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9.13.2012

What Jake Chessum taught me


In the summer of 2010, on the second hottest day in New York City, I had the awesome opportunity to work on a shoot alongside photographer Jake Chessum. The shoot took place on Coney Island (Toto, this place ain't no Disneyland) and in a studio in Brooklyn.

As a devoted reader of Outside Magazine, I had been a fan of Jake's work - who frequently contributed to the magazine. A couple years ago Outside had sponsored a photography workshop in New Mexico and I had considered going because I knew Jake was going to be one of the speakers. But, because of the cost, I decided against it. Talking with Jake that day out at Coney Island, I had mentioned this to him and a look of guilt flushed over his face as he told me that he wasn't able to attend either and had to pull out at the last minute. I couldn't help but laugh to myself. What are the chances? I would have spent the money to go down to the workshop only to be disappointed that he wasn't there, and here I was on a shoot in New York working alongside him. I really couldn't believe my luck.

A couple things I picked up that day: once you have 5 star craft services on set it's hard to go back to not having 5 star craft services on set, surround yourself with a good team, be kind to everyone on set and air conditioning is the best invention ever.

Another thing I picked up was Jake's openness to his subject's own ideas. Whether it was a pose or the desire to jump on a couch, he never said "No, that won't work" or "That's not what I'm looking for." He was willing to try it out and see what happened. Because of this he was able to establish a partnership with his subject which allowed the subject to feel more comfortable and, in the end, helped produce better images. It was great to watch this in action and was something I immediately started working on implementing myself - in the way I work with people in front of the camera.

Jake Chessum was just as cool, if not cooler, than I had hoped he would be. Friendly, fun to work with and humble. It was an experience I hope to never forget.