Full Transcript of Generator Ep. 014 - "Intention and Connection Through Education"
Matt Stagliano 0:00
How you doing, man?
Jonny Edward 0:02
Overall? Yeah, I think leading up to the workshop, obviously that’s coming up here in a couple of days, I always get a lot I can sort of face, though I think that’s one of the funny things like a lot of brands want to get into education. And they’re like, Well, you know, I feel nervous going into it. I’m like, Yeah, you should. Like, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a point when I’m not anxious or nervous going into this because it means a lot to me. And it’s sort of like stage fright. You know, so many Broadway performers. Still puke. People are so sorry or sensitive out there. But it’s one of those things. So I think I always want to over deliver. So I put a lot of pressure on myself. So by right now, I’m just feeling pressure, but it’s nothing external. It’s just infertile. And it’s sort of like trying to throw the peace all into a diamond. So I’m forever compressing myself into something more aspirational.
Matt Stagliano 0:48
Since we kind of dive in into the education immediately, there were so many people that are coming out right, not only because I think bookings are probably down across the board. So folks trying to diversify. How do they do that? Well, you see a lot of gurus online saying you can sell this course of that course. And every agency in the world and the Kajabi. And the learnworlds and whatnot are always selling stuff about how easy it is to create a course with AI and then just sell it and then you’re a millionaire overnight. And I think there’s so much that you have to sift through with that. Once you find your collection of educators, then you have to figure out which are the ones that really resonate with you. Do they have any level of pedigree behind them? Do they sound like everybody else? What is it that they’re doing? What are the gaps in my own education? Do I need what they’re offering? Or do I just want to go touch the magic? And be at that workshop? Am I going to the workshop to learn anything? So I think people look at education, especially people that keep us keep in mind that you want to get better over and over it’s, it’s getting harder and harder to find trusted educators, right? Because if everybody’s selling something for $49, then you know, it’s easy to buy that and it’s easy to dismiss it, too. So I’ve always been of the type while I buy a ton of online courses that I rarely ever why
Jonny Edward 2:11
I’ve probably everything that’s ever been made all of them online and watch 1% of watch 1% of that all the way through,
Matt Stagliano 2:18
oh my god, yeah, you get distracted. And you’re just kind of like, alright, well, Yep, that was 14 minutes of my life. I’m never get back. I think that’s why I come to workshops like this, because coming as a student to learn, I go to probably one, maybe two a year, and I’m not talking to conferences and whatnot, like actual workshop. And I haven’t done one in a couple of years, I don’t think I was hot and heavy for a while Parker and did some work with Felix and kind of bounced around and saw a lot of different educators. But I’ve been kind of out of that space. And I feel it, because I’m not producing work that stimulates me. And so whenever I feel that I’m like I need to get back in the classroom, I need to learn some things, or at least brush up on things that I’ve forgotten. Do you find that when people come to workshops, what do you see the intention? As are they coming to learn? Are they coming to touch the magic? Are they coming to shoot in a studio like this and build a portfolio? What do you see? Because there’s no right or wrong answer. Everybody’s got their own reasons. But what do you see in a lot of,
Jonny Edward 3:21
I think I think it’s the big variety. Like with all things I think for a bit in terms of like the workshops that I run, people hadn’t a con because they want to reconnect to themselves and their art in a meaningful way. And I know that’s a big vagary. But a lot of times, people who are running businesses, often very successful businesses, and they’re going through the motions. And so they’re doing headshots, corporate branding, commercial work, whatever that might be. But there’s a dissonance in terms of them actually feeling and passion to pick up their cameras and to create work for them in terms of creating work that’s actually significant to them. So they’re not either not setting aside time for whatever reasons to create for themselves, or they are creating for themselves. And they’re feeling unfulfilled and disconnected from what they’re creating. So I mean, these workshops tend to be a sort of magnet, chaotic mess of creative energy. And so people come in, and they’re challenged to do different things and try different things. And they’re exposed to different types of individuals and so much diversity and inclusivity and ways of login and ways of styling and ways of building sets. So it’s literally this overwhelming two days that I think is almost short circuited, but then it’s almost planting the seeds so that they can take that back and do something hopefully more substantial for themselves. And that’s the way that I try and differentiate myself. There’s so much work out there on how to do a single lighting setup. And you measure out a light from here to here and it’s exactly 45 degrees and you have a Rembrandt triangle. It’s all very formulaic and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that there is merit and formula or how to make your first 5k sale 10k sale, how to be a six figure photographer, back there’s nothing wrong with that. Obviously we have to make money. But I don’t have any interest in teaching that that’s already an oversaturated marketplace. So I wanted to say hey, like let’s get fucking weird. Let’s walk it up. Let’s do rats, what’s challenging us. And obviously, that’s different for each individual. And let’s come together as a community and say like, Hey, ultimately, we’re all vying for the same thing. And that is we want to create powerful art that resonates with us, and hopefully, do some good in the world in that process, whether it’s for the people in front of our lens, or the people who are viewing our work, or ideally, both of those things, people tend to come here because they want to reconnect with themselves. And in some cases, it’s just because they want to hang out there is that some people want to come and say, Hey, like, I’m really there to go go out for dinner and have a couple of tequila shots, or whatever that might be. Some people come here simply because they know the type of diversity that I work with, we’re going to work. And it’s well, different models. So if you’re trying to build your book, this is a great place to do it. Some people come here because they just want to spend time with me when I don’t know why anyone would want to do that. I think it varies. But ultimately, I think the tide that sort of bind for everyone, including myself, is wanting to create from a place of individuality and authenticity and do so in a way that looks people up in that process.
Matt Stagliano 6:00
Are you seeing that message get across to students before they come in, like, start thinking about these things? What does your art mean to you, right, because you can give a lecture in an inspirational locker room talk and get people stoked about art, and then start shooting. And they fall into the rhythm of just shooting in the studio. Without thinking about what they’re trying to say or what they’re trying to do. There hasn’t been too much talk in the past couple of years about the self value side of life and the mental health side of things. I’ve seen in the workshops that I’ve gone to, it’s probably about a 5050 split, where you have people that are coming in, that have their voice, and want to figure out how to refine it, make it sharper, and then you have a lot of folks that come in that don’t know, maybe exploring, maybe they’re just kind of kicking the tires on the style, or that’s maybe they’ve never done fashion or never even worked with constant lights or strobes, and they’re trying to figure out what they want. Both are valid. It’s easy to sell technique. It’s easy to sell process and workflows. It’s harder to sell, bought. Right. And so what I’ve seen you do really well, what I’ve seen Parker Pfister do really well, is focus on that mental side of what we do, right? And make sure that at least if you don’t explore it fully, you have an understanding of why you’re here and why you’re doing the thing. Do you feel like that’s pretty common across the education field? Or do you feel it’s pretty glossed over? And let’s just get to the techniques?
