Introductions: Jon Humphries

I've been digging around my eternally messy desk and found some interviews that I had put together a while back. Eons ago I wanted to start a magazine to interview all sorts of professional creative people. It was going to be simple.

A magazine where these people give commentary on a open-ended theme. These people would be grounded in the world of art, music, design, and science (a lot of my favorites). Long story short, I got busy and the magazine ended up dying on the vine.

But the cool thing is that I rediscovered this stuff and I felt like they still should be shared. The deeper I thought about it the more it makes sense to make this a regular thing on the ol' electronic web log. There are some nuggets of inspiration that shouldn't be buried messy on a desk.

And so without any further ado, I would like to bring you a segment that I would like to call "Introductions", with photographer, Jon Humphries.

Jon Humphries is regarded as one of the world’s most renowned and respected skateboarding photographers. His vision has shaped all things about skate photography. Other than skateboarding and skate culture, Jon also loves to shoot portraits and direct films. His commercial work includes Nike, Nintendo and Activision.

Humphries, tell me a little about yourself and how did you choose this gig?
I didn't choose photography, I kind of fell into it. But I did realize eventually this is what I wanted to do.

What other types of jobs have you done, related or not to your current profession? High school and jobs as a child are fair game.
I worked for an auto parts distribution company. That sucked. Blue collar job. I saved all my money and tried to move to California when I was 18, but it was scary. I tried moving there to work on my skating. I saved a thousand dollars—a lot at that time—but I got homesick after a couple weeks. And my friends chickened out too, so we all came home.

Then I pushed shopping carts to buy my first camera. That job sucked too. The people I worked with were so ignorant. After that I was lucky enough to get a job at a snowboard shop. That was fun until I got fired. But this led me to work at Cal's Pharmacy, which was an amazing time in life. I just moved out, working at the skate shop with minimal worries besides being broke all the time.

What is it that you like/love most about your work? What do you hate about it?
I love the people I get to work with. I don't hate much about it. Maybe the politics that come with any job.

How are you getting paid, son?
I make enough. I'm not getting rich, but I like where I'm at.

It seems like you do a lot of work for advertising, editorial, some direction, and just plain art portraits. What do you like the most?
I like shooting with my Leica the most. I like portraits, anything where I get to make up the final creative.

What makes you an expert on what you do?
Got me. I rarely feel like an expert.

How did you get your big break?
I worked my ass off. I was a workaholic until a couple years ago. I'm realizing there is more to life than work.

How do you stay relevant in your professional work?
Keep shooting and getting to know more people. It's hard to stay self motivated. I go in and out of motivation.

What is the secret to your success? In other words, if you could boil it all down to one or two things, what would it be?
I've been a skateboarder for years. It's taught me a lot about life and creativity.

What other ways do you stay creative?
I watch tons of movies and do other art things besides photography. It's hard when your passion turns into a full time job. I ride and work on my motorcycle.

Who inspired you?
I like the older Leica photographers, or the Magnum photographers. They have the best books—Bruce Davidson, Elliot Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson. I like the florescent tube guy Dan Flavin, he has inspired some things I've tried. I like black and white Leica shots.

My friend James Rexroad inspired me a lot when I was starting. He is an amazing photo journalist. I love Eugene Richards, he is the best. I got his autograph on a book when I saw him in LA.

Have personal relationships played a significant role in your professional development?
Like I said, James was a huge influencing for me in photography. My style came from him. At first, I mocked everything he did. Then I ventured into my own world, but I still have some of his influence in my photos.

How does your field affect society, both positively and negatively?
Photography is such a powerful tool. Some photographers only shoot rich and famous celebrities in Los Angeles, while others shoot poor dying people in third world countries. Go figure?

What got you interested in skate culture and do you think you'll ever move away from it?
I love skateboarding and the culture. I will take it to the grave. I'll be skating when I'm 60.

"...I was a workaholic until a couple years ago. I'm realizing there is more to life than work."

What is the most common thing you see photographers/directors struggle with that they don't need to worry about? What should they focus on instead?
What people think of them and their work. I get caught up in it too, when I should just do what I think is visually and creatively interesting. Not worrying about the next guy.

What inspires you and why?
Small things inspire me. I like sunshine in Portland, Oregon on a summer day.

Got any funny stories when working?
I threw a light meter out of frustration and it broke. This was on a very important shoot—not a good idea. I lost work from it. Take note from my mistakes. I was embarrassed.

Do you ever think about doing something different? If so, what, and why?
Sometimes I just get tired of mixing my passion with work. But then I think of getting a nine to five and suddenly I’m real motivated with my photography. Ha! I love what I do, I wouldn't change anything.

Five things you can't live without and why?
God, Wife, Family, Friends, Skateboard, Leica, Motorcycle.

Has your profession impacted your personal growth?
My profession has made me grow up fast. All of a sudden I was making good money in my early twenties, and I had to learn how to run a small business real quick.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to get into this madness, what would it be?
One word—perseverance. That’s what starting out in a competitive field like photography is all about.

What's on the come up for you? What's next for you?
I'm working a lot for Nike. I just started directing their next skateboard video on top of creating all the advertisements and other photography. After that, not sure? I hope to do some new and exciting things.