Advice artist

Photographer Spotlight: Meet Brian Jarreau

Saturday, November 28, 2015 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

Brian Jarreau is one of those creative souls that just gives off a chill vibe. He is serious about his work, but doesn't take himself to seriously. His amazing skills, kind spirit and go-getter attitude have been the building blocks of his success.  Brian hails from Baton Rouge, and posses every bit of the southern charm that you would expect in a gentleman.

All Photos Courtesy of and (c) Brian Jarreau

Yet, it was during his time in Chicago that we connected. We first met in 2009 at a fashion show during my time writing for The Chicago Examiner as the resident fashion tre. It wouldn't be our last encounter as he took on every opportunity to shoot and use that handy camera of his. Bumping into him wearing his iconic fedora, on the streets of Chicago while I covered fashion events, was always a joy! His time in Chicago was well spent honing his skills and connecting with other creatives. The city hasn't quite been the same since he made his move to New Orleans.

Brian's skills have grown beautifully over the years and it's been amazing to watch his style develop. He went from fashion shows and street photography to shooting weddings, urban exploration style series and expanding his portfolio into product photography. He recently took some time to complete an interview with me about his journey and what it's like making a living as a photographer! Please read on for the full Q & A. 

HSM: Can you tell us more about yourself, your background how you got your start in your career?

BJP: When I was growing up, my mom was a huge movie buff. We would watch movies non stop and she had the most ridiculous library of pirated VHS’s that even had it’s own filing system. 500’s were R rated I couldn’t watch them. The allure of the fame of film was always present in my conscience.

I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was cultured like a blue blood and classy as a coup deville. Being an only child, I spent a lot of time in the mirror being goofy, making funny voices, and putting on performances for my family. So, when I went into theatre, it was a no-brainer. - Well, almost. I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do after highschool, but a ride along with a friend to his theatre scholarship audition turned into my own audition and scholarship.

I spent the next 4 years honing my craft as a player for the stage. After college I traveled for a while doing theatre and then landed a production job in the booming Louisiana film market. Within a small window of time I was a Production Office Coordinator for multimillion dollar films-- 24 years old and responsible for multimillion dollar productions. Suddenly, I realized that I needed to live my life and not answer to a-holes who didn’t care about my future. So, I quit- I left the film industry and moved to Chicago. Shortly after, I found work with a small software company- as an assistant to the ceo and the production coordinator of the company's “projects”.

One of the investors in this company is a photographer. He recognized a glimmer of talent in my musings with the office camera equipment, and soon offered to take me under his wing- teach me the art, skill and business of photography. He began to teach me ins and outs of commercial photography, the nuances of lighting and client interaction and the demeanor of professionalism. Soon, I was working closely with him creating market leading imagery for international intimate apparel clients. This is a pretty fast lifestyle- living on the road, out of suitcases and penthouses, photographing models on beaches, beds and bars, it actually gets old...

I like having a record collection, clothes in a dresser and a steady girlfriend. So,  a few years ago I decided to branch out from bikini clad babes to brides and burgers. 8 years in and I happy as a clam.

HSM: Tell us more about your business and why you have chosen the path of an entrepreneur?  
BJP: I am a wedding, portrait and product photographer. I shoot commercial product and apparel for several clients both international and local. In addition, I like to work the wedding season in both the Chicago Land area in the summer and the Gulf South in the spring and fall. Weddings are both challenging and rewarding, while tabletop and food are painstakingly tedious and require high attention to detail.

A lot of people think that working for yourself is a simple and easy task, when in reality it is the exact opposite. Working for someone else means the work is there-- I must generate my own work. This is a constant hustle that only the strongest of fools can survive. It requires being poor (unless you come from money) and working long hours. It requires sacrifice and repetitive motions. Now a days the internet tells just about everyone that’ you too can be a photographer!’ Which may be true, the advent of advanced digital imagery devices has afforded just about everyone the ability to capture beautiful imagery in a few fool proof steps without much investment really. However, the ability to not only capture imagery consistently at a high level of success, but to also sell that imagery in a manner that will actually generate a stand alone income… is a different story.

I like a challenge. I like keeping my own hours (sort of) and I like the freedom to travel for work when I like and be home when I want. I like the slight level of celebrity that I have acquired in my field and the respect I draw from the individuals I work with. A respect that might I mention - all professionals should be practicing.