Jonny Edward 7:45
I feel like it’s pretty gloss over it. Yeah. I think inherently, we’re talking about the mental side of things. And we’re talking about intentionality, we’re talking about purpose, we’re talking about voice. These are inherently intangible elements, right? So if I’m teaching you how to use one light to achieve movie light, whatever you want to these words of selling as moody to you is not loaded me and vice versa. But that’s easy, because I can say, hey, you take a seven foot umbrella and we put it roughly in this position, and you could jot it down in your notebook. Or you can take photos of it, you’re like, Well, I have a new technique in my arsenal technique is simple to teach. And it’s straightforward to delve into these other things like intentionality, like purpose like place like fulfillment like boys, it’s very murky territory, because it’s subjective. It’s something that we can’t physically hold in our hands. So we’re sort of working in the ether with that, and I think it’s a scary territory for a lot of people and especially for educators, you would have to have done some serious self work over a period of years or a lifetime to be able to I think affectively I don’t even think you’d be teach it but guide people to some extent, or act as a guide those four people so that they can discover that for themselves. I don’t think that’s something I could give to you or anyone else who comes to a workshop. I just hope that I could point you in the right direction. So you can unearth that for yourself. But generally speaking, I think that so much in the education industry tends to be fairly vapid, you know, we stay at the very surface of things and you learn some techniques, you know, like here’s a new lighting style and you go back and it’s not yours no one’s really talking about the intangible how to see what you know and if we think about all of these workshops and sort of education things I’ve seen coming out recently right now they’re this big push on constant light. So it’s you know how to shake constant light the power of constant light when it draws people Oh, I’m going to there’s no special considerations when you’re using a constant light versus a distro you know, if you have people power settings and athletic curious to get into technically, but at equal power, you’re gonna get the same quality and caliber of what, but if for me, it’s I don’t want to call it snake oil, but it’s sort of a muddy brown because you are taking people who may already be very adept at working with strobes and telling them they now need to come to your class or buy your online tutorial to learn how to work with constant light, when in reality it’s MCSE simpler than working with strokes. So you’re taking a pseudo complicated subject, making it very uncomplicated and then repackaging it as the essential knowledge of some sort. And that just comes across as very disingenuous submit something that
Matt Stagliano 10:12
kind of you said in there got me thinking about, like, I never went to photography school, I never thought I’d ever be a photographer, right. So that no plan on doing it. So I have zero formal photography, education, outside of workshops, online, experiential, over 12 years just doing the thing. But I don’t have a lot of that foundational, fundamental photographic knowledge that you used to have to have as a photographer, as the barriers to entry have dropped, as techniques have become much more approachable. Gear is much more affordable, the barrier to entry to photography is pretty low. Right? So what I’m seeing is people that are just not versed in fundamentals, not saying that, that that’s even their fault. It’s just we’ve created an environment where if you just watch these few things, you can produce these beautiful images. And there’s like a huge appeal in that, right. And that’s what got me into photography. I was just like, I’d love to be able to do that must be a really nice camera. So I think we’re just forgetting that people have forgotten how to think critically about what it is they’re working with, why they’re working out what the look they’re trying to get. How do they accomplish that? What is the difference between strobe and constant? I just think we’re, we’ve forgotten to start at the beginning. And we’re just kind of jumping into the middle of the movie. And we’re teaching people how to jump into the middle of the movie. And we’re skipping all the stuff. Why do you even want to be here? I saw that on a TPM all the time, we were talking about this at the portrait masters, and I’m working in this booth, and I’m trying to help people to the best of my ability, you know, everything there is set up so that you can come into this booth and get a beautiful picture with the lighting that setup. If you know nothing about photography, you can come in, read the settings on the wall, use the trigger, get a beautiful, beautifully exposed photo. Now your direction and all that stuff is up to you. But you can get a beautifully exposed photo. I’d have folks walk up and they say, you know, Okay, I’m ready. I’m like, alright, well, what are you going to do? Monday, introduce yourself to the model, you know, talk and maybe figure something out. People were kind of taken aback but I got people thinking about, well, what is it that you want to do? Do you want me to turn this up? Do you want to turn down? Do I’m gonna move it to the side? Do you want me to lower? What do you what do you need? Well, why that the settings are there? Well, what
was the look that you want? And I’m probably oversimplifying, making a huge generalization, but I just don’t feel like people are looking at their own art in that way, thinking about what it is that they want outside of a certain style. I want light and airy, I want contemporary, I want moody, right? But they’re not thinking about why what’s the story
Jonny Edward 13:12
very much that well, and I think even with that someone can use one of those parroting words like moody but like, what does moody actually look like? Right? Is that dead shadows? Is that backlit? Is that this and that that? And I mean, one of the simplest ways I think to break this down is so often people will come to me at things like this workshop right conferences, and they’ll take a photo, and they’ll tell me the back of the camera. They’re like, Johnny, what do you think? And like an armchair psychotherapist, and I go, What do you think? And then well, you know, it’s pretty good. I’m like, well, pretty good isn’t good or great. So what don’t you like? Well, um, there’s something about it. I just don’t like it. Like, I get that. That’s what we’re trying to nail down? Well, I mean, well, what do you think about the highlights? The highlights are okay, what do you like about the shadows, they’re too dark. Alright, so the shadows are too dark. Now we have something that we can actively work with. And here are three different ways relative to the gear we have that we can like no shadows? And is it just the shadows? Or is it the whole state? How does the background look, what else is there? Do we need to isolate the shadows? Are we doing something more globally? And so if you don’t have the ability to deconstruct your own work, even looking at it, and say like, this is what I like or don’t like, then you don’t have the vocabulary to be able to eat and properly engage in learning. And so I agree with you the fundamental aspect, that thing is so huge. And we do sort of throw people to the wolves and give them a toolset that allows them to do something in a very narrow range. And they realize they can do that and possibly monetize that. But then as soon as they air off that app, they’re completely lost. They don’t have a compass. They don’t have any idea where they’re out. They don’t have any idea where they’re headed. They don’t even know where they want to be, let alone how to go that direction. And so that that’s a very frustrating boltless feeling. And I think as educators, it’s the Olden to us, too, as much as I load the word like empower people. Yeah, I think it’s one of those buzzwords or embolden them or equip them is probably better phrasing, with a founder. ational toolkit with the vocabulary to allow them to communicate effectively visual error. And people just don’t have that language of going back to it feeling light seeing shadow,
Matt Stagliano 15:11
when we’re doing the artists boards forever, never doing these one, two hour podcasts every day. And we would teach visual literacy, just getting people exposed to looking at images in different ways. All right, let’s not judge the image. Is it good or bad? What are we seeing? Is there a story? What’s in the foreground? What’s in the background? What are the elements while the composition how’s the light, you know, parts of the image that a lot of times we just fly right by, we don’t even think about it. Because we’re only focused on the lighting or the shadows, or, Oh, God, it’s too dark. But look at that expression. That expression is everything. We might be able to do something in post to get it closer without having to retake that shot. Look at the thing, in totality. In Are you seeing something that feels good to you? And if it doesn’t, alright, let’s let’s change it right. But I think it’s a visual literacy part where people just they’re inundated by what’s on social media, right? The people that they follow, right, and they’re seeing Johnny style or seeing Matt Zoller seeing somebody style that they want to emulate. And so that’s all they see. And they forget about their own spin on it. And the why, because if I’m not getting the same light as Johnny, then I’m not a good photographer, and has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with that. It’s interesting to me that I’m finding now against no art school, no art history, right? I read books I try to anyway, the words confused me. But you know, we’re talking below on the same line, we’re talking outside about Irving Penn, Peter Lindbergh, right, and looking at coffee table books, and you’re looking through all this stuff and trying to get inspired and look at how they built this massive body of work. And most photographers that I talk to these days, have a certain style. But I don’t see them creating large scale bodies of work over a period of time. They’ve got clients, they might do one or two creative shoots a year something to that effect. But they’re not incessantly shooting for the love of shooting for creation sake. And I see you doing that a lot. I know it’s kind of mixed between the jobs. But how important is building that body of work over time, not for accolades or judgment, but just for your own creative journey. How important is that for you to just keep building it and keep building it?
Jonny Edward 17:49
I think it’s essential. I think that that creative play is so essential, and I’d be obsession with that. I think contextualise you know, people ask me a lot like, especially when I first started out, I went from whatever we all do on down to relatively known fairly quickly, at least that’s what it looked like from the outside. People were like, Well, how did you get from point A to point B, we’ll just call them that so rapidly, and I was like, fucking obsession. Like when you were sleeping, I was shooting when you were awake, I was shooting when I wasn’t working and making money other ways I was shooting. Literally, I put in more time in one year than most photographers will put in in a decade. And that’s how I advanced there was no secret sauce. It’s not because I’m talented, or genetically gifted or many times. Yeah. It would literally be time I invested over that. I think that that what you get started really easy to this idea that someone has clients, they have a business, it’s going well, and they create once or twice a year, once or twice a year, think about that, like one or two shoots for yourself, how are you going to grow, and nine times out of 10 for those people, which I think the vast majority of people in those one or two sheets, they’re still not creating for themselves. They’re going well, this is going to be perfect for my next marketing campaign. This will appeal for 40 over 40 This is going to do this, this is going to do that. So it’s still as an endpoint. So it’s not art for art’s sake, or creation for creation sake or they’re in they’re trying to nail down a specific technique. And so there’s an expectation that then precludes them from exploring. And so there is no evolution because there’s no failure. And especially in Western society, I think we have such a negative connotation of this idea of failure you say failure that a roomful of any artists, but obviously, I know photographers betting better than any others and everyone cringes, you go failure in a turtle up, they go into their shells, and they start shaking and calling their therapists and it’s all incidental. Like I got a great idea to do this. But to put them all in there, and we’re gonna put them in front of this backdrop, we’re gonna put the spotlight on and then come out and issue 20 frames and actually 20 More like that’s a terrible fucking idea that I bought, I bought it I couldn’t make this light. I couldn’t bring the vision to light for my vision didn’t manifest as I expected it to and I scrap it and move on to the next thing. But that that, that that you can call that failure or experimentation or we want to pray that that’s how I get to the next place where I find what I love, where I find what resonates Where I find something that feels there’s an intangible feel. And I think we’ve lost sight of that to human connection. You know, we’re so focused on lighting, we’re so focused on tonal cohesion on textural cohesion on set design, that we forget about connecting with the person in front of us. And I think even with me, a lot of people come in, they’re like, Well, I just love your work. And I’m like, Why? Why don’t you have really nice light and like a lot of people have really nice lighting, a lot of people have really nice SEC design. But I think what I use into my work is a genuine love and adoration and respect for whoever is in front of my lens. And that’s an intangible thing where I don’t think you’re coming to me, you necessarily want to know my lighting, you want to know what the, what’s that fourth dimension? What’s that intangible element, and I can’t teach you how to love a person, I can’t teach you how to connect with them, I can’t teach you to be genuinely interested with the person in front of you. And that’s a skill that you can develop. But that goes back to sort of the soft skills and everything that’s odd is a hard skill, because it’s tangible. And ultimately what we do as portrait photographers, or fashion photographers, or editorial photographers is humanist. And so as soon as we lose sight of the humanity in our work, our work becomes hollow. And so we can look at it, I could say, well, technically, that’s perfect Rembrandt lighting, and wow, your positioning is wonderful. And you have three triangles that are present in there. And look, the tip of their nose is pressing past the cheek, and relative to the grid there that is in the upper rule of thirds. And I’ve looked at it I’m like, the fucking photo makes me feel a lot better. It is a technically masterful all together devoid of emotion photo, and it is not art, it is a photo. If you’re operating that way, you’re a technician. And so I think it’s beholden to us to create that body of work and fixate on it and Appstats will bid that out. And then from regurgitation in vain from thing of some substance about
Matt Stagliano 21:47
Well, that was the thing that I saw on that. The Lindbergh book that I was talking about with shadow and light. The one shadow light, yeah. And it’s all black and whites of the, like Helen Mirren and Penelope Cruz, completely devoted makeup. Sitting in an empty loft room. Natural light may be one light somewhere, but it was the connection, not always in focus. It’s not always the composition that you would think. But I can’t imagine anyone these days saying kind of fucked up that shoe. Right? Because the stories that are being told by ICE by this clear connection between object making it so much more powerful than perfect execution every single time, right. So as I you know, as I look for inspiration, and all these books in, you know, connection being my thing that I strive for, anyway, I keep coming back to, again, why am I doing what I’m doing? Am I getting closer to my own vision, which I never thought of, at the beginning of my photography,
Jonny Edward 23:01
I don’t think you can, I don’t, I don’t think you can even it’s like trying to conceptualize infinity. We’re like read a vast infinite universe that’s ever expanding, we can say this. But to actually like up meet me cannot comprehend that. And so at the beginning of your journey, I don’t think that we have the ability to even consider that in a genuine way that only comes later on as we begin to step into our own, whatever that bone might be.
