For our second installment of this little feature series, we’ve chosen to highlight the talented Jesse Brantman. You’ve probably seen his work featured on the pages of Void or our partner Edible. Perhaps you’ve seen some of the work he does with Jesse and Lex Wedding Co.? Either way, the guy is a talented fellow, so we decided to pick his brain on how he got his start and what he thinks of the current state of photography in the 904 and beyond.
Start off by giving me some background on how you first picked up photography.
My interest for photography started my junior year in high school art class. There was a darkroom and a shelf filled with black and white film photography textbooks. My teacher pretty much gave me full reign of the resources. During my senior year, we had worked out somewhat of an independent study where I spent a lot of my time putting together a portfolio. Looking back at that portfolio now is pretty funny. The work is pretty garbage, but I vividly remember making each photo, and I remember feeling so proud whenever I would complete a project, because there was so much trial and error and experimentation.
Tell me a little about your first camera setup. What was the first camera that really got you into it?
My very first camera was a borrowed Canon AE-1 from my dad with a 50mm f/1.4, but the light meter broke on my second roll of film. My mom and I went to the camera store in our local mall to look for a new one. We ended up getting a Film Canon Rebel EOS K2 with a kit Quantary 28-90mm f/3.5-5.6. I used that camera in all my entry-level college film classes as well.
A lot of people I know who become photographers were inspired by a family member, was this the case with you?
My main inspiration for getting into photography was that I am a pretty creative person, who is not very skilled at traditional art forms (drawing, painting, etc.). And in high school, I was very involved with athletics, so I really needed an accessible creative outlet that I could do during the school day. Then, when it came time to start thinking about colleges, photography became a resource for some direction and provided me with scholarships.
There’s been a lot of work I’ve been super proud of that has come out out of assignments with @edibleneflorida. Their print does so much justice to photography and design. It’s been a pleasure. Here’s a portrait of the dudes over at @staugustinedistillery. Really great time spend shooting with these guys.
You’re involved in a lot of local media/publishments, what are some of your favorite things to do with local companies?
I love working with the different local publications! It’s super fun to be a part of their teams. I especially love editorial work, because I get to meet awesome people and photograph them in their element.
What would you say your style or specialty is? What do you enjoy shooting the most?
I would say my style is fine art inspired portraiture. I really enjoy bringing a more creative eye to commercial work. My favorite shoots are ones where I get to really push things creatively. I really enjoy experimenting with lighting and challenging myself to always try new techniques for each project.
Who are some of your favorite people to shoot with around the area?
I have a close working relationship with my good friend Carl Rosen (@carlitorosen). We try to work together as much as possible. Also, for the past 5 or so years, I have been working with local commercial photographer, Ryan Ketterman (@ryanketterman). He has a tendency of shooting pretty bad ass jobs, so any time I get to shoot alongside him is a lot of fun. My absolute favorite person in the world to shoot with is my girlfriend Lexi Mire (@leximire). In the past 4 years of our relationship, she has pushed me creatively to places in photography I would have never imagined. The work I’m most proud of has been a product of collaborating with her.
Tell me more about Jesse and Lex Wedding Co.
Building on that last statement, Jesse and Lex Wedding Co. is our wedding photography business. In the early years or our relationship, we were second shooting for each other’s weddings a lot. It got to the point where we would leave weddings and shoots saying things like, “Man, we wouldn’t have gotten any of those shots if we weren’t working together on that.” It became so clear that our best wedding work was made together.
I always like to gauge what photographers think of the way the scene is trending, so what are your thoughts on photography as a whole and how the industry is evolving?
I’m more of an observer when it comes to trends and style in photography on a national level. The direction contemporary photography is heading is so exciting to me! I follow a lot of amazing photographers who produce work that is so unique and inspiring. I even recently purchased an issue of GQ that has an amazing feature of photographer Ryan McGinley with Brad Pitt as the model. Every photo in the feature gives me chills.
I think as far as Jacksonville’s scene goes, there really isn’t the industry for photography like there is in bigger cities when it comes to loads of big companies being based here. Though, the way things are heading with the industry on a national level, I have noticed more and more companies and brands turn to see what Jacksonville has to offer. Luckily, there’s a select group of pros whose work stands out amongst the field.
Do you think social media is changing the industry in a positive or negative way?
I think with the age of social media, paired with fairly easy access to nice camera gear, it’s pretty simple to label yourself as a photographer. Though when it comes to getting jobs, a lot of that doesn’t hold up. I think it is both positive and negative. It is negative in a sense that it puts a lot of perceived pressure on people to stay relevant. Though it is positive, because it can put your work in front of people who otherwise wouldn’t know who you are.
Lastly, what are you working on right now, and where can people find more of your work?
I just got back from a week long tour with Jacksonville-based musician, LANNDS. It was a fun challenge to find time to edit and get work done, while traveling during the day and shooting shows every night. I’m also working on the planning for a couple projects for local and regional brands, along with some ongoing personal projects. I try to always have a personal project going on that pushes me out of my comfort zone. Lexi and I also have a lot of weddings booked throughout the year with some really awesome couples!