely with the other photographers over the course of a week in a really fun, relaxed environment. It just naturally seemed like the perfect match. I'm a huge beach lover, so any chance I get to go hit some waves, or just hang in a hammock, I'm there. When I did my workshop in Costa Rica last January, it was such an outrageous adventure. I rented ATVs for my crew and myself to go find remote locations. We hiked to waterfalls to shoot. I don't get to have this type of experience in the city, and it was such a blast driving our 4 wheelers through the dirt roads of Costa Rica in search of that majestic backdrop. That to me is freedom! Which is one of the reasons that I became a photographer in the first place.
"TEACHING OTHERS ENDED UP BEING A LOT OF FUN AND QUITE REWARDING. IT'S ONE THING TO DO YOUR CRAFT, AND IT'S ANOTHER THING TO BREAK IT DOWN, DISSECT IT, AND TEACH IT TO OTHERS. I AM SUCH A STUDENT MYSELF IN LIFE."
The close ties with some executives from Phase One over the years certainly helped get in the door with your workshops. How many of your career successes have been through networking connections?
Photography is such a business of networking. It's pretty true, who you know will help you go so many places that would take you so much longer to get to on your own with just straight up talent. People want to work with people they know and like. Colin King over at Phase One has been a really great friend of mine for a long time. I frickin love their cameras. I shoot with a Phase One medium format camera. It's mind-blowing. So with my workshops, I really wanted the students I teach to be able to use the same cameras and lighting that I use in my daily work, so they can produce the same results. I not only teach them what I do, but then I give them all the gear I use, assemble my own NY crew and model, and produce a shoot for them like I would do for myself. This gives a lot of photographers outside of the major cities like NY, the chance to work at a high level and in a few days shooting at these incredible places, a portfolio that is leaps and bounds above what many could ever produce in their small towns.
You’ve been incredibly successful in your photography, what are some of the disciplines you practice in order to balance work and your personal life?
The first and foremost discipline that I have been working on a lot is putting the law of attraction into focused practice. There are so many great thinkers out there, and I spend time learning from other people who have really achieved a certain level of financial and career success. Everyone of them says they focus on what they want to attract in their life, and not what they don't want. Once you pay close attention to what you think everyday, you begin to notice that we can really be our own worst enemy. By simply choosing to set goals and believing you can do so many greater things in life than what you are currently doing, that is the key. Don't focus on where you are now in your career or your finances, focus like a laser-beam on where you want to be, and take little steps every day toward that goal. Then watch the universe put things in your path to help make those dreams come to be.
I take time every morning to meditate and I am taking a 10 week course on philosophy right now. The motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, stated:
'One's own philosophy on life is the greatest determining factor in how one's life turns out.'
That quote had a powerful effect on me and I started to create a better philosophy for myself. We can choose to feel like life is hard, and feel sorry for ourselves over other people's success around us, or we can choose to believe that we are the co-creators of our own life and our reality. I choose to believe the latter. We create our reality through our thoughts and beliefs about life. I feel very lucky to make a great life doing what I love.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I hope to get the chance to connect with fellow creatives on social media.
To learn the ins and outs of the Fashion Photography industry, join me on my upcoming Photography Master Class Workshop series "Fashion School" this fall!