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Meet Jairo Melara

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jairo Melara.

Jairo, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started my career in photography when I was in high school. I was drafted to be the photo editor of our school’s yearbook. I had never taken a photograph before, but I had a good eye for what made a photo good or great. I enjoyed looking at photographs and working on them. I would edit photos to make sure they fulfilled the aesthetic our yearbook was going for. I’d planned to purchase my first camera after I graduated from high school, but that didn’t happen for another two years.

My best friend’s brother was in a band, and he’d often bring us to his shows. Now and then he’d ask me to photograph his band onstage, using his camera. That’s when I learned to compose images and correctly use camera settings. Just the basics. One of his bandmates was a production assistant to a local photographer. He introduced us, and thirty minutes later I became his apprentice.

Over the next three years, I learned from his twenty-five years of experience and knowledge. He immediately had me shooting a lot of the work he’d usually do. Given this much responsibility so fast, I quickly learned to do a lot. It was great to have such a hands-on, one-on-one experience. He also encouraged me to experiment, pushing the boundaries of my on-the-job education. I learned to edit in Photoshop, and because he was quite critical, that compelled me to work even harder. I also learned to use a whole range of studio equipment, including old-school tools such as flash meters, which are not in such common use today.

I also made lifelong friends. People I can reach out to if I have any kind of questions. After three years of apprenticeship, I decided to go out on my own, becoming a full-time freelancer. As a freelancer, I quickly shifted to working with modeling agencies and fashion brands in the greater Los Angeles area.Currently, I’m focusing on developing my style—which revolves around models in a fashion/editorial setting.

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?
It was definitely not an easy road. My successes have required a lot of hard work. I’ve found the main struggle is whether to focus on one thing or a multitude of things. For a while, I photographed pretty much anything. Which made it easier to earn a profit. But once I narrowed my choices to focus on my preference for fashion, work became more difficult.

The quality of photographers in the fashion sector is quite outstanding . . . Titans who have worked for many years to get where they are. I found you can’t just step onto the playing field right after training camp. There’s a great deal of bench-warming at the start.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I’m a photographer who focuses on fashion work, whether editorial or commercial. I’m known for building sets from scratch—anything from furnishing an empty living room on location to creating elaborate flats in a studio setting. I’m most proud of the variety of shoots I had the privilege to work on in 2019. 2019 was what I like to call my “construction year,” because I learned more about my shooting style and what I like to show the world. Perhaps nothing I created this past year is important in the grand scheme of things. Only time will tell.

Right now, I feel like a cage fighter who’s attending fight camp before his title bout. I believe what sets me apart is my enthusiasm and excitement for what I do. It gives me great joy to be able to wake up every day and go on set to take photographs. Being self-aware of these feelings and embracing them is what separates me from the rest.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was always interested in knowing how things work. I was curious and imaginative, with a fascination for pretty things. I loved art and learned how to draw. I discovered at a young age that I loved cinema, too. I watched countless movies as a kid. It was an addiction. A good addiction which taught me the art of composition and design.

Once I got to high school, I delved into the theater, working behind the scenes in the technical crew. I was a stage manager for a number of years. I took various art classes and enjoyed hanging-out in the art classrooms where I could practice more. I was that kid who made esoteric references only older students understood. Overall, who I was then representing who I am now. A little bit older but still focused on the same things which interested me as a child.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Portrait of myself taken by Erik Zuniga

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