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Meet Burbank Photographer: Jessie Caballero

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessie Caballero.

Jessie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I first sparked an interest in photography when I was 12 years old. After asking many times, my family bought me a 3mp point and shoot digital camera and I started taking pictures of everything. Chairs, flowers, my friends, animals, etc. When I entered high school, I took a film photography class and learned how to shoot and develop film. I upgraded my point and shoot and brought it with me everywhere I went. It started as a way of documenting the events of my life. I wanted to remember the things I did with my friends so that I could have something to look back on. As the years progressed, it became more of a tool of artistic expression. I started collecting other cameras to play with, like the Lomography Fisheye 35mm and an old polaroid I found that my family used back in the day. I got my first job at Little Ceasar’s when I was 17 and spent months saving up money to purchase a DSLR and it was then that I began to take photography more seriously. Though I grew up wanting to be a teacher my entire life, by age 18, I made an abrupt change of pace and decided to major in photography for college. I studied for 2 years and moved to Los Angeles, CA and since then, I’ve spent hours training and working, constantly challenging myself to grow as an artist. I now shoot full time and make my living off of photography. Every shoot brings a new challenge, but I enjoy it and I look forward to discovering other ways I can grow!

Has it been a smooth road?
It certainly hasn’t always been smooth. When I was in college, I was a full-time student working two jobs that paid very little trying to make ends meet. I had many 12-14 hour days. 2013 stands out to me as one of the hardest years of my life. I was going through a very personally traumatic time after losing a handful of people dear to me, and I was working a full-time job as a studio manager while interning to work for another photographer. During this time, I was working 6-7 days a week, 60+ hours, while trying to find time to grieve and mourn my losses. There were many times where I became so emotionally overwhelmed and depleted, I really wanted to throw in the towel. But I fought through it and managed to finish my internship, which gave me the opportunity to work as a photographer for a very busy studio. Photography became my main source of income and working with new and different clients several times a week gave me more experience and confidence in my work.

When you look back, what are you most proud of?
It’s hard for me to think of a single proud moment. I would say I feel proud every time a client receives their photos and they love them. It reminds me why I do what I do. I love to capture authentic moments, and if I can give someone the opportunity to relive a special moment in their lives or to look at themselves objectively and realize how incredible they actually are, then I’ve done my job right.

Were there moments when you had to struggle?
The biggest thing I’ve learned in choosing a career like this is it all comes in waves. Photography is a pretty seasonal thing. There have been times where I hardly get any bookings within a month, and that can become stressful because I don’t have a steady source of income. So finding other means to pay the bills on the spot has become a regular part of the process.

On the other hand, there are busy months where I’m shooting 6-7 days a week and it leaves me feeling so burnt out, I end up questioning if this is something I still want to do. Creativity, for me, is like a battery, I need to be able to recharge every day. It’s not something that can be poured out endlessly over a short course of time. I need to be able to create things for myself, not just other people. So, finding the balance between making a living and making a life can be quite challenging, but I have found it’s imperative to my mental and creative health.

What I did to solve this issue is give myself a 3 day weekend every week. I use one day to catch up on any post processing/office work, and the other 2 days are strictly for me. I don’t do any shoots, answer any calls or emails or do anything regarding work. Sometimes I pick up the camera and shoot for myself, sometimes I paint, sometimes I sit on the couch all day and do absolutely nothing. I try to honor whatever it is I need for that day. Self-care is important in any line of work, so make sure you don’t give yourself away to just one thing.

One more thing I want to mention are the struggles of Social Media. It is far too easy to compare yourself to other people and other artists when you’re browsing through Instagram. I’m terrible when it comes to this. I highly suggest avoiding it. You can browse and become inspired and ignited by others’ work, but the second you start feeling bad about yourself, put the phone down and go do something worthwhile. Otherwise this feeling will suck the life out of you and you might start to feel your work is pointless. I’m still working on exiting a toxic phase where I became so apathetic to photography and art because I did this way too much!

What’s your outlook for the industry in our city?
Los Angeles is an interesting place, and I would have to say I don’t think I would have been as successful in my career if I hadn’t moved here. I came from Las Vegas, and at the time when I left, there wasn’t much of a market for lifestyle photography for the Average Joe. But in LA, most people want photos of themselves. In fact, many of them need photos of themselves for their careers.

As with any city, I feel there are pros and cons to LA. People have money here, and they’re not unwilling to spend it, so there’s definitely potential for business to boom. However, the competition here is off the charts. I realized that everyone you meet is more than likely a transplant from somewhere else, and they came here with a goal in mind. To write, to act, to photograph, to film. So, trying to stand out in a sea of endless talent can be extremely difficult, but also rewarding, because it makes me want to work harder. It just depends on how you look at it. You can let the competition make you feel defeated, or you can just keep doing your thing and push forward. Whenever I get filled with self-doubt, I tell myself, “Effort determines outcome”. I know if I sit around doing nothing and moping all day (which I have done that, believe me), nothing will come of it. But if I push myself through the tough times (always easier said than done), I will have something to show for it whether there’s monetary gain or not.

My advice to someone who wants to come out here: If you have the means, give it a shot! You’ll never know what this city can or can’t do for you without giving it a test run. There are many people to learn from, collaborate with, and grow without here. Just don’t expect it to come easy or quick because it may take time to get the ball rolling. The worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t work out and you either go back home or go somewhere else, but at least you’ll know! That wouldn’t mean you failed, it means you succeeded in trying!

I have an interesting relationship with the word “failure”. I love it but I hate it. It can make you work harder, or make you want to give up. Again, it depends on how you react to it. I try to remember that failure and success are two very subjective things. To some, moving out of their hometown is a huge victory for them, and for others, being comfortable in what they know brings them solitude. Both are okay, and it’s important to remember what’s best for YOU and not let fear or other people talk you out of things if you know what you need. I received quite a bit of doubt from others when I decided to come here, but I knew I had to give it a shot. I’m so happy I did.

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