Matt Stagliano 23:25
I think that’s, that’s a really important point, because a lot of folks that do get started and because like I was saying earlier, the barriers to entry are so low, that you can jump into the game, make a bunch of money, and produce quality work in a really short period of time, there are people that do that, and are gonna laugh all the way to the back. There’s a ton of people in the middle that also care about the art and the business, and they’re just a mess. And then there’s the people that are just pure artists, they’ll care about the business. And, you know, they just create for the act of creation, because it’s the obsession they have to be, I think it’s okay to not know what you want, it’s okay to not have visual literacy, and you’ve got to start somewhere. But I think as responsible citizens in the photography community, there needs to be more of that messaging, more thought, into the why rather than the hell
Jonny Edward 24:24
and I think normalizing that is a big thing and making that sort of essential part of these conversations and the big thing and speaking to struggle speaking to self doubt, speaking to self loathing, I think one of the craziest thing that happens for me at some of these workshops, especially when I first started I didn’t know what to expect. And I went into it with my heart in the right place in my head in the right place, but but no experience to judge anything on. And one of my favorite things was when people started coming up, they’re like, holy shit like hearing you talk about self doubt, watching you like walk up during the shoot saying and leave a lens cap on or take a bow No, that was under overexposed or literally throw a bucket tantrum. And so we have one of these things because people want to put out this policy and a notch as it, they walk into a room and the lights assemble like a button transformer, and they get this masterpiece of an image. And it is such a disservice to people who are at the earlier stages of their journey because it’s that’s an expectation that not possibly be met. And so in this process, or I guess, tendency toward perfection, we alienate people. And we create a false sense of what it means to be successful. And one of my biggest things was getting in a room with people like you getting into the room with people like Pratik, and, and Felix and all of these other artists that I admired and even deified at points during the talk, I’m gonna go on my work stocks. And I was like, oh, stet like, this isn’t like I’m not growth in reason I’m feeling that way isn’t because I’m broken. It’s omnipresent. And it was a weird thing, because it was liberating that it was horrifying. Because in my mind, I’m like, well, when I’m at their level, I’m gonna feel like I’m a god, and nothing can touch me, it hurt me. And so it’s reassuring to know that they felt that way. But I was also like, oh, fuck this, and we’re gonna go wet. And as I thought it moved on, I really liked the duck and bow Lake. How we relate to we change how you handle it. Now when I start getting that self doubt and like a self doubt, go fuck yourself. I’m about to go prove you wrong. And then I create something nasty. Oh, whereas before, I would have been like, LOL bourbon, I love ice cream. Hello, bathtub and toast. Let’s see where this night goes. And so it’s been reformulated a bit, which I’m very grateful for. But but we just there’s not enough transparency. There’s not enough honesty and openness about these things. And actually, for mental health and well being to feel at the beginning of your stage, like you’re not moving forward, and you’re out in this self doubt. And you don’t know what you’re doing. And you’re a loser, because you don’t want your fucking doing like That’s awful. versus going like, oh, wait, I don’t know what I’m doing. Because I’ll wait. I expected myself to know. And I don’t know, it’s silly, and other people are struggling and everyone’s trying to figure this shit out. And like, the whole kind of doesn’t make sense. We’re all doing our best. When we’re like, oh, well, this is actually a good thing. Like this self doubt that I’m feeling means that I’m striving and I’m working toward that thing. And so rather than being an edit, it’s actually sort of a guidepost thing, like, Hey, keep going is your edit in the right direction. This is the non good and evil but unnecessary elements of getting to where you want a bit and just that process and being an artist.
Matt Stagliano 27:30
It’s funny, everything. You’re saying I was like, stop attacking me, or stop attacking me. Yeah, we’re all there at the beginning, right? We all have all this self doubt. I know that when I started photography, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was going to the gun range with my camera, and taking photos of me and my friends that grew into commercial business and campaigns with large companies. I never set out to do it. So I was blissfully ignorant about everything. Not only the business whitebalance white balance, I don’t know, I’m get this thing on auto. And I’m just shooting and people liked the pictures. So I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And that was freeing, because I loved the work that I was creating. When I got into portraits, and I started circulating in in different groups, and starting to find what I resonated with. And I saw the level of talent out there. It went from this blissful ignorance to Oh, I’m just ignorant. And now I feel bad about myself. And everything. For the first few years of me shooting was trying to prove to other photographers that I was a good photographer, rather than caring about the craft, caring about the why caring about how my art made me feel here. I was worried about what other people who don’t give a shit about me. Were thinking about the work that I was putting on social media that they weren’t seeing. So I was creating all these worlds in my mind about what a terrible photographer I was. When every day that I was shooting, I was getting a little bit better. So there does come that moment where you realize, oh, my gods, my idols have all the same, if not worse, self confidence than me. Yeah. So if they have it, well, that makes them human. I’m human. We’re all go through this. So I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully produce what I love. It took a lot of pressure off once I started to remove people from idolatry and just place humanity and vulnerability on them. Yeah, I was like, oh, okay, so no matter what level you get to, there is part of that that still nags at you.
Jonny Edward 29:55
Like I think there’s that element and all of us can relate, you know, when you begin to stop Seeing a parent as a parent and seeing them as a human being Yeah. And suddenly, it’s like you no longer hold the expectations about mom, being a mom, you’re like, Oh, this is a woman who has her own struggles and our own processes, and in many ways, is just doing her best. And that changes the dynamic instantaneously. And so I think it’s a coming of age, really, like we’re coming of age as artists, and we begin to see things not as we imagine them, or envision them or project onto them, but as they actually are. And that’s a big stepping stone forward. But just to circle back to that, that that state of ignorance, ignorance and bliss. And those two things are combined, it’s wonderful, because we don’t know what’s wrong until we’re told it’s wrong. And it’s, it’s amazing, you know, it’s children’s children in preschool, and they’re drawing and drawing, fucking grabs with bear arms. And it’s swiping at the sun. And it’s this amazing thing of expression. And it’s their offer the world and you have this middle child who’s going to be the next Picasso and you’re like, that funds not green. And the kids like, oh, well, I can only paint the sun yellow, and I don’t pay outside the lines, and no crabs don’t have bear arms. And all of a sudden, this child starts being critical of what it is they’re creating. And as they’re creating, they start to think about it, it’s no longer a flow state, they’re no longer present in the moment, they’re beginning to critically evaluate relative to external opinion what it is, they’re not creating any more, you’re manufacturing, right. So you’re creating to spec right, you now have a spec sheet. So you’re a technician, you’re not an artist, or creator anymore. There’s nothing wrong with technicians, we need them the world runs on technicians, but we have moved out of the creative realm into something that is blueprints. And we have to break out of that when print status. So don’t get me wrong, going back to business, if you have a headshot business, and you use Peter Hurley It’s methods and everyone’s squinting and looking into 17 lights that are blasting light onto their face, to make them look, you know, 20 years younger and plastic. That’s cool. I love you, Peter. But God, then that’s cool. That’s your formula. That’s your formula for business, but like you still need to be your artistic side. And so we have to make these artistic dates with ourselves. Like, I will go in if I find myself in a rut, and I will challenge myself to do something that I will we just had this conversation earlier, when we were out eating, about like, hope away. And on the same way as you were 35 I love fucking 3552 I’ll go wider like this drop a music video, and then a campaign for big lighting company out of 14 to 24. And it’s all fucking distorted and weird. And I love it, like challenge myself very much like, you’d have to shoot the 85 in one place. And I was like, oh, fuck, I love this in the right environment. But if I’ve been shooting with my 35, I’ll go into a stat, especially if it’s my personal work, I’m like, I’m only gonna use my 85. And that’s my challenge. And even if I hate all the images, it gets me out of my rut. And it gets me thinking differently. And it gets me responding differently. It is so easy to fall into a space of apathy and indifference. And when we’re apathetic and we’re going through the motions, we are no longer present, if we’re not present, we’re not imbuing what we’re creating with the potential power that we could be. And that’s unfortunate for us. It’s unfortunate for our clients, and it’s unfortunate for the world. Because we as artists are in a really curious and pivotal position to be able to positively impact the world and those we encounter. But in order to do that full math, we have to get our bats to be at our best we have to be serving ourselves first and foremost. And that’s not selfish. If we want to be selfless, we’d have to start there. And it’s cliche, but it’s so true. It’s not we have this conversation got a long time ago, probably probably several times about having to take care of yourself first, right. And so a buddy of mine, I worked with for years.
