Making it as a professional photographer in the age of “everyone thinks they’re a professional photographer” is no simple feat. Actually surviving solely off the skill is difficult enough, but to get a coveted position with the NFL or another major sports outlet is even more challenging.
That being said, there is a local amongst us who does just this, and he even got his humble beginnings working alongside our team here at Void.
The man, the myth and the legend, Logan Bowles is the photographer we speak of, and since he still loves his old Void fam, we interviewed him to find out how he got such an awesome gig, and what he recommends to others who want to follow in his footsteps.
Let’s start this thing off with a little bit on your background. I know you’re from Jax, but give me a brief recap of your early life and how you grew up here.
I’m spent most of my life running through the streets of Atlantic Beach with my friends surfing, skating and playing soccer just like most of the typical beach kids. I always had dreams of playing soccer professionally, but dislike for school really hindered that dream. My first real job was slinging surf wax and the occasional surfboard at Sunrise Surf Shop, so I spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of the surf industry.
When did you pick up your first camera and start shooting?
My mom bought me my first camera Christmas 2007. There was an article in Surfing Magazine that basically talked about a beginner setup for surf photographers and she copied that. I was so excited. From that point forward I shot mostly just my close friends and landscape stuff with a kit lens. I spent a lot of time hanging around the Thompson tribe around that time and just took lifestyle photos of them until I had enough money for a bigger lens. My first ever photo published was a headshot of Evan Thompson in ESM that we shot in his mother’s kitchen with a coffee table lamp.
Why did you settle on photography versus other art forms?
To be honest, I really don’t have a good answer for that. Maybe because at that point in my life it just seemed easier? Growing up, I had a few friends that were really into video and I used to watch them edit, render, etc. … all day long. That wasn’t for me. It felt like it took a lot of time away from other things I loved doing. I remember a few of those friends would miss when the waves would be good because they were working on making videos.
Who played the biggest role in shaping you as a photographer?
Paul Figura, Jimmy Wilson and Perry Knotts are the three photographers that really shaped me as a photographer. But the biggest role in getting me to where I’m at was my mother. I couldn’t even begin to describe what she has sacrificed for me to able to chase my dreams. As Kevin Durant would say, “You’re the real MVP.”
How did you shift your career from Void to the NFL/Jags, how did that opportunity come about and why did you decide to pursue that?
I’m forever grateful to the crew over at Void. They really helped me get my name out there in the community. They put me in situations that really helped build my portfolio. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forget that call from Tye Wallace back in March of 2010 asking if I wanted to work with them. Who knows where I would be if I never returned that call.
With that said, I just hit a point where I didn’t wanna be that standard editorial/commercial guy. So in spring of 2015, something in my head said, “If you’re not going to go for it now, you will never do it.” I spent many late nights on my ex-girlfriend’s living room floor emailing wire services, sports photographers and magazines asking to shoot something for them or help them out in some way. Most of the time, I was sent a response saying they didn’t need help at the time or that they had enough shooters in my area … or just the typical no response. It was probably one of the most frustrating times in my career. But I think that was a good thing. It lit another fire in a person who is already motivated to succeed and it pushed me to work harder.
What has it been like working with the NFL, and what do you love most about it?
It’s probably been the one of the craziest things I’ve done in my life. Over the last three years, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with the league itself and many other companies covering some of the best athletes and teams in this country. From Super Bowl’s and College National Championships to international games in London and Mexico — it’s been one hell of a ride.
Some of the best parts of the job are the people and memories you create. You also have one of the best seats in the house.
As a die-hard Jags fan, are you forced to restrain yourself on the sideline during games?
I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve had to explain to people over the last three years. You can’t be a fan on game days. At the end of the day, it’s a business and you’re there to do a job. You can’t cheer or get emotional on the sideline. If you do that kind of stuff, you won’t be on that sideline anymore. It’s that simple. It’s a mental game, and when you’re not focused, that’s when you miss photos. I’ll be a fan after the game in my car.
How would you recommend a young photographer who wants to follow in your footsteps to get started on a career like yours?
Hustle, hustle, hustle. I think that’s one of the biggest things you have to do. This industry is probably the hardest industry to make it in and you gotta make sacrifices to succeed in it. Also, letting others critique your work. I learned quickly that you need to have thick skin and check your ego at the door. There’s no time for it. Every day there’s another photographer coming up and trying to do what you’re doing. There’s no time to just sit back. You need to be constantly improving. You also need to do your homework and have a game plan before you go into each game. I don’t just watch games as a fan anymore when I’m not shooting. I watch them like a player watches film. Is the quarterback a running QB? Do they have a good defense? Are they a run team? Who are the big stars? What are the storylines going into the game? It’s not just clicking a button.
The more you know about the sport and teams, the better your images will be. Sports photography is a lot of luck, because anything can happen, but putting yourself in a position and being prepared is what makes you stand out from the rest.
Final thoughts on the Jags season?
Exciting, fun, heartbreaking, proud, ready for more … is it August yet?