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Meet Graeme Jackson of Visionary Photography in Koreatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Graeme Jackson.

Graeme, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born and raised in a small suburb in Ventura County, about an hour from Los Angeles. Throughout my youth, you could always catch me either playing sports or biking around my hometown with my friends. The group I surrounded myself with going into my high school years was always willing to go out and explore our area at the drop of a hat, and when we began driving at 16, that’s about all we did whenever we could. This was around the time I discovered Urban Exploring and the massive community behind it. My friends and I would search for hours online for cool abandoned or hidden places near us to check out, and as this became a staple of our free time together, I began to bring a camera along to document our misadventures. They encouraged me to start a photography page on Instagram to share my work, and through this platform I began to involve myself more in the LA photography scene and the Urban Exploration community. Going into my senior year of high school, I was still shooting around whenever I could for fun, and then that summer I really spent a ton of my time shooting with friends and working on my skills both in the field and in editing software.

I decided to attend community college in my hometown to stay at home and work for my first two years of undergrad, and this time I still spent shooting whenever I could when my friends who moved away to school came back to visit. I began challenging myself on my creative page (J.visions) collaborating with other photographers I met on Instagram as often as possible. I got into the street photography and rooftopping scenes mostly, and today I still enjoy shooting those styles creatively more than anything. Getting to travel to shoot in and explore other cities across the globe in the last few years has been incredible.

Halfway through my second year, one of my best friends who is also a photographer, approached me about starting a freelance partnership together. In January of 2018, we began our partnership under the name Visionary Photography, specializing in product, lifestyle, and concert photography. The opportunity to get paid doing the work we love felt surreal, and I knew it was something I wanted to pursue for a long time. Eventually, I realized what I really loved about the work was just being creative and getting to produce really unique content for clients. I moved to attend school at UC Santa Barbara later that year while still making myself available for opportunities in music and our other client work. We were able to land some big time clients in both the music industry and in our work with brands.

In Santa Barbara, I was still seeking out photography opportunities to refine my craft, and I got a job at UCSB’s newspaper as the Photo Editor. Photojournalism was a challenge for me to get the hang of. The visual side of a news publication has a disproportionate influence on the success of the paper’s circulation, and I had to learn what style was needed to produce quality, unbiased work that conveyed a visual narrative.

After graduating with a B.A. in Communication from UCSB in Spring of 2020, I moved back to LA to pursue more freelance photography work and a career in Marketing.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There have definitely been some challenges building a freelance business. There were so many times I remember staying up late with my business partner planning shoots, sending countless emails to brands and musicians, and editing photos before deadlines. Overcoming some challenges that come with more ambitious and complicated shoots was stressful in the moment, but ultimately provided us with a sense of greater gratification upon completion.

Every freelancer will tell you about tough clients to deal with, and there is certainly no shortage of them in the industries we work in. Sometimes the tough clients really made me want to step away for a while, but I think having an ebb and flow in your willingness to produce work is natural and healthy. With each interaction, deal, and project, you just learn more ways to work within the clients’ expectations and grow your skillset.

One of the biggest challenges that come with just being a creative is comparing yourself to others. I’ve definitely fallen victim to this at times, wondering why other photographers are getting deals with this company or are going on tour with that artist and I’m not. These self-evaluations can be crippling at times, but conversations with my peers serve to ground me and encourage me to trust the process. When I reflect on where I was a year ago, I know I’ve grown and my work has gotten exponentially better just since then alone, which gives me hope for the future.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Visionary Photography story. Tell us more about the business.
Visionary Photography is a service founded with the intention of providing high-quality photographs for industries and the individual. Our partnership specializes in product, lifestyle, and concert photography. With successful campaign work done for brands such as Herschel Supply Co. and artists like A$AP Ferg and Young the Giant, we have shown our ability to consistently produce high-quality work for large scale clients. We are most proud of our ability to effectively internalize a brand’s tone, messaging, and imagery in the creation of unique and innovative content that is congruent with the existing branding. Our ability to effectively communicate with clients as well as our extensive network and knowledge of the LA area is what sets us apart from other LA photography freelancers.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
When I think of luck, I think about just being so lucky to have grown up in the town that I did near Los Angeles, the home of the music industry and a creative hub. If I was not close to Los Angeles, I certainly would never have had half the opportunities to shoot for clients and artists that I’ve been fortunate to receive.

Coming into Summer 2020, both myself and my business partner had a number of opportunities lined up for photography work that unfortunately fell through due to COVID. I felt especially sorry for my business partner, who was about to fulfill a long time goal we share of going on tour with a musician. Graduating University into a pandemic was not exactly what I was expecting this year, but I’ve learned to roll with the punches in this situation and try to do what I can during this time to continue building towards my short and long term goals.

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Image Credit:

Graeme Jackson

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