interview / jp olson

What do you look for in a model/subject?
Every time I look for something unique and something that is impactful. Those are the two things I always want in my photos. If it’s a model I always want some kind of unique feature, whether it’s bone structure, hair, eyes, etc.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened on a shoot? Not necessarily to you, but it could be to you.
One model, before a shoot, took a bunch of fish oil pills and it was making her fart. It was really, really fishy and smelly. Besides that, what I hate the most is when I go to take a photo and the lens cap is still on the lens and the model is like, “Oh, you can’t shoot a photo like that!” Because I’m always thinking of ten other things besides my stupid lens cap.

How have developments like the iPhone and Instagram changed photography over the course of your career?
It has definitely changed a lot. There’s just more quantity of photos. I find there will be more quality too, but you have to dig through a lot of photos now to find the quality ones. Overall, the level of photography has gotten better, but there’s also more crap out there too.

Yeah, and I also was hoping you were going to touch on the fact that growing up if you were going to see photos it typically would be in a book or in a gallery or a museum. Now, we normally see photos on a lit device. I just always go back to the Robert Frank quote, “You don’t have a photo until you have a print.” I know that you live in the world of digital, but that you’re schooled in both aspects of photography- shooting and printing.
Yeah, absolutely. The final product is always in my mind before I even touch a camera. I always try to think about how the end result is going and that will affect how I compose the photo, process the photo, and edit the photo. If it’s a big print I’ll shoot the photo completely different than if it’s on a small little square on a phone. I definitely feel like back when I was printing more there was a more artistic approach in the beginning stages. Whereas now, with Photoshop, post processing gives me so much more freedom and variables that I can play with. I don’t think one method is more artistic than the other, I think they’re just different. A lot of people think photoshop is lame and a cheap way to change a photo but I think if the photographer knows what they’re doing and uses it in a tasteful way, it can be a very positive tool.

Which photo is your most influential work?
I definitely have a few different interests, and those interests might leak into my photos. Interests like surfing, skating, cars, designs, craftmanship, or people’s personality. I think a photograph that kind of mixes all of that together would be it, which I don’t think I’ve actually nailed yet. There’s a couple photos I’ve done that have incorporated cars, females and surfing that I’m proud of, so maybe that’s the best I’ve done so far.

The ones that are an intersection of all your interests captured in one photo.
Yeah, exactly.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
Before I wanted to be a photographer I wanted to design cars and be around automobiles so I would say something to have to do with that. Something like designing after-market pieces for cars, designing cars or selling cars.

What aspect of being a photographer brings you the most joy?
I would say just the art of playing with light. Lighting has always been my favorite aspect of photography. I think it’s the one aspect that I use to my advantage the most that makes a photograph unique. It’s also the thing that lets me draw attention to a certain part of the photograph that I want the viewer to pay attention to. A lot of other ways to do that are with composition or depth of field, but I really enjoy doing that with lighting. If you want to paint a picture for a person, I feel like the best way to do that is with lighting.

Whose portrait have you recently shot that you’re psyched on?
One of my favorite bands from growing up has always been Green Day. I think they’ve been through a lot of pages throughout their career and always maintain a good quality of music. That’s something I always try to do with my photography. Finally getting the chance to meet them and getting to capture their personality was something I was really excited about.

Does your approach change at all when you’re shooting fine art versus commercial work?
Absolutely, there’s a huge difference. Fine art is a way for me to experiment and to get a little weird and to take risks and not necessarily appeal to the masses. With my fine art stuff I try to push the boundaries of what I’ve done before. With commercial stuff the name of the game is knowing your audience and knowing what they want to see and what’s going to grab their attention. That takes years of knowledge and practice. Not that I fall back on stuff that I know but it’s evolving knowledge of what your audience wants to see. I’d say that would be the biggest difference.

Name a place you you’d love to travel to and shoot.
I’m not sure about one particular spot, but I love mixing nature and man made stuff. Like a Porsche zooming through Yosemite is kind of a stereotypical example but an awesome one. Maybe something like getting a beautiful model with a big bright complex dress in high heels walking through a rain forest in South America or something like that is the stuff I’m into. Putting two things together and photographing that – my subject and the environment. I always like to make contrast and juxtaposition between those two things. Any place that really hasn’t been seen a lot and putting something really impactful into that environment is what I want to do.