This month we had the pleasure to interview the talented photographer Jonathan J Route. The editorial features beautiful photos of Olivia Breault shot by him.
We start the article with Jonathan’s bio through his own words:
“I have always had an interest in photography, mostly wildlife and nature though. About 8 years ago I had a little episode with high blood pressure and a night filled with stroke symptoms. My Doctor showed some concern, and knowing my typical male attitude toward health issues, knew that I would not follow my regimen of blood pressure meds. So he suggested that I either find a less stressful job, or that I find a hobby that I can relax doing. Shortly after that, my brother mentioned having an old camera and lens that he was getting rid of so that he could upgrade his equipment. Not needing any fancy equipment to just play around as a hobby, I gladly accepted the camera from him and started spending time in the woods taking photos. It quickly blossomed into more of a passion than a pastime, and I found myself upgrading my own equipment. People began asking me to do photos for them and it just kind of snowballed from there.
I currently use all Nikon and Sigma equipment. For no other real reason than the fact that the first camera given to me was a Nikon and after buying lenses and equipment to go with it, it would be too expensive to switch now. I would love to get into medium format cameras and would someday like to be able to afford a nice Hasselblad setup. But for now the Nikon D810 and my old reliable Nikon D7000 will do.
I’m not sure I really had influences. Like everyone who has ever thought of taking up photography either as a hobby or a profession, I love the works of Ansel Adams. Seeing some of the amazing portraits of People like Jimmy Nelson and Rehahn, definitely inspire me to do creative and artistic work without trying to become a digital artist. Capturing the art with the camera and not with the computer software in post. Mario Testino has captured some of the greatest unedited candid shots of celebrities that I have ever seen, and I would certainly say that his work is an inspiration. But I would say that my only true inspiration came from watching the amazing artistic talents of my mother growing up. She never did photography, but her paintings and other works always left me in awe as a child, and they still to this day, inspire me to try to be an artist with what I do”.
Hello Jonathan. Welcome to The Style Researcher. Can you tell us about your first portrait shoot?
Hello guys. My first portrait shoot was part of a group shoot with my local Camera Club. I had no clue how to shoot in studio and work with off camera lighting, but I managed to fake my way through it and got a few decent headshots. I spent most of the evening watching the other, more experienced, photographers and listening to them discuss lighting techniques and camera settings. I was definitely over my head, and certainly not where I thought I was as a photographer. I took a lot away from the experience, and I still to this day look back on that night whenever I start to get a little full of myself or over confident about my work. It is always humbling to remember that you can always improve and there are always those who can do better, and that you can learn from.
How is your photography different now from that first shoot?
In the 10 years since that first shoot, I have learned a tremendous amount. Some by trial and error, some by learning from other photographers and models. But I have learned the most just from my desire and passion to become better, and to always try new things. I have upgraded equipment now. I always learned that it isn’t the equipment that takes a photo, it is the photographer, and as much as I do believe that to a point, better equipment makes it a lot easier to improve your skills. I have become a lot more proficient at studio lighting as well as natural lighting. I have also gotten the opportunity to work with some amazing stylists, models, makeup artists, and fellow photographers. I have also become more creative and artistic with my portrait work. I have found that it is a great way to have fun and keep the desire to improve alive. I think my next step will be to work with new and upcoming photographers to help them learn to become better at their craft and to develop their own style as artists.
I think every photographer has a story about how they got started, what was yours? What inspired you to pick up a camera?
I’d love to say that I have some fantastic or magical story as to why I am now a photographer, family tradition, once met Ansel Adams, etc. But alas, I really don’t have a story like that. At age 37 I started a second career, that I very much do not enjoy, and along with hating my job, came the stress. Consistently increasing blood pressure, and a few other borderline health scares led my Doctor to tell me I needed to find a way to relax. While sitting on my porch at a family event, my brother offered me his old Nikon D3000 and a stock lens, since he was upgrading. Having never used a digital camera before and having shown no interest whatsoever in photography prior to that, I of course said “sure I’ll try out this picture taking thing!” Rather than taking any classes, I headed out to the pond with my camera and google queued up on my cell phone to look for things that I could practice shooting. After several months of some of the worse mushroom and leaf photographs anyone has ever laid eyes on, I decided to try to capture some moving objects. One thing led to another and I was out in the swamps and fields becoming a novice wildlife photographer. As I learned the camera and developed some technical skills my work evolved to relatively mediocre, and then to almost not too bad. It was at this point that a friend asked me to do last minute senior photos for their daughter. I tried to tell them that I didn’t shoot people, but they insisted, so I gave it a whirl with some less than terrible results. From there it just started to snowball and now over a decade later and here I am getting interviewed by a fashion magazine.
What artist would you love to work with?
As far as another photographer that I would love to work with, I would have to say Jay Philbrick. The man takes creativity and adventure photography to another level. seeing him rappel down the side of a cliff to photograph a ballerina on a two foot ledge, 600 feet above the ground at sunrise, just amazes me. His locations, models, wardrobe, composition, lighting, and dramatic edge are unrivaled among photographers of today. As far as a model to shoot with, there is no question, Misty Copeland, world renowned ballerina, would be my dream shoot. Given the opportunity, I would definitely go to the next level with my creativity and adventure on a shoot. Her athleticism, beauty, poise, strength, and just all around genuine brilliance would be amazing to capture on film.
What are your biggest inspirations?
I am inspired by the unusual. I love art and elegance. I don’t feel that you can ever go too big on a shoot, the crazier and more extravagant the better. I compete annually in The Portrait Masters competition, and am always inspired by the amazing talent of the photographers that compete every year. There are always photographers to look up to and admire, there is always someone who does it better, and there always will be. My biggest inspiration is just to be a better photographer than I was the shoot before. Always work to improve, to change, to adapt. And never feel as though I am any better than anyone else but my previous self.
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