HSM:  What have been some of your most profound moments, projects you are most proud of as a business owner?

BJP: I’ve had the opportunity to work for some pretty elite clients. I often see my lingerie images in Sears, Kmart, Dillards and Walmart signage and circulars. I think seeing one of my Kathy Ireland images on the back of Women’s Wear Daily- a HUGE New York trade publication was a pretty nice moment. Not everyone is going to see that image- not the general public--BUT the guys who buy apparel for chains, the critics and stylists that make the fashion world go round (the people who decide what you get) they saw that image.

 That was pretty good for me. Also, I shot a whole bunch of sandwiches for this AMAZING poboy shop in New Orleans called Parkway Bakery last year. After a few beers, seeing an 8 foot wide picture you took whiz by you on the side of a street car mid -Mardi Gras Day- wow - I blew up- right there in the street in front of about 10,000 people. I cried a little and stopped the streetcar to take a photo with it. Louisiana proud aye.

HSM: Have there been any key people that have influenced your current career and your life?

BJP:  My mentor Victor Sanabrais taught me more than just the technicality of photography, but also the business. Not necessarily the logistics of the business either, but rather the attitude, the level of professionalism that one must maintain, and the art of interfacing with your client. There are so many aspects. Regardless of your client, location or talent; you must always showcase the energy and own the environment that indicates you are running the show. Victor showed me how your attitude will predict the outcome of a scenario and guide your shoot and associates it in a positive direction.

HSM: What do you consider innovation in your field, how do you plan to continue to push the boundaries?

BJP: Like I said, It’s increasingly more simple to take a pleasing photograph now a days. Not only have the average consumer standards been lowered significantly, by both the amount of content being generated ( and who is generating it) as well as how that content is being viewed--mostly through tiny low resolution devices like phones and tablets. In addition Photoshop is AMAZING and can allow even the most base image to become a masterpiece through manipulation. I think the innovation is the counterculture of mainstream photography- the people who refuse to bend to the standard: shooting film, no edits, using balanced metered light. The innovators are the people who shoot the image not the edit.

HSM: Have you faced any struggles or obstacles as business owner or even just in life that has affected your journey? If so, how did you manage to overcome? 

BJP: There are many obstacles to overcome. Some are internal- It’s easy to lay in bed when you work from home! Get distracted while you drink your coffee, or piddle about your day without accomplishing much. Some are legal- taxes, contracts, fees and insurances. Some are a matter of pride- accepting what you can and can’t do, recognizing others good work in your field, not being chosen for a project. Then there is always the logistics- affording the equipment, time, location, expendables. STAYING FOCUSED ON YOUR OBJECTIVE IS KEY. Know your craft and be confident in your decisions. Also, never be afraid to ask questions, study up on what you don’t know and prepare for your battles.

HSM: If you could go back and tell your 18-year-old self one thing, or give yourself one bit of advice, what would it be? 

BJP: Do not for one single moment care what ANYONE thinks, they are all wrong. It’s such a simple thing to say and think it would be easy to impart on young and impressionable kids, but it isn’t. We get so wrapped up in how the media tells us we should behave and how advertising tells we should dress and eat. Young adults are the most impressionable and consumerism consumes them, now more than ever. When you embrace your own personal journey and stop living for approval- the world become limitless.

HSM: What kind of advice would you give young people looking to turn their passion into a career that has meaning? 

BJP: Professionalism. I encounter young and talented individuals all the time who are inspired, or have creativity and drive, but lack even the most basic of professional skills. They interact poorly with their creative teams, they can not connect with or communicate well with their client or co-workers. This presents a problem for both themselves and the profession. By conducting yourself in a professional manner you are not only conveying your unflagging sense of leadership, but also setting an example for those around you.

I have never looked up to or wanted to follow in the footsteps of people who were lackluster in their communication, pushy and abusive to their colleagues or authoritarian about a creative process. I learned at a pretty young age in order to command respect you must show respect. I understand that my vision is old and staid, it’s romantic and idealistic- and I damn well intend to conduct my business that way, leading by example in attitude, product, delivery and service.

HSM: Where can we learn more about you and your business?


You Might Also Like



Contact Form