Member Spotlight: Jeremy Harris


Member Spotlight - Jeremy Harris

[ September 14, 2009 ]   Jeremy Harris first discovered photography as a senior in High School in Fairfax, VA. Mesmerized by watching an image appear on paper in the darkroom and inspired by photographers such as Anton Corbijn who's work Jeremy knew at the time (mostly from album covers of the bands he was listening to at the time) he decided that was the career path he wanted to follow.

Jeremy graduated from High School, spent two years in community college, and then move to San Francisco where he spent 4 years studying photography at the Academy Of Art College.

So many photographers would kill to shoot Rockstars for dream clients like Rolling Stone and Spin - how did you establish yourself as the "go-to" pro in this genre?
I spent years in the Bay Area music scene, shooting live shows, making friends with bands, and doing promo stuff on the cheap. Eventually I managed to get a decent body of work and I built a website and started sending promo postcards to music magazines. One in particular, Kerrang! out of London, began hiring me on a regular basis giving me local work, as well as flying me all all over the country and the world on assignment. LA, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Australia, Mexico City, etc. I began a larger marketing campaign with the best of the Kerrang! work, sending postcards to a variety of magazines.

What was your most rewarding / favorite / most difficult assignment you've had and why?
Rewarding: probably traveling to Australia to shoot a cover feature for Kerrang! with Taking Back Sunday. Traveling so far for a short period of time with the challenge of coming up with great images was exciting and scary, but being in Australia with so many great places to shoot and a band of really cool fun guys who made my job easy.

Favorite: probably getting to photograph Ozzy Osbourne in his home in LA. I've been a big fan for years. Or shooting Slayer in front of a 400 year old cathedral in Mexico City.

Most difficult: doing a story for Bicycling Magazine on people who have been Injured or had loved ones killed by motorists while cycling in Sonoma County. That was a tough one, not technically, but just some heavy emotions to deal with.

Having shot some great Lifestyle and Fashion work for Sunset Magazine, 944 and others. . .are these categories you plan to dig into more heavily? Name a couple dream clients in these areas.
Oh yes. Mostly lifestyle and travel. I'd love to shoot for Outside Magazine, or travel and Leisure. To be a good travel photographer one has to be skilled at shooting landscapes, portraits, food.....I think I'm more then qualified.

Explain what inspired your deeply personal project American Asylums. . .and what drives you to take such commando-style risks in the image acquisition?
I discovered the existence of the abandoned asylums from an independent horror film called Session 9. Having grown up on the East Coast photographing old abandoned farm houses and factories as a kid, I instantly became intrigued by abandoned insane asylums! I had already had an interest in abnormal psychology, so the idea of being inside a 100 year old building that were home to thousands of the mentally ill was fascinating. I did some research on the web and discovered sites dedicated to photos of abandoned asylums. I decided almost immediately that I needed to explore and photograph these buildings for myself. I learned more about the history and function of these buildings and about the people who lived and died in them. I also learned that these buildings were being torn down and their history forgotten. I wanted to document a part of history that I felt was important.

The idea of illegally entering these buildings and the stories I'd heard from various other explorers was also enticing. Sneaking over fences and through open windows into tunnels under the cover of darkness. Sleeping in buildings until the early morning light streams through broken windows into large cavernous ward hallways and patient rooms. Each building presented it's own challenges and I found the adrenaline rush to be quite addicting.

We hear you have an Asylum book coming out. . .can you tease us with a few details?
Well, I'm currently shopping a sample book around to publishers. Hope to get a big coffee table book out within a year or two.....actually still have more shooting to do.

Have you ever been arrested for taking photographs of any kind? If so, please elaborate. . .
Not arrested, but escorted off hospital grounds by police in Buffalo. We had driven 9 hours from DC and unfortunately arrived at first light. Security must have known that what our intentions were.

And once in Weston, VA a friend and I were discovered in an asylum by a redneck security guard. He called the police, but rather then wait for "processing", my friend and I decided to make a run for it. Down three flights of stairs and out the front door of the hospital, the security guard behind us shouting, "hey! you can't do that, you gotta wait for the LAW!" in a thick southern drawl. We managed to make it to the car, and drove off campus as three police cars came flying by the in the opposite direction. Boy was that close.

Do you feel your recent foray into Wedding Photography has limited artistic potential?
No not at all! Wedding photography is not what it was when I was growing up. People are now wanting creative, unique and artistic images that tell the story of their big day. People hire me because the like my style, they want to look like rock stars! Plus people are always getting married and marketing costs are almost non-existent. It's all word of mouth and referrals. In a shaky economy where advertising and editorial budgets are down, weddings are a fun, creative, and lucrative alternative.

Are there any new areas of subject matter you plan on exploring - personally or professionally?
I'd like to photograph kids. I recently did a catalog shoot for a friends clothing line. Working with four eight year old girls was so much fun, they had me cracking up the whole time.

Going forward, will your focus remain Editorial, or are you moving further into Fine Art territory?
I plan on continuing to create relationships with people who respond to my work and who want to hire me to shoot for them or hang my images on their walls.

Can you bless us with a few parting words of wisdom for young / new photographers seeking to achieve your well-decorated level of success?
I would highly suggest assisting the pros. I learned most of what I know from the years I spent assisting. Also, shoot as much as you can. Figure out what you like to shoot and how you like to shoot it and practice.

What are you working on right now?
I hope to begin a project in the fall documenting the African American motorcyclists and clubs in Brooklyn. Also documenting kids in suburban settings.

>> See more work from Jeremy Harris

>> See other member spotlights on the member spotlight index

>> Find out more on how to become an member