Matt Stagliano 33:35
His name’s Kerry Davis, he owns Dark Angel medical. He was a para jumper. He teaches people combat casualty care medicine now. So he’s a trauma nurse. Yeah. So his big thing, especially when he was triaging in critical events, it was you’ve got to be in good physical shape, good mental shape, hydrated, you’ve got to be able to take care of yourself first, so that you can take care of others. Because if you deplete all of that constantly, then you’re not going to be making the decisions that you need to make in a critical situation. And removing like pressing a button on a camera is not trauma care. I understand that. And I’m not equating it to. But all I’m saying is we put so much time and energy into others, into our businesses and to making sure that we’re seeing yet to take care of ourselves. Create for the act of creation, be that little kid again, have a little bit of ignorance and just wonder and curiosity. And we don’t do that and that is a form of self care. I know that I neglect it. Constantly. I’m constantly neglecting my own creativity and my desire to make new things because I gotta send these emails, I got to talk to these clients, I’ve got to go to the studio and prep for my shoot tomorrow, or I’ve got to get these real estate photos done. Whatever it is, there’s always something to take me away from carving out time for myself, whether that’s meditation, whether that’s going to the gym, whether that’s just having a glass of water, instead of another bottle of bourbon, like, whatever it is, I often sacrifice my own health, because I’m telling myself the story that I’m helping others. And I
Jonny Edward 35:36
was just gonna bring that up, like you hit the nail on the head and about So to sort of piggyback on and I think most people photography is, is curious, so that obviously, we work directly with people, portrait photographers, you know, you have a painter, they may paint someone, there’s a lot of isolation. And so I think a lot of photographers who work with people, especially portrait photographers, we got caretaker archetypes, and what that means that we prioritize others over ourselves. And a lot of that stems from childhood things, and this is not gonna be a long enough episode. At another time, we can offer it together, inborn normally they grow up or whatever it is that we take care of ourselves. And so there’s a certain fulfillment of that. And so we wired our brains in a way where being a martyr equates with being a positive influence equates with our value, the more I sacrifice myself, the more valuable I am by wearing myself down to skin and bone on your behalf and doing something significant in the world, if I bypass you, because I need that love by being selfish. And it results in all of these negative things and connotations. So, yeah, I mean, it’s so so vitally important. We can’t We can’t going back to it even pragmatically, if any of you out there have not done personal work in a while, or you know, Matt, you haven’t done personal work in a while you do that? No, I don’t think that light painting with the flashlight is gonna equate necessarily in more money for you. You know, I don’t think the law firm in your part of the United States is going to come to you and say, Hey, you want some of our Bersih as blurry light painting photo is the film that we work in at law, but we’re different. I don’t think that’s going to happen. But what I do know will happen is when you go to take those traditional headshots, you’re going to walk into that office with more pep in your step, you’re going to have more energy, you’re going to have more passion, you’re going to have more enthusiasm, you’re going to be more present, you’re going to deliver a better service and product to them. And they’re going to love you that much more for it. If you’re just going through the motions you step in, and I thought about that I got to a place in my work where I load picking up my camera and I went bought, there are better ways to make money than this. There are easier ways to make money in this, I do not want to be an artist who loves creating art. That’s such a terrible place to be in. And it’s so ollieing and so diminishing, and you get to a place where you can feel so hopeless and helpless in that. So it’s not optional. Creating work for ourselves is not optional. It’s a must. Taking care of ourselves, the boss, then even at these workshops, going back to it, I’m used to working in the back in an editorial world. So for me, 16 hour days is not the right you know, I’m fueled on coffee and cigarettes and whatever else like it’s the late 70s, early 80s. And I’m just going of wide eyed and bushy tailed. And at the end of the day, people are like, aren’t you tired? Like fuck, no, this is what I do. But just that like eight hour days and taken a lot. So you do have to be physically fouled you do have to be mentally sound, you have to attend to yourself first. And this doesn’t just apply to art with everything in life. You know, the there’s so many of these adages that that come across as so cliche and trite. But they’re said over and over for a reason. And literally an empty cup cannot fill another. This isn’t metaphysical. This is physics. If you have nothing to give, you can’t give anything. And we just it’s so inconceivable in sight. It’s so easy for me to take care of you. It’s so hard for me to take care of knit.
Matt Stagliano 38:51
So how do you do it?
Jonny Edward 38:52
I journal I did Apple to nature, I work out I eat well, I cook for myself, I create my own art, I spend time with myself on and it changes day to day. And I go through seasons with that. And I think that’s the thing too, we were talking about all like formulate lighting is sort of rubbish. And that you have to be able to see light shadow. The same thing goes for self help. Sure. And that’s where eighth is just as well. But it’s like well, in order to be a healthy well adjusted individual, you have to meditate for 20 minutes every morning. If I meditated for 20 minutes every morning, I would cut off both of my feet and throw them out the fucking windows. That is not for me. I love active meditation fine. Well Phil think that back. They say fine. Now they’re editing down to the act of meditation working out from it, doing yoga or pilates of active meditation. Like there is no one right approach for any individual and there is no approach that ever last. So it serves you today may not serve you tomorrow. In going back to evolving as an artist. I think that’s an important thing to remember. Sometimes we feel very driven by a thing. Let’s say it’s blur. We go through the season of blurry learning. They’re fodder for Okay, now everything’s not one second or 150 bucks back in it. You’re talking about a light blurs by and the impermanence of things and everything that femoral that we’re all gatos and bought temporarily manifest in flesh and bone, and you’re fucking leaning into it. And you’re reading poetry from the 16th century, and you’re drinking pork wine, and you’re just stuck in there. And then all sudden, you wake up Wednesday, and you’re like, bullshit, hate it. That’s okay, that’s good. Suddenly, you’re like, I got a macro lens, I assess. Like the every single core, and this person will fucking Chase, I can feed their soul, but I’m here for the teeth, I’m gonna pixel peep. And that’s my new thing. And that lasts for a week or a month or a year. But he’s in filth bought into this idea that we have to maintain that we have to stay in the same lane. And especially if you jumped into this without being passionate, if it was a career change, or if you got into portraiture right away, and someone’s like, well, this is how you do it. And this is how you do it, right. And then you’re like, well, this isn’t good for me anymore, but you can’t let go. Because it’s part of your identity, your success, who you’re known at all you’re known as. And we have to be able to vote to move into the next level, the next phase of who we are and where we want to be, and letting go. It’s hard. But we have to let go to make space for the things that we want to be in become in achieved and accrue. And without that space, nothing can grow. Nothing can happen.
Matt Stagliano 41:25
I feel like there’s too much pressure to be a certain type or a certain look of creative, have them a certain amount of followers or street cred. And if the world were devoid of that, you think there will be as many creatives and
Jonny Edward 41:47
absolutely not, no, I think I think people feel much pressure. You know, one thing that I’ve talked about for a while now doing things like this is that I don’t refer to myself as a photographer, I consider myself an artist. Yeah, I recorded myself as an artist, and my primary medium is photography. But no, I think that we have a tendency in this society in a pressure and imperative almost to define ourselves. This is who I am. I’m a Libra with the rising sun. I’m a talker who specializes in editorial portraiture with an airy feel, or niching. Right now I’m gonna market it. I’m a fashion he likes blue right now. I’m all of these things. And so we turn ourselves into these arbitrary elements. And then that allows people to decide I’m like, Oh, wait, you’re a denim Why, oh, I’m a Chino guy, we can’t be friends. And so it allows us to decide quickly, erroneously if we’re going to associate or not. But that pressure is on us all weekend, especially, while always being thing. You know, you look at selling out while it’s acceptable. And I shot for the cover of bow, but I only have 5000 followers, so I’m a piece of shit. It’s crazy. It’s such a
Matt Stagliano 42:59
weird version of the primal caveman side of us just wanting to belong to the tribe. Just not wanting to get kicked out. Like I said earlier, like, that’s why I was trying to make my way in, in the photography world by impressing other photographers yet, and it went nowhere. And it wasn’t until I just said, Well, this is totally the wrong approach. Like, I don’t need to do that, that I actually started to feel really good about photography. Yeah. But at the same time, that comes with an acceptance of a certain level of isolation. Absolutely. Right. And in that it took me a long time to find the strength to feel okay with that, that, you know, the starving lonely artists, right as an archetype for a reason. But I think the lonely artist is less about how many people are in your social circle. It’s how you feel disconnected from the rest of the tribe. Yeah. Right, by being out here doing something bold doing your own thing. And I use bold, bold for the individual, right. And so I think there’s always this part of us that wants so badly to be accepted, and be proven viable and worthy. But at the same time, that feels false, because what we really want to do is over here, but if we do that, we’ll be alone. And if we’re alone, that’s the scary dark place. And it’s just lighter and more comfy over here. Well, I think
Jonny Edward 44:38
I think that is a potential dark side, photograph communities. You get into something and there are certain parameters in order to be involved. It’s it’s a group, it’s a clip, you know, like, you’re not going to be in a yacht club without a yacht. And when you don’t have a yacht anymore, guess what? You no longer welcome to the Yacht Club. I don’t know if that’s true. I’ve never had a yacht or been in a yacht club, but I might there I might buck in rubber News. should play double shrinkage. But I think that’s one of the things is we get into it. And then we do feel that warmth and breaks, right? Like, I’m creating this type of work and people are saying they love it. They’re big helpful, and they accept me. And let’s say it’s community that value thought that the area light, thought wrapping light. Oh, it’s so small. So theory looks so angelic. And all of a sudden, you pop in and you’re like, fucking high noon sun. You’re like looking at heat phones on my subject, their structure, their fucking dimension. This shit is dope. And people are like, Oh, you’re one of those now. You’re hard, light person. Where’s
Matt Stagliano 45:35
the white vignette?
