I had the pleasure of having a phone interview with Jerry Ghionis the other day before his How To Wow Tour. I hope that some of these questions inspire your own photography. If you are interested in seeing Jerry’s live shoot workshop with Monte Zucker’s Tour, definitely check it out. Starting at just $79 for the evening, it’s very affordable.
Q: I’ve been reading this book called “The One Thing,” which focuses on bringing your interest into just one thing. Taking weddings out of the equation, business out of the equation, what is the one thing that consistently inspires you in your photography?
A: Wow, that’s a profound question to start off with. Well, there are a few things. It’s hard to narrow it down to one thing, but I love the journey, I love the creative process. I love the birth of an idea. I love watering it and letting it grow. I have this idea for an image or a concept. I love building the building blocks behind it. Then when it’s game day, I’m like a kid in a candy store. That final result, that final image coming to life, that’s what really inspires me.
Q: With photography, at least for me, the more experience we have the better we become at seeing light, seeing the play in the light and how that will translate into that final image. I remember watching a video of you shooting and you are in this asphalt parking lot and you tell the bride to lay down on the asphalt in this sliver of light. I wonder if you could reach back into your past and describe that moment where it really came to you, you really started to see the light?
A: I think this is what happens to most of us. You might fluke a good image. You look at the photo afterward and you think, wow, this is a great image, but you don’t know why. This is what happened to me. But usually this happens when the light is hitting your subject beautifully. And when I started to acknowledge that is was beautiful because the light hit on the short side of the face, or the light hit the subject in a certain way. I say that probably took me 5-6 years in my career to figure out. And then it became very purposeful. In the past I would walk into a room and just leave it be. Now when I go into a room, I’ll turn off the lights and start opening the curtains, and turning on lights one by one. Now it’s a process and it’s an appreciation for the craft. I would say that I have a pretty immature taste palette. I really don’t like wine or coffee. I’m not a foodie. So I really don’t appreciate the finer points of food or drink. But the same is with photography. When your palette isn’t mature, you might not appreciate the finer points of light. You’ll know it’s good but you won’t quite be sure why. As you become more sophisticated as an artist you become more appreciative of the finer points of light. I think it just comes with maturity. I think many people try to find a shortcut to creativity and in many ways that’s impossible.
Q: Now moving into wedding photography. In your career, you start off looking for those wow shots. But as you develop you become more of a storyteller and you tell stories in albums and wall collages. In albums, I see spreads as mini stories. Can you talk about that point in your career when you started shooting for those mini stories?
A: I think I approach storytelling more from a business sense. When I started photographing, my ex-boss told me to “shoot to sell.” I worked for him for 3 and a half years. Whatever you are going to shoot, you need to sell it. This translated into creativity and the more emotional and legacy part of photography. Today, 21 years after I shot my first wedding, you’re shooting a story and without an album, what have you got? You’ve got nothing. For me, the tangibility of the album, is the legacy piece. And combining the emotional moments of the client, it became a habit. And, as you say, I shoot “mini stories.” I tell my students, I don’t think about the spread of the wedding until I take that first shot. For example, I walk into the bedroom and take a shot of the bride next to the window and that’s the main shot, on the left hand side of the spread in the wedding album. So, until I take that first shot the album spread doesn’t come into mind. Then I say, what’s going to go on the right hand side. That first shot is the foundation of the spread. And if the spread is just two shots, so be it. Now if I take photos of the bride laughing, that’s not going to go with the more serious shot. That laughing shot is going to be another spread, two on the left and two on the right. I’ve been a huge advocate of albums my entire career.
Q: Final question. Many of us have seen you teaching before on and offline. In this How To Wow Tour, what will we see that is new?
A: For the past couple of WPPIs, I’ve had a section called, “What would Jerry do?” It’s a lot of fun, but it’s really “edutainment.” Now I thought, what if I did this for an entire day and completely emulate two sets. Believe it or not, we are creating an entire bedroom set with emulated window light. And on the other side we have a set emulating a night scene. So it’s a very beautiful combination of real world examples along with real time access to my thought process. It’s an ambitious tour, we’re doing 33 cities. It’s a great opportunity to see new photography I’m creating and new ways of doing things.
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