SS // Jace. Tell us a little about your childhood (Please).
JL: I grew up in Butler, PA. It’s a small town outside of Pittsburgh. It was a pretty blue collar upbringing; my dad works at the same steel mill he did when we were kids and my mom stayed at home to raise my [two] brother’s and I.
We went on the same vacation every year, we played sports growing up, enjoyed the seasons and didn’t really travel much. I’m fortunate to have grown up with two brothers in a good environment. It felt very Varsity Blues at times but all of this mixed with the early internet days peaked my curiosity in what was going on outside of Butler.
How did your family and surroundings impact what career path you thought you should pursue?
JL: It didn’t necessarily impact my career path but it did foolproof my instinct. A lot of failed plans, majors, grades and experiences left me with no other option but photography. I had a bunch of people telling me to do something [not creative'] because it was safe or some small town excuse for job security.
I’m not sure anyone knew how a creative career translated within a college degree [neither did I]. I was told to get grades, graduate and get a job. Life never seemed that antiquated personally though.
Well, have you always been creatively inclined, then?
JL: I loved everything about photography and looking back I was incredibly influenced visually. It was how I learned growing up; right brain dominant.
I specifically remember having a strong interest in a drawing class in 10th grade. Not only because it was very hands on but the teacher [Mr. Campbell] just seemed to see things differently. He had a creative side. I’m not sure I saw that a lot growing up.
Okay so, tell us about your first taste of the real world? What was the pivotal moment that made you start considering the path you’re leading today?
JL: Leaving Butler was a taste of the real world. I went to West Virginia University for a year and couldn’t tell you one thing I learned in a class while I was there. I do remember having a roommate from Philadelphia who dressed cool and another one from Long Island who pronounced all his L’s as W’s. They definitely weren’t from Butler. West Virginia also made me realize I wanted to be in a city. So I transferred to a university in downtown Pittsburgh.
“I’m not sure anyone knew how a creative career translated within a college degree [neither did I]. I was told to get grades, graduate and get a job. ”
Mentor’s are hugely important. Yours was a guy named Patrick. How did Patrick impact you? What mentorship skills did he teach you that you’d wanna pass along one day?
JL: Patrick [Professor of Photography at Point Park University] made the craft thoughtful. We would hang work on walls in class and critique it until we were forced to look at it differently and more specifically. I would go home and throw full projects away; I still want to do that a lot of the time today.
He taught me very specific skills in photography that I don’t think a lot of people have the opportunity or patience to learn today. Having an understanding of where it came from and the process before digital will always make my personal relationship with photography strong.
When did you realize you could make your hobby into a career? What was the first big move you took that led to this?
JL: I’m still trying to realize this today. It’s a lot of hard work. If I had to go back to one big move, it would be moving to New York. And to rival that, leaving New York and moving to Los Angeles. I left a full time job to pursue photography further and it’s a constant learning process.
The amount of opportunity in these cities is worth all the work.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in life thus far?
JL: “One must has the courage of one’s vocation and the courage to make a living from one’s vocation.” -Pablo Picasso
Having the courage to reinvent a living constantly as an artist and living and growing as an artist personally are two different things in life.
Can you tell our readers about the most serendipitous moment in your career thus far? (I know you’ve got a good story).
JL: I was asked to photograph New York Fashion Week for Tumblr my first year in New York. At the time I was bussing tables and running food at a restaurant on 62nd and Lexington. When I requested this time off they laughed.
I quit that job, hopped on my bicycle and biked back to my apartment in East Village. I knew opportunities like this were the reason I moved to New York. If I had passed up on any part of it, I might as well not even be here.
During NYFW, I committed to photographing street style but I wanted a bit more of a story behind the place, so I approached those people and asked them each a question or two.
One in particular was a great conversation. It was with Michael Hainey, the Deputy Editor of GQ Magazine at the time. Four months later I was the senior digital photo editor for GQ.com.
….I couldn’t be more thankful to Valentine at Tumblr for giving me the opportunity.
What is the greatest piece of advice you can offer to our readers who want to pursue their passions in 2019?
JL: I read a story on Imgur the other day about this guy who ended up in jail after living on the streets as an alcoholic. He got out of a bad relationship, turned to alcohol and lost his job and apartment.
Two years later he has a job and landed a huge promotion; a new apartment and outlook on life. I’d like to think there’s a lot of life to live, not all will be good or bad but it can always change. It will always change.
Any resolutions for your own 2019?
My resolution is to keep growing in Los Angeles.
I’ve seen a fair amount of success in the three years since leaving GQ and New York full-time. I want to keep building on that momentum. I’m so thankful for both cities and the amount of time I get to spend between them.
East 4th will definitely become a bit more of a focus this year as well.
Ah, 2018. You’ve been a wild one, but it’s been a pleasure to survive you. And as 2019 draws near, now is the time for many of us to look ahead and start making New Year resolutions that will guide our business growth….
Let me guide you through my marketing mistakes so you can learn from them and, hopefully, help you make stronger marketing resolutions in 2019.
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This podcast was first published in May 2018.