Jonny Edward 45:36
Yeah, wow, oh, that’s not soft at all. Those transitions aren’t buttery, I’m uncomfortable. And so in some cases, you will wind up finding yourself exiled from the community because you no longer fit into those parameters. And that
Matt Stagliano 45:51
there, it’s down to you whether you feel good or bad about
Jonny Edward 45:54
that. Exactly. Yeah. And if if you got into something and it was predicated on feeling accepted, and that has fulfilled a void or a pain in you that’s probably existed since childhood, or adolescence is steps away from that you’re not stepping away from that you’re stepping away from home, you’re stepping away from love. And that can be a very hard thing to do. So it’s so easy for us to become trapped, and entrenched in these communities. And I’m not saying that communities are what the bad speller that I typecasting them, but they are in terms of creativity, these communities tend to do one thing, and they do it really well. But anything beyond that is out of their purview. And it’s in their periphery. And as you start to step into that, you have to step away from them necessarily to continue down that path. And so that goes back to molting that goes back to letting go that goes back to shedding and the struggle of what it means to come into your own is an artist and the struggle is bucking really. And I have talked with men too mentees and just random people who come up to me on the street or your pocket Johnny creative. I got a question for you. I’m like, oh, yeah, I just wanted to go grocery shopping provide some unsolicited like to buy. They’re like, how do I get to where I want to be? I’m like, it depends on how much you’re willing to struggle. How much are you willing to struggle for your dream. And if you’re willing to give and do anything, you’ll get there. And if you’re not, that’s okay, too. But you need to be honest with yourself about that. And that’s the conversation that I don’t think we have, it’s okay to be a hobbyist. It’s okay to do this part time, it’s okay to only pick up your camera once a month. But if you say arbitrarily, I want to be on the cover of Vogue Italia. And you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there, you will fucking get there, but you’re gonna have to sacrifice a lot, you’re gonna have to give up a lot, you’re gonna have to do a lot. There’s sleepless nights and fucked up relationships, and isolation from friends and who God knows what, not a whole lot of money and not as long as we know, now, there’s no money in it anymore, going down that road. But if that is your aspiration, if that’s your like, goal, your dream, then fucking get your give yourself to it. You know, I will speak well, and I’ll butcher it. But like, you know, find what you love and let it consume you. And so I think that I have that very, I try and have that open conversation with people to say how important is this year, honestly. And people always, always this tendency, we have to say in setting like, this is the most important thing ever. Everything’s the most important thing ever. I would give anything for photography, because we feel that’s what we should say. But it doesn’t speak to the actuality or a genuine intention. And that’s the big big like you had mentioned earlier, it’s circling back that intentionality where do I really want to be what do I want to say? What do I want to create?
Matt Stagliano 48:30
And it ties into self value so forth? What is it? What is it that I want? Yeah, right. What is it that I want? In life? What’s a big bucket question? And not ready for that? What do I want out of my photography? Let it sit down. I think, you know, as people start to play with that question, just opening up that river, curiosity gets you thinking in a way that is nothing productive. Great. And in figuring out well, I absolutely. I said from the beginning, no weddings, no kids, no babies, no families, because I talked to all my other photographer friends. I was doing photojournalism and I realized, like all my other photography, friends who were making bank, yeah, wedding and all this up, and then you talk to them. And I’m like, You’re 29 years old with a bad back, no knees, and you just
Jonny Edward 49:30
need the world read Sylvia Plath in your free time. And yeah, that was like I absolutely don’t want to do Yeah, yeah.
Matt Stagliano 49:38
So I don’t think people take the time to just be curious about what they want, what they don’t want. And a lot of times, you know, and Sue Brice, I’ve said this several times. It’s easier to start with what you don’t want. I don’t want to do family. These kids weddings like I don’t want to do that. So what does that leave me with? Well, any type of art that I I want to create any type of photo that I want to create. That makes me feel good. Yeah, I just know that those specific genres are never going to make me feel good. Yeah.
Jonny Edward 50:09
Why Why invest time or effort into those things that have no referral? Right? Well, I
Matt Stagliano 50:14
shoot someone’s family. That sounded really weird. Well, it depends on the day. You know, if someone asked me to photograph their family, I’d probably do it knowing that I could get a well exposed, well composed photo. But I have no desire to get into that. And I know that intrinsically, I don’t know. And this isn’t saying like, I’ve got all the answers. But I just don’t think people are asking themselves that question enough upfront look, am I a hobbyist? Or do I want to go pro? Do I want to do fashion? Or do I want to do abstract? Well, whatever question you ask yourself, you’ll get an answer to. So just start asking yourself questions. Yep. And I don’t think that’s being taught enough. You know, when I was at WPI, last year, sat through a lot of the lectures and walked around quite a bit, I was trying to get a feel for as many different presentations as I can get. And there weren’t as many folks talking about the softer skills, the why the intentionality of things, as much as I would have liked to have seen. Now, granted, I didn’t see every presentation. So I probably could have missed 90%, or I have no idea. But the point being, I think it’s an important conversation to keep coming back. Yep. Because it can change, like you said, it can change, I go from blur to light and airy to harsh shadows. Like, that’s the great part of it. Because instead of saying, well, but blur, you’re saying, I know how to do blur and start to build your own thing with your own experiences
Jonny Edward 51:49
I love right. And I think that for me, at least. And I believe that this holds true for a lot of Korea, a lot of photographers that my artistic journey, my photographic journey has paralleled my personal journey. And so hopefully, we evolve. I know there are a challenging relationship with my mom, your app. And so at first, it was interesting when I first started doing like getting into portraits and things like that, for whatever reason, people are very comfortable around me, I think if I have a superpower, it’s putting people at ease. It’s making people feel seen and heard they feel they feel like they can be whoever they are in that moment. And I love that I adore that. Like I all the trauma that I have that gets contacts to and I fucking love that. But I had a lot of women who would come to me and they’re like, will you photograph me with my baby? Will you this with my towel that buck now, or not a million years. And because I don’t want I didn’t want to address things with my own mom. But now I found I’ve actually been reaching out the people that I know, our children in St. Paul, I photograph you together. Because I’ve gone through a massive healing journey without in photographing women, especially with younger children has been very therapeutic from it. I get to give them that fulfillment. And in the process, I get to see that bond. And even though it’s something I know that I will never ask directly, it still is healing and uplifting to minute. And so if you would have asked me two years ago, if I would do it, I’d be like, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And here I am. And that’s a wonderful thing. It is a wonderful thing to say this no longer appeals to me or this now appeals diminisher and to move in that direction confidently. And to know that all things and relationships and all of this end we are impermanent. And that’s a big reminder, see when I don’t want to be McCobb at all, but it’s the memento mori aspect that better, absolutely awesome. Even people who are listening, I don’t like, I want you to know this too. Like you’re going to die. We are not long for this world. And we do not know how much time we’re going to ask you like, how do you want to spend these fleeting finite moments? Do you want to be fitting into a bubble so that you know whatever? Belinda thinks that you’re great on social media, or so that for these petty validations. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong, I like being validated. My ego loves being validated while upset. But literally I asked myself that when I start getting into rocks, I’m like, All right. I’m going to be assumptive and say on January 1, I’m going to die. I don’t know how but I’m going to die. I want to spend these next months with my art. What do I want to do? What do I want to say? And it’s it’s, it’s powerful. Yeah. And obviously, it’s not for everyone. You know, some people get into that spiral and they don’t get out. But I think it’s really important to realize what we we are we are finite and things like legacy. Ultimately, I know I’m probably gonna get some hate mail for this. But Lego, let’s see is illusory, too. It’s a way that we try and cope with mortality, because it’s another thing that we can’t understand or comprehend. But two or three generations from now, even if you and I create the most impactful work of this generation, no one’s going to know our name or know that work. And so we have to create for ourselves now, what’s going to serve us now? What’s going to bring us joy and peace now what are we going to love now? What’s going to make that sparking energized and excited I did and radiant and the era now. And that doesn’t have to be the same tomorrow or the next day or even in the next hour. But we meet ourselves where we’re at. And if we can honor that it is so wonderful, and liberate it.
Matt Stagliano 55:13
I agree with you 100%. For me, it’s less about the final product of what I produce. It’s the feeling that I get it’s vibe that I get the emotional state that it puts me in, that I can then just connect with other people, they’re around my positive energy. So when I’m creating, it looks like dogshit, there’s going to be one in there that is great. And whether it’s self portrait, or whether it’s a sunset doesn’t matter, like there’s going to be something in there that you can look at and be like, That’s great. And draw some inspiration from draw some self love from that impacts everyone around you. But if you’re constantly in the state of hating your work, or in a place where you don’t know what you want to say, it’s frustrating, and it’s, it’s disempowering. And that just kind of makes you a big downer, right? So thinking about longevity, thinking about mortality, does give you a different perspective on what’s valuable. What’s important in your life. And it could be, well, if I only have to January, I gotta make a million dollars, okay? Well, if finances is your thing, go forth and conquer. If it’s love, if it’s eat all the french fries in the world, I don’t know, like, whatever it is that floats your boat, do it with a passion and energy of 1000 suns, right? Because if you don’t do that, then you’re just in this solid state of existence. And you’re not able to bring what is uniquely you to other people. They don’t have to like your art, no, but the emotional state that you’re going to be in creating what you love and feeling good about it is going to translate to other people. And I think that is oftentimes what separates some of the greater artists, from people that were probably technically better, but just didn’t affect the people around them. Or good people very much.
