This is the reproduction of an interview to Photographer and Creative Director Jorge Parra in Voyage Miami Magazine. An invitation only publication, always looking for inspiring stories. Enjoy!!
Every neighborhood in South Florida has its own vibe, style, culture and history, but what consistently amazes us is not what differentiates the various neighborhoods but rather what they all have in common. From South Beach to Boca (and everywhere in between) we’ve been blown away by how many creative and talented people call South Florida home. Check out some of the inspiring stories we’ve discovered throughout Miami and the surrounding areas.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Jorge Parra.
-Thanks for sharing your story with us Jorge. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Starting up was truly disruptive, which I enjoyed at every moment! I started learning on my own the basics of black and white photography, and my training became an obsession and a way of living. I think that when you have a drive as intense as I had, life itself brings the opportunities, and then after years of living a quiet life as a Chemist ( 2 university degrees in the field), and after a few editorial publications in local fashion magazines in Venezuela (my country of origin), I got a call from a big local fashion firm, and got into my first commercial shooting.
I received as payment the equivalent of 8 months of my salary as a Chemist, and I said to myself : “I have at least 8 months to land my next gig”, and with that in mind, I instantly quit my job as chemist, and never again looked back.
The disruptive change in lifestyle made me pay a toll, and a few years later I divorced my first wife, not to mention all the disappointing comments from my family, since I was abandoning the quiet and comfortable life of being an employee, with regular salary, health care and all corporate benefits, and chose to become a pariah, a freelancer who never knows when is the next gig coming.
Luckily, the same drive who created the disruption kept pushing me in the right direction, and soon enough I was getting hired by other companies, especially in the swimwear and lingerie fields, and those shootings eventually led me into Advertising Photography, and I ended shooting for the largest agencies like Grey, Ogilvy, McCann-Erickson, etc, and most well-known consumer brands in the industry.
Fast forward, in 2005 I decided to emigrate to the USA with my new family (my second wife was a model), leaving behind a torn-apart country and re-start from zero in the US.
In 2006, I opened up my company, Jorge Parra Photography, same name as my business in Venezuela, and from that point on, I have been re-building both my personal and professional lives on the States.
– Has it been a smooth road?
As mentioned before, the original disