James Meade: “The great thing about photography is the collaborative nature of the business”
02 jan, 2014
Well, growing up I spent most of my time drawing, painting, and sculpting. I got my hands into photography in high school as the photographer & photo editor of my high school newspaper. I received a full academic / talent based scholarship to the University of Maryland where I earned my degree in Architecture.
I worked as an Architect in Washington DC for about 4 years before photography called me back and I decided to move to NYC to work with fashion / celeb. photographer Marc Baptiste for a formal understanding of commercial photography. I then jumped into the world of retouching working for a few of the leading retouching houses in NYC which provided another perspective on the art of image making before I began to focus on my own vision.
The digital era: a revolution
The digital era has definitely enhanced photographic productivity exponentially. Technology has revolutionized and re-revolutionized the industry and will keep on doing so in the most unexpected of ways.
I remember assisting on shoots where we would present polaroids to clients and then it would take almost a week to develop physical film, make selects, deliver to clients for review, have client selects printed for mark-ups, send to lab to scan, send disk of scans to retoucher, get retouched scans and match prints from lab, etc.. and by “send” I mean by messenger, not yousendit, wetransfer, etc.
Today you can shoot with a client on set where they are simutaneously reviewing images as shot, making their selects and having an on set retoucher do a round of retouching so that the client can leave with images in hand. It is a different world.
Working with models: a cool partnership
The great thing about photography is the collaborative nature of the business. When you are inspired by a model your vision is fueled and taken to a whole new reality. It is a give and take between models and photographers or at least that is how I choose to see it. Images that have helped a model along their journey are the same images that I am sure have furthered my vision as well. I like the thought of being able to have a model or any person in general be seen through my vision and for that vision to bring out something that may not have been recognized before hand.
The very special moments
There are a few special moments that are competing for the answer…
1. In the beginning of my career there is one moment I will always vividly see in my mind. I was assisting on the album cover shoot for the Fugees third album (The album that was never released). And at the end of the shoot after everyone had left it was just the photographer, Lauren Hill, and myself on set.
The photographer and Lauren decided to shoot an additional look. The lights in the studio were low, the music was off, we pulled a full length Mirror onto the set directly behind the photographer so that Lauren could see herself and her movement in front of the camera. I was about 2 feet in front of Lauren holding a reflector and she began to sing. It was a slow, deep, heartfelt type of singing. It was almost like she was alone singing to herself and allowed a moment to capture her at her most natural state as an artist. It was indescribably beautiful, it was the most beautiful voice I have ever heard in person and maybe some of the most beautiful sounds I will ever hear in my life time.
2. On a shoot in the mid-east, after a long flight, we arrived in Dubai and it may have been the jet-lag but me and the make-up artist for the shoot, Michelle Dittrich, just ran outside and jumped in the first taxi we could find to drive us around the city. It is hard to explain but it was such an exhilarating feeling, it was like being set free in a sense, I am not sure how that moment tapped into such emmotion but I won’t forget that taxi ride and the following few hours we ran around exploring the city just for the fun out it.
3. I was doing Mission work in Haiti. I had been without running water or electricity for 5 days which started about 6 days into the trip. We had visited some the hardest hit areas in Haiti and some of the things I witnessed were graphic. I go through vegetarian phases and in Haiti in particular I was not feeling the idea of eating any animal meat so I was mostly eating Mangos… for days.
I was pretty much mentally drained and was on my way to the airport with the crew to head back to the states. When we got to the airport and the crew had border their flight I then found out my flight was canceled and there wasn’t even anyone to speak to about my flight until the next day. The crew had gone and it was like a breaking point, a speechless, exhausted moment where you just have to surrender, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
So I do what I do best and just went with it and allowed myself to witness the experience. After that moment I began to explore Haiti on my own terms. The next day I found myself on a beach at sunset with a boat in the distance was slowly coming to shore. The guys waved me over so I jumped on the boat, took a few swigs of Haitian rum and we drifted out to the most beautiful tropical sunsets I have ever seen in my life. At that moment I knew I was exactly where I needed to be, to me it was a sign that all things happen for a reason. Haiti was finally showing me her beauty and her hospitality. I exhibited the photos I captured at the Washington DC Water Project to benefit the foundation I traveled to Haiti with, Mission Results.
Recently I went to Miami for a lookbook & women’s swimwear line shoot and I also took part part in the Miami Fashion Film Festival which screened one of my fashion film shorts. http://www.miamifilmmonth.com/filmFestivals/miamifashionff.html.
The fashion film is from this an editorial in this months WHAT MAG U.K. I’ve got big love for WHAT Magazine founded by U.K. stylist Karen Binns with Beauty editor Nora Nona. I met those two incredible ladies a while back doing on-location production / assisting work in Reykavik, Iceland for the television show “Make Me A Super Model (UK)” and ever since our glacier adventures I have respected their enormous talent and love being a part of their creative vision. The energy, people, beach and overall vibe of Miami is always so refreshing. I’m looking forward to spending some time in the Miami sunshine.
James Meade Photography