Jonny Edward 57:25
One of my one of my favorite quotes, and I just butcher quotes, I love quotes, and I never get them, right and paradox. Richard Avalon, and also I controversial figure, but he has this quote. And it’s basically he said, and I’m paraphrasing here,
I hate the camera, it gets in the way of what I do. And I love that. Yeah. And I love that. And like if anyone has ever seen me work, and I have someone in front of my lens, I spend so much more time talking. I’m talking, I’m laughing, I’m talking shit. I’m telling stories. I’m poking fun. And then I’ll pick up my camera for 20 frames, and boom, boom, boom, and then I put it back down because my real passion is the person in front of it. And that actually circles back to the monetary aspect of thing because one thing that I hear a lot, I’m sorry, photographers, but we are a whiny bunch. We love to whine and I’m guilty of this as well. I’ll drink to that. We love to why Well, Joe, we’ve had shot studio down the road is charging $100 less, and they’re booked out. Why is this? And why is that? Why is this? Why did it suck sometimes, and you’re putting your heart and soul into everything and you’re spinning your wheels, and you see someone else you don’t see them, you see your perception of them, that you perceive someone else in a way where you’re like, well, they’re not doing anything, and they’re getting all of this success. Going back to the experiential things. Some people are fucking amazing with people, but shitty photographers, and they’re going to be really successful. Because people feel great around them. And there is an inherently bias when we view images. It Matt, you photograph me tomorrow, we have a great experience. And you caught me where I had a triple chin because I’m back looking like Jabba the Hutt. And it’s my crack and I’m Pirate Night because I drank too much bourbon before the session, but we laugh the whole time and it was this beautiful expression of love and brotherhood. I’m gonna look at those and go fuck man. Like let me let me give you some money but what can I do for you for these if you eautiful statuesque photos of me, but the entire time you’re telling me I’m a piece of shit and making me uncomfortable. And that’s how we get there. I’m gonna look at those photo the even though externally, people would say they’re wonderful. I’m gonna go those are shit. Sure. So someone’s experience dictates how they perceive the images. And we lose sight of that sale, because it’s like, well, I got great lighting, why am I not getting work? And it’s because you don’t talk to your clients. They come in and going back to portrait masters or conferences. So often what happens is someone gets in front of a model, and they presume that the model loves themselves and the model doesn’t need validation and that they don’t have to communicate, they shouldn’t introduce themselves, and they just start clicking Cool. And then the model is like, Well, what do you thank you, thank you so much. And that’s it. And there’s no interaction. There’s no recognition. The second workshop that I did I had a gentleman in here who is a beautiful man, beautiful categorically, like really, really stunning. They I really uniquely stun it on and model or smile, okay. And I walked out of the room, I was going to get water and self care because I was dehydrated and I was starting to look like California raisin. Now getting that white stuff in the corner by dial I realized I was like, Oh, this I’m like photosynthesizing like I need to, like these trucks produce without. So I go in. I’m chugging water, I took like 32 ounces of water, you know, erring on like hyponatremia. And all this, my electrolytes are fucked up. And I come back out and there’s a pop a lot the they’re literally in this part of the studio over here. I mean, those of you are listening, I’m pointing to the left. But they’re in the part of the studio, and everyone’s photographing this giant, and no one’s saying anything to end. And it was so fucking awkward. It’s just, yeah, the shutter is fucking lacking. And I know him. I could tell he’s approachable. And no one knew this. But yeah, just not not the relationship. You cheated on. It was a bad situation. He almost didn’t come and I’m like, Nope, you want to come like what? That’s on you. And he showed up. And I walked over and I literally stood in front of everyone. I go, What the fuck are you doing? The middle? Like, what do you mean? I’m like, why are none of you talking to this mayor? Why are none of you telling him he’s beautiful? And he’s wonderful. Why am I not hearing to yas? The fucking get it your stunning. And literally someone spoke up and I’m happy that they did I really appreciate their their courage in that moment. But it’s hard to speak up in a group situation. We’re all like it to get called on to read in class. But they’re like, Well, look, he’s beautiful. And he’s amazing. Like, why would I need to say anything about it know that he knows that? You don’t know anything that’s going on in this human beings mind right now. You don’t know where they’re at. You don’t know how they feel. You’re being so presumptive and disrespectful to this person. This is not why we are fucking here. And there was a big Oz, I bet. And I was like, there’s gonna be a lot of people asking for refunds. All of a sudden, it changes the behavior changes in the first person. And I’m not going to name her by name. But she’s a dear friend of mine. She’s like, Oh my God, you’re so bored to stay. Yes. And I you could feel it. Like I’m getting the air standing up on my arms right now. There was an electricity in the air. And his demeanor changed. Sure and grew six inches in height. He’s smiling. He’s laughing. And it was this really beautiful thing. And I felt happy that that happened. Because that was one of the most profound teaching moments that I’ve had in these workshops, was to say, honor and respect and love the person in front of your lens. And his students, we lose sight of that, we diminish. And, and we hollow and we take someone down. And I never ever want to do that myself. I never want that to happen in this studio. And that is that is our superpower. As photographers we get to we get to bucket lift people up
Matt Stagliano 1:03:00
who I think in that moment, you gave them permission to be excited about what they were doing to take the chains off and not feel the pressure of getting a perfect picture of a perfect person. You gave them the ability to have fun, yeah, and just be at just create. And that energy transfer between them and the model. And then back and around. It changes everything. And it elevates everybody else’s creativity, right? Because now it’s less the Puranas I call them the Puranas coming in just feeding, feeding, feeding and they are getting out. Now people are trying to do different things supporting each other, and it creates a better community, you know, within just the six 810 students that you have. I love seeing that dynamic happen. It takes a certain type of educator to move people in that direction. Yeah, it also takes a certain amount of time. And sometimes you have that one, you know that one smoke grenade in every class that is just gonna just fuck everything up no matter. Everybody else is cool. And then there’s him or her right. And it can really take the whole vibe out of the class yet. So it takes a certain type of educator to be able to realize all of these dynamics, and adjust course accordingly.
Jonny Edward 1:04:34
The workshops that I follow, they generally sell out fairly quickly. And I’m super grateful for that. But I curate these workshops. There are people who sign up for the workshop. So I know I would make a judgment call but I know well enough where I won’t let them into the workshop in because I know that it’s going to be just that I know that they’re going to come in with a certain energy and attitude and it’s going to take away from everyone’s experience. And I value what I provide to the people Were there more than the dollars that could come in from another seat being filled. And I’m not saying this an elitist way, I know that it can come off that way. But like, I would rather eat ramen instead of ribeye. It means that I’m going to create an incredible experience for people. And so that’s, that’s a point of integrity for me to say, like, I am not going to prioritize dollars over people, dollars over experience dollars over connection. And that that doesn’t apply to everyone, I’m in a fortunate position where I can do that. I don’t have kids to bead, I don’t have any of these types of things. So like, if you’re out there, and you’re just take them as they come, that’s cool. I get it. And you all have different responsibilities and circumstances. But for me, it’s a point of pride that I know that like I will turn down jobs with people who I consider ethically abysmal, I will keep people out. And I think that that’s another thing that we sort of have to do as artists is because it is an expression of cell, we have to curate that expression, we have to be sure that what we’re saying and what we’re doing and we’re working with aligns with our values, insofar as we’re able, insofar as we’re fortunate, or some of you would say privileged enough to do I think that’s a really important thing. And it’s out of that it’s all I stay engaged with my art and with my business, even during slow times. And if I turn down a job, and a lot of you have heard this, and Sue has talked about this, our acknow is incredible. It’s why half credit card debt by piling up, and I’m looking at interest rates going on bought in a job pumps to me and there’s a lot of fuckin zero, the I the number and I say no, even though I know that I’m gonna be struggling and fucking on the 18 train, there is a power in that that is unparalleled. And so that goes back that’s important to me. That’s one of the things that’s important to me, as an artist. That’s one of the points of fulfillment for me that’s on my list of foundational elements. And that’s, again, why it’s important to define these things, and to decide what’s important to us and where we want to be and what we want to do and what we want to stay with our work.
Matt Stagliano 1:07:05
Have you seen your alchemy workshops, evolve over time? And do you feel like we’re talking at the very beginning of this? How much you pack into two days? All right? It’s you said, overwhelming is the word you use? Which, you know, so suddenly, the business guy means like, let’s break that up into four modules for different courses elevate your So how have you seen it evolve to the point where you’re able to give people the proper balance of the mental, the intellectual, the thoughtful approach to what you’re doing? And then also the technical and making sure that they’re getting, you know, getting the entire experience, right, you want to curate a certain experience. So what are you know, has there been anything that you’ve dropped? You’re like, Well, that was a bad idea.
