Early in my photographic journey a friend of mine told me to check out his friend’s website. He posted a link to this friend on my Facebook wall. Unfortunately I made a prideful mistake. I did exactly what I hate, I assumed that this “friend of my friend” was just a nobody. After all, no one I know is famous. This is exactly what most people will assume about you when your friends say, “Dude, check out my friend’s work!”. Most people will assume that your friend is just being biased, and that you aren’t anyone worth checking out. Or they’ll assume your new to the game and will therefore be cheap.
So clicked the link and was taken to a very high end flash site (at that time most photographers hadn’t learned that Flash is not the way to be recognized by Google). Four galleries popped up, all four had an incredible image on it. One was a promo for the Fox show “Pastlife”. So now I was stuck saying, “Ryan knows a guy that does work for Fox?”. I was blown away!
The photographer’s name is Jeremy Cowart. He is my second favorite photographer. The link will take you directly to my favorite gallery “Texture”. I first thought that most of this gallery was all photoshopped work. I’d later learn that most of it is not. He creates most of the effect by shooting through things. Like glass, old cameras, or sheer material. Some of it is done in photoshop, and it’s pretty much impossible to tell (in the “texture” gallery that is).
Based on portfolio alone, most of my friends will say they can see why Jeremy Cowart is one of my favorites. But each time I learn something new about Jeremy Cowart I fall that much more in love. I talked to my friend Ryan, I asked how he knows him. Ryan and Jeremy attended church together in Nashville about 11 years ago. He even said, “the dude is totally cool. He’ll answer an email if you send him one. Tell him I told you about him.”. I never sent an email. At the time Ryan knew Jeremy Cowart, he was studying graphic design. He’d open up a business and begin designing websites for local bands. Needless to say, being in Nashville, some of those bands have made it big since. Like Switchfoot to name one. Jeremy would need a photo for the site he was building, and just take the band in the backyard and get a shot for the site. This led to experimenting with photography, and after five years in graphics design he quit and went into photography full time.
Just one year after starting his photography venture he was called by Fox and offered to shoot the promo pack for a new show called “Prison Break”. He’d never shot a “pro” set before. In fact, he’d only been playing with external lighting starting that very year! He hired some assistants, and showed up the day before the shoot to find 50 light head, and eight sets.
So make sure you understand. About seven or eight years ago he begins experimenting with a camera. Six years ago (almost to the day, he says he started on April 1st of 05) he quits his day job to pursue a photography career. Five years ago Fox calls him, hires him to shoot a promo pack for one of their shows, and at this point he hardly even knows how to operate any artificial lighting. Since then he’s done lots more work for Fox, ABC, he’s been the Britney Spears tour photographer, and shot bands like Switchfoot, Rebbecca Saint James, The Civil Wars, KT Tunstal, Taylor Swift, Sting, the list just goes on and on.
But regardless his notability, what I admire is the artwork, and philosophy. That’s what it is to him. He cares about the art, the final look. And his philosophy is very admirable and affirming. So let me break down some Jeremy Cowart philosophy.
Almost anything that a snooty stuck up photographer gets hung up on, he doesn’t care about. When asked about what his favorite lens is and why. He says he doesn’t care what lens it is. Give him a lens, and he’ll figure something out. He doesn’t care that they’ve been dropped a hundred times, if they need to be adjusted he’ll get them adjusted. He doesn’t care about finger prints. In a workshop, he picked up his lens and said, “huh? Fingerprints? (he looked at the camera and said) Another thing I’m not really worried about.”
He doesn’t care about the brand of camera or the brand of lighting equipment. He says, “I know what I want the light to do. As long as it will shape the light the way I want, that’s all that matters” He says that equipment is just a tool. It’s just meant to get the job done. This was just so affirming to hear! This guy, who’s work I deeply admire, shares the same philosophy with me. It doesn’t matter what your paint brush is, just give me a brush and I’ll give you a painting.
Same thing regarding Photoshop. It’s a tool. He’ll composite in an epic sky from his library of 883 sky photos that he’s taken. “Oh, that sky is kinda boring. I’ll use a different one.” He’ll make a background perfectly symmetrical, or edit out a bunch of distracting details. But he doesn’t rely on it, he says it’s important to fix it before you take the photo rather than afterward. But he has no shame in adding colors and textures, removing distracting elements, liquefying a persons arm to fix a bulg, or dodging and burning someone’s face to make it more dramatic. It’s like he’s unaware that the “real photographers” are cringing. Or maybe he doesn’t care. He’s concerned with the final image. That’s all the viewer will see anyway. That’s all that should matter.
On top of that. He’s super humble. He says it again and again, “There’s better photographers out there! I’m not some genius”. Just watch anything with him. He carries himself like a normal person. I know mediocre photographers that act like because they grew up around a camera, or because someone said, “So inspiring” in a facebook photo comment that they’re the true photographic authority. Jeremy Cowart is a genius and he doesn’t even act like he has any authority.
Finally, if all of that isn’t enough, he does this:
So that’s him. Jeremy Cowart my second favorite photographer. One day I’ll get the guts to meet him, and he’ll probably be all awkward about me falling all over myself. Please do also check out his documentary/instructional DVD Lifefinder. I have a copy, I love it. Super inspiring!
Thanks a lot for letting me share with you. I hope you express your heart in some way today.
God Bless You,