We’ve become saturated with alluring images everywhere we look. We’re becoming numb to above-average photography because there’s so much of it. So the really beautiful moments are when people transcend the “above-average” and do something different, and the really beautiful moments are when these specific people live somewhere in your city.

It’s not breaking news that Jacksonville is a tough place to make it as a full-time photographer, and a lot of people that are successful have to travel for a substantial amount of their jobs outside of the city.

That being said, whether you’re living in a city that is more appreciative and celebrative of creative professions, or in a place more similar to Jacksonville, social media and the internet have opened up an ongoing dialogue about relevancy and creating quality work. The photographers listed below both embody a sense of awareness of their craft and a voice in their work that personifies their region and home on an excellent level.

Photo by Jesse and Lex

Jesse and Lex Photo Collective

I’ve known Jesse Brantman for five years and Lexi Mire for three and I’ve never been inspired more about both operating in the world as a human and as a photographer than from them.

Coming from two different philosophies of photography, Brantman and Mire (after establishing a romantic relationship) decided to begin a business together, specializing in wedding and lifestyle photography. The duo’s different backgrounds – Mire with a focus in fine art and high-concept work and Brantman coming from a mindset of micro-expressions and precise composition – both merge and complement one another in helping solve the never-ending equation of picture making.

Photo by Jesse and Lex

When I see work from Jesse and Lex, it makes weddings look better than I could’ve ever imagined. The duo consistently and intentionally capture emotions that are at the forefront for any viewer. And the minute details they focus on in every image is a subconscious homage to Roland Barthes’ postulate of the punctum of a photo — the smallest expression or hand position can make the entire difference in how a photo feels through the eyes of Jesse and Lex.

Jesse and Lex wants to beg the question, “Could someone else have gotten this picture?” and their goal is for that answer to be “no.” The collective strives to create images that make people happy, and there isn’t a much better use for photography than that.

Photo by Malcolm Jackson

Malcolm Jackson

The term “street photographer” is about as old as photography itself, and Malcolm Jackson is a devout practitioner. Jackson started immersing himself in photography by assisting and helping his uncle shoot. From that point, he found his voice in film photography. Jackson said, “Film taught me to slow down. With film, I don’t shoot as many frames — if there are 36 exposures, there are 36 exposures. That’s it.”

Photo by Malcolm Jackson

Jackson specializes in “documenting this particular time period in Jacksonville.” He talks about growing up and noticing the lack of photographic coverage of Jacksonville in the ‘90s. So now, Jackson spends a lot of his time doing just that. You can find him wandering around during golden-hour light, capturing the natural scenes happening all around him or taking someone’s portrait in their natural environment. Jackson has a very clear and distinct voice. He primarily shoots wide focal lengths and in black and white. He also seeks out nostalgic moments that remind the viewer of adolescence. Jackson said, “I look for things that remind me of my childhood — frames I’ve seen as a kid growing up that just strike a memory.”

Jackson’s latest project was both as a curator and an artist for the Candy Exhibit at Space 42 Gallery. Candy is the investigation of “Donk” culture, which is based around customized American cars with large rims/wheels.

Photo by Brandon Kidwell

Brandon Kidwell

I’ve met lot of photographers with extensive technical knowledge and backgrounds with photography degrees, but Brandon Kidwell is a photographer after my own heart with no formal training that makes some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen with wonderful intention and natural instincts.

Kidwell got his start as a hobbyist photographer shooting skateboarding. He was always a visual person, and cameras let him get closest to the images in his head. Kidwell said that his approach to photography had always been narrative-based, and he wants to not only evoke an emotion with his work, but also a story. This philosophy led Kidwell to experiment with shooting double exposures.

Photo by Brandon Kidwell

Kidwell primarily creates his double exposure looks in-camera, he said, “That’s the fun part.” He conveys ideas and stories by getting two photographic layers to work together to form something bigger than themselves individually. Despite being primarily known for his double exposure work, Kidwell is an all-around talented imagemaker by also specializing in environmental portraiture and studio portraiture.

Kidwell identifies with both pros and cons to being a photographer in Jacksonville. On one hand, Kidwell talked about Jacksonville having beautiful pockets to shoot at like Talbot and spots in the downtown areas. But Kidwell also said it’s just a challenging city to make it in. He finds it difficult to get local notoriety or to meet connections in the industry outside of mostly corporate-based photographers, which isn’t his exact forte.

Photo by Brandon Kidwell

“I just want to capture something very difficult and make it look easy. That’s the moment when you’ve achieved your skill and your goal,” Kidwell said.

These three photographers are all doing it differently, but are operating on a level of mastery and professionalism. And those are the kind of photographers I look up to no matter where they’re located.

By Carl Rosen | Staff Writer