Jonny Edward 1:07:57
Like the first winter workshops that I ran, there was an asinine number of models at RADA. I think it was like eight the first day and it was like a runaway ship. And in my mind, I was making up for my lack of conflict. Yeah. Because I’m like, Well, yeah, 10 people each day, they get the photographs when you distract them over here, like, man, even if I’m a total atrocious piece of shit, they’re gonna have a great time. So I tried to do too much because it was masking my insecurity, or my uncertainty as an educator. And also it was a counterpoint because I agree there is probably a way to break this up. But what really gets me in the education sector, and it was like, come to my workshop. And then well, we honor for the law, and they push back me, and they dip their toes into it. And they’re like, well, to get the full picture, come back to my next one in two months. And you get the bait and switch. Oh, especially as someone who like had gone to workshops, and I didn’t really have the means to do so. And made sacrifices to do it and then add people old things in with old I never wanted to do that. So I didn’t start the workshop by going I’m gonna reveal every bit more than you want to know. While this is a full monty of a creativity like you’re going to learn all the tricks all the secrets, all the bacup all the shortcuts and hacks that I think that’s a big thing back then I become much more certain in myself with an activator. So I’m much more involved with deconstructing my process I think at first I was like, Oh, you’re loving just Matt You’re my model standard run it there. Oh, cool. Look at this find him like moody like oh, I took three photos who wants to photograph Matt or we will meet at me because there’s a beautiful stat and there’s a beautiful human and a beautiful lighting and everyone’s fucking trigger happy on the cameras and they want to get into it. Now I’m much more focused on Hey, Matt, like, let’s connect let’s talk a little bit. Well here like I’m setting this light up on now like this light looks cool right now but then I want you to turn your chin to the right a little and actually I’m using my 85, or my 35 on the switch to the 85. But I want something more intimate. And hey, now remember earlier, when we were in the back of your OSI, when you talked a little bit about that experience we went through recently, we go back into that, but we just leave it to that for a second. All right, I like the spring a lot, let’s take a deep breath in. And actually like with what you’re wearing, I don’t really like this behind you, that’s put you on something that has a little bit more contrast. And I lean into my process more, because I think I appreciate to a greater degree why people are here. And it’s because they want to learn why I do what I do, how I do what I do. And I want to give that to them. So as I become more competent myself, I’d become more competent in the fact that people are here for me, they’re not here for the 75 backdrops that I have, they’re not here for the IMA development flights. It’s gross. There’s so many damn lights in this place. They’re not here for the light. They’re here because there are things about my work that they admire, or that resonate with them, and they want to learn about my process. And so as I found grounding, and certainly as an educator, I become more comfortable with leaning into that process, and narrating it and deconstructing it, and and sharing it. And that’s boulder of all this is my heart. This is my soul. This is my life, people like what do you do? I’m like this, what else do you do nothing. Nothing, I occasionally whites a year get to hang out with a brand, drag them Garbin. This is after effects. And still being able to open myself up to that. And I’m so grateful to my students, the students who were there for the first workshop and the second workshop and the third and the fourth. And just as much as I them are to their attorney, they’ve been part of my own. And I don’t think that what I do now is better. I think what I do now is different. And I think it’s more authentic. And I think that’s really important because I preach authenticity. And so I feel like I have to live authenticity, right? Like, there’s so much of that in this industry to where someone’s like, well honor the person in front of your camera, and they objectify the people in front of the camera. There are so many people who are like, don’t just chase dollars, and all they do is Chase dollars. There’s so much hypocrisy cut into place in this and I do not want to be an agent of that bullshit.
Matt Stagliano 1:12:05
Believe me, you know, we could talk for at least through the rest of the Woodford, probably into the bullet about hypocrisy, just in general. But I want to come back to something you said. And we’ll keep it a bit more positive connection being your thing. That’s mine as well, at least in my type of photography where I am. That culturally people are used to being in front of cameras. Yep. The backwoods of Maine is not the fashion mecca of the Western world, right? And there are typically times that you get a photographer for wedding, maybe for the birth of a child. That’s about it. Right? And hopefully, in the subsequent years, you come up with something that you can cut your face out and uses your obituary photo, right. That’s where I’m, I’m located. So culturally, getting in front of the camera is a very nerve wracking thing. It’s nerve wracking for anybody, regardless of where you are, but photography and portrait photography, high in ordered photography, connected photography, authentic soulful photography is not something that is regular. Yeah, in that area, right. So trying to bring that in, I focus my entire business on the connection with the client, right, having hours of conversation with them before I even press the shutter, one route consultations through just conversations on the phone, getting to understand how they work, what their problems are, what their concerns are, what their loves are, what do they get excited about? Right? All of those things by being curious. And I think that is the nature of true connection is curiosity. I’ve seen you in the few places that we’ve gone around here over the over the time that we’ve been together. People know you people dig you. You’re not friends with them, but you’re familiar with them. You are connected with them in a certain way, even if it’s just kind of like, Yeah, I’m here every Thursday night to get wings, you know, whatever. You’re creating a connection with these people. So it is something you do all the time. You’re not necessarily unrecognizable, but you also disarm people with sincerity and with your ability to connect with them much different from what they may judge or perceive you to be. How have you been able to teach that nection to others the importance of that connection to others. Because if it’s intrinsic in you, right, you’re not really thinking about, it’s just how you deal with humanity. But it’s such an important part of your process. How do you teach that
Jonny Edward 1:15:13
in yellow? If Carol, first and foremost, it’s absolutely a challenge. And it’s one of those things like, if you look at my workshop page, there’s a bit about communication. But going back to soft skills, it’s not something it’s not mathematic. That’s not a lighting formula. It’s not a meter. Like, how do we get to that. And for me, the biggest thing is disarming this notion of having to come across as being infallible. So I think, as a photographer, we take on this, this overly demolished role of having to be perfect. I have to show up, and I’m an authority figure. And they have to respect me and I know what I’m doing. And they looked at me, and I’m a trusted person. And there’s all of this a frappier of being embarrassed. That’s what it is. And we all have that it goes, this goes back to childhood as well. You know, you step up to speak in front of class, and you stay there. And then every now and then you’re talking to your therapist about and you’re like yeah, it’s so I like to play on it. I unique is our humaneness and our humaneness is brokenness. It’s fucked up in this, it’s being embarrassed, it’s making fucking mistakes. And so it’s a really silly thing. I always talk about that if I have someone in front of my handle, and they’re not comfortable, it’s art. It’s scary being in front of the buck in Canberra. Like I think that’s why it’s important for us as photographers to be photographed. Because we realize Holy shit, there was a light on me and someone had a camera on me. And I didn’t see the photo of myself and half a decade, and what the fuck do I look like an old shit. It’s a crazy thing. So I mean, I’ll like to lean into backups and making mistakes, then that’s what I try and like, teach or speak to in workshops. Like if I get someone in who’s really uncomfortable, let them feathering into my computer do their job fly? I’ll take a couple of photos with my lens cap on purposely. And I don’t I don’t know it’s gonna help my camera. I don’t know when they’re like, Oh, Johnny, Johnny, the lens cap. shattered, serious. Alright, I’m like, wow, I will regret paying the money don’t yet. I really know what I’m doing. And I laugh at myself. And in that moment, the dynamic changes, because there was no longer heirarchy I’m not up here looking down at them. We’re right. We’re looking at each other. Because I humanize myself. So with students, we realize that like, what makes us human are the things that we avoid, or try and avoid Sharon V become more connected immediately. And I am literally love to learn about people. And that’s something you can’t teach. And I’m like, if you don’t care about evil, if you don’t want to know someone’s story, get the fuck out of portrait photography. Like sorry, not salary, no belong here. It is not good for the people you photograph with not good for the trucking industry. If you don’t love people and want to know their story, then want to know what makes them tick and what makes them down and who they are and where they’ve been and where they want to go. You don’t belong here. And I always talk about inclusivity. But in this case, I am going to be exclusionary, this isn’t for you find something else take photos of sunsets, and I hope that you started something interesting, you know, adding these at tattoos and obviously, like I’m dressed up like this. And it gives a certain perception that if I walk in, and I had a slayer t shirt on and have a giant ball nose ring in and you know, like I just had dental work done and I’m bleeding out of the corner of my mouth. I’m thrilled with it. Oh, yeah. And then I’m like, Oh, by the way,
Matt Stagliano 1:18:32
would you like to come in and get your portrait taken?
Jonny Edward 1:18:34
I’m gonna create a dress on you watch that float fraction of that disarms people, right, because they have a presupposition about who I am and what I am. And as soon as that’s challenged, it’s almost like the fainting goat mentality where they just go, oh, they become receptive. So I think that’s a really wonderful thing. And also speaking to style. Like you don’t have to dress in floral pants and a floral shirt and have you know, floral tattoos and a flower in your pocket. Though I do that floral thought I almost wore that. I bet you did you look great. Well, but I dress up like this every day that’s naturally for clients. Literally one of my favorite things, there was a level of respect a pocket example. I’ve walked in, and ah, those of you who are wearing sweatpants and crocs out there, if that’s your vibe. I’m not going to knock it much, right. But when a client comes in, and they’re like, Oh, my God, the dress up so nicely provided like for you. Yeah. I appreciate you. I respect you. This is an amazing opportunity. I really, I love the fact that you trust me, I’m going to honor that. And I’m going to do my very best for you. And they’re like, Wow, I’m not you’re serving them easier serving me. And it switches that around. So I lean into that of being respectful, being curious, but Susan Sontag as well. It’s basically like I was never afraid to fall in love with the people in front of my camera. And there’s that that microcosm, whether it’s 10 minutes or 30 minutes or four hours where I literally become infatuated with the person in front The minute it it’s not saccharine. It’s not artificial. I want to know I want to walk away after that period of time. And now, as much information as possible, I want to be able to call them up a month later be like, hey, now that you’re down in Tampa, St. Pete, how’s that treating you? Also, would you please select your fucking images? Because it’s called a muffin? Getting insane. No, Jerry?
Matt Stagliano 1:20:21
Jerry Guianas? Yeah, it was like, I fall in love with my clients, I just have to fall out of love with them before I go home. Yeah, right. Yeah. And that’s, it’s, it really struck me because that’s exactly what happened. But you, you bring it back to you were talking about, you know, dressing up for your clients. And, you know, I know you’re not putting on a show for them. But it’s like showing them the proper amount of respect, you’re obviously going to be spending a considerable amount of money with me, let me show you the respective show. It’s something that that honors you as well, part of that, that’s gotten lost over the years is the professionalism part of it. And I think, you know, we talked about really early on in this conversation about the barrier to entry being low. And the standards of professionalism have also dropped to a degree to it not so much that people aren’t producing professional work, or they’re saying things that are inappropriate. It’s just a level of formality. People used to dress up to go on planes, I was literally just gonna bring up travel, right. So flying out here today. And I’m sitting in sitting in first class, only because there was like, no one else on the fucking plane. But I’m sitting there. And I’m literally dressed like, this is the clothes I had on the plane. And jean jacket, black T shirt, black pants, and cowboy boots, not informal, not formal, I’d say of the whatever, there were 10 seats in first class. This was the best dress. Yeah. And I’m not well dressed. But I like to do that. When I travel. I feel better. I don’t want to be in sweats, and a tank top and a neck pillow and carrying my security blanket. And like I see a lot of adults doing it’s really kind of weird, in what we do as a profession that informality has to graded. What the client expects, yeah, very much so. And it’s very hard when I see online. Now, the product, I’m sure is beautiful, they could have great connection with their clients. But when I see a behind the scenes video of someone that is dressed far too informally. I don’t care how good your work is. It says something about how you feel about your clients. Now that’s gonna get me that’s gonna give me the hate man. Oh, yeah. Now we’re about to get some fit on that. But I think there is a level of respect that you have to have for whatever industry that you’re in whatever client if you’re in the, if you’re in the service industry, if you are providing products and services for people, yep, there’s a standard that I feel needs to be maintained. Absolutely. I don’t know where we lost that. Maybe it was COVID. And we were all in pajama bottoms. But I was still dressed like this. But I think you know, we’ve lost that formality. Yep. And it’s not for the better. And I know I sound like the old guy shaking my hand at the clouds. But there’s nothing wrong with bringing back that little bit of class, a little bit of formality. And going
Jonny Edward 1:23:36
back to like, I do the same thing. Having those hours of conversation before you even click the shutter. Like I get to know someone. And if I find out that someone loves the Yo Yo Ma, and loves cello music, and they’re really into the sense of sage, you have to know what to do before they show up. I’m gonna make sure yo yo mas playing, I’m gonna sage the studio or break palo santo when are in analog sense. I’m going to do all of those things. So they come in, and they smell it and what that says I listen to what you have to say you ever do. I appreciate you. It’s a relationship. Right? Like if we if you’re starting to date, I don’t even know if dating still exists. I gave up on that. Yeah. But if you’re doing that, and you’re like, Oh, my favorite thing in the world is going to amusement parks. And clowns. And this person whom you’re intrigued by shows up dressed as a fucking clown and takes you to the amusement park. Holy shit. Like they actively listening to what you have to say. No, I hate Wow, that wasn’t even part
Matt Stagliano 1:24:30
I’d love for your Juggalo Yeah, well, I think
Jonny Edward 1:24:34
what I’ve been, if someone’s done that there’s just so much there’s so much respected. I drive I think this is worth knowing too. I dress relative to client aesthetic. Sure, like I just shot a music video or a friend’s son and he’s an amazing like burgeoning artists. And it’s like EDM and it’s kind of like hardcore mumble rap. Like I didn’t dress the way I’m dressed today. I was like an all black but it was still ratchet was my thing. Sure. I had checkerboard socks but like it’s the same I’m gonna take into consideration what they’re into. If they say their favorite color is blue, I’m gonna wear blue. And they walk in and they’re like, holy shit yo yo mas plan and you’re in a blue suit, and they’re staged in the air. Wow. And they feel valued. They feel appreciated, they feel loved, they feel respected. And for some people, regardless of where they’re out in their light, that’s the first time they felt those things in a really long fucking time. And if you want to talk about setting a precedent for someone to sit down in front of the camera and be vulnerable with you, and be open and receptive to you and give themselves in those moments to you, that that’s a beautiful way to do it. But if someone comes in and you let the cello and they love blue, and I’m wearing fucking green, and I’m playing death metal, and they say they hate the smell of bake cookies, and oh my god, I love cookies, and I’m baking it in the studio and munching on I’m like you said, you look at Bell, get on that fucking primary red and let’s go. And then my reasoning behind you that I’m an uncompromising artist. No, I’m a fucking asshole. And that’s inconsiderate. And I don’t value the person in front of me and I don’t value their time and their humanity and their money. There’s no excuse for that shit. So it goes back to honoring and respecting the person in front of your lens, whether they’re paying you or not, and I treat everybody the same. I think that’s another big thing. I’ve seen that happen with photographers. I’ve been lucky to be an assistant to some really talented photographer. I’ve been unlucky enough to be an assistant to some really shitty photographers. And not in terms of their work. Their work was great conservative, they were as people, you know, and someone comes in and they build them, and they diminish them and they treat them poorly. And it changes that so yeah, like, it’s, it’s, it’s an honor and with it being an honor, it’s a responsibility. We have a responsibility to do our very best for the people in front of us. And I also think that I’m in a different position than most people because photography saved my life. Like I was in a horrible place. Probably eight years ago, when I picked up the camera again, I was puking. Going through intense withdrawals, I was blocking suicidal either. Whereas I didn’t leave my house for two months, like I was in bad shape. It was one of the lowest points by light. I got a camera as a means to try and reconnect with myself. I still remember getting it I still remember finally going outside and I lost like 30 pounds. I looked like fucking theater and Trainspotting. I walk across the street and there’s this fucking Lake and I’m shaking because I adore phobia and severe anxiety and hiding behind my camera in it allowed me to go out. And then I walk across the street to the park and the beautiful crimson red suns that it’s reflecting off this last the lake. Like I can feel the grass under my feet and smell the air and hear the birds. And I sat down and as people around me and it was so weird being amongst people in those families laughing and I’m like, What the fuck is that? And it was like offensive. And I take this photo loving
Matt Stagliano 1:27:48
relationship. Yeah, I know.
Jonny Edward 1:27:50
It’s fucking weird. But I take this photo of this sense that and it was with a Pentax a three little crop sensor camera, and a little nifty 50 on it. And I looked at it, and I just started fucking crying. And I just started laughing. And then I started crying and I’m laying in the grass. I was a crazy person, I looked like crazy people. So they definitely put the kids off the playground and went away immediately. And called authorities because I seem so awed by fucking Gordon. But for three months, I felt like I was drowning. And in that moment, I was able to take a full fucking breath. It saved my life, literally, I would have, I would have died or killed myself. And I’m sorry if that’s triggering for any of you. But that’s my Buchan story. And I have to own that for me. And so that’s how I honor this graph. This crap stayed my wife. It gave me a lie. It gave me purpose that gave me life. It gave me friends. It gave me law, they gave me family, it gave me fucking fulfillment that I honor it every day. So when I see someone shitting on it, when I see someone using it as a cheat means to buck and make a quick thought. When I see someone exploiting people with it, and through it, it makes me set. I love this so much. This is an extension of who I am. And I honor it. And now you don’t need to have this level of relationship, that understand the power that you wield, and what you can do with that power and honor that. honor yourself, honor your camera, honor the person in front of your camera are the people. And if you do that, if you give yourself to it, from that point of view, I can guarantee you’re gonna love what you create, and you’re gonna make fucking money and you’re gonna find success. But get yourself to it and you can be passionate and if you’re not, you can put down your camera and that’s okay. You know, but but just really respect it. I think that’s what it comes down to. For me for so much of this I talk with friends all the time, and it’s just in the world and like let’s just, you don’t have to love each other. We don’t have to like each other but respect that like respect. The media respect the artists in this medium respect the lineage of how we got your respect to Peter Lindbergh or Irving Penn, and Sarah Moons and all of these Wonderful bucking photographers, respect your colleagues, respect your client, respect your uncle who sat in front of you. So you can test outside, like, operate and create from a place of love and respect and these other things will fall into place and you’ll find your voice and you’ll find your fucking art and you’ll find your method and you’ll find your piece. But give yourself to it and it will give back more than you could ever fucking imagine. But it all starts there and without that there is only without we change live we change people’s perceptions of self serve nothing else. We just allow people for a moment to feel stand in a world that that does not see people. And that’s really fucking amazing. So do you find your voice speak from your fucking voice? Learn love bucked up bail, make a mess of it all and then make sense of that fucking mass, and then throw it all away and do it again. That’s what this is all about. And hopefully you get to do something really incredible before you know. You bite the dust. That score called Tryon board. So yeah, it’s been. It’s been great. And yeah, if you want to send hate mail, it’s info at