I have earned my living as a photographer for the last 17 years.
I live in a small town in northwest Mississippi about 20 miles from the Mississippi River and 120 miles south of Memphis, TN. I was fortunate that my parents encouraged my siblings and I to pursue the arts as much as we pursued athletics. As my college career began to wind down, I started to dream a bit about a life where I would be involved in some form of creative pursuit every day. Many of my friends aspired to be doctors and lawyers, but the people that I tended to admire most were always artists and free thinkers.
After graduate school, I came back home to open a photography business and have somehow managed to stay at it since 1997. I photograph about 15 or so weddings a year, but also do a handful of editorial and commercial jobs each year, as well as longer personal projects. My first monograph from a project I’ve been working on for about 6 years now will be published by University Press of Mississippi. It’s a collection of photographs and essays from a juke joint near my hometown. The working title is “Po’ Monkey’s Lounge: a portrait of a juke joint”. I also have a small photo gallery where we exhibit the work of regional photographers – http://www.wiljaxgallery.com
– (I’m proud to say that one of our exhibits was declared by Time magazine to be “one of the top 30 ways to experience photography in the world!” last year – http://lightbox.time.com/2013/09/02/the-guide-september-2013-edition/#8
) so I also spend a fair amount of my time curating exhibits and collaborating with other photographers on exhibition and publishing ideas. I also exhibit at various galleries in the region, am active with a few arts based non-profits and this Fall I’ll also be teaching a photojournalism class at Ole Miss. I have also been a fireman (albeit a volunteer) for the last 15 years and married to a New Orleans girl. We don’t have any children, but have two dogs who run our house and are considered children to us. We tend to spend a pretty fair amount of time in New Orleans as well, which is a nice change of pace from small town living.
When I was in graduate school I focused mainly on documentary film making. This eventually led to me discovering still photography. I wasn’t in love with the gear so much as I was the way photography allowed me insight into worlds which most people don’t get to see. I got to be on the field or court at ballgames, backstage at performances and around people when they were vulnerable and honest. I began to see the world differently because of this and became enamored with the authenticity of it all. That’s what I love – when fences are let down and honesty comes in. Photography was and still is – a means for me to experience those places and moments.
What’s your ‘can’t live without’ lens?
I could do just fine with nothing but a 35mm F2.
Where do you find inspiration?
Good work. Smart ideas. It doesn’t matter where. It can be museums, or it can be a brilliant performance by an athlete at a ballpark. I like things that push boundaries, find a way to go against the flow of what everyone else is doing and what everyone else expects. I am moved by great music, by great books, by great food, by great locations and by great conversations. As with most things in my life though, I prefer to dabble in lots of things, and I find inspiration the same way.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Nothing is ever as good as it seems, or as bad as it seems.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
Hopefully teaching more. Both at the university level and through non-profits. But I’m not nearly as worried about having a photography business as a photography career. So, hopefully in 5 years I’ll still be involved in photography, art, and story-telling and in ways that have grown from whatever it is I am doing now.
How has ShootProof helped your business?
ShootProof has made the commercial aspects of my business, particularly the wedding side of things – more efficient and more profitable. Things that used to be quite cumbersome workflow-wise are now much easier, and therefore require less time, which, in turn frees me up to do more of all that other stuff that I keep adding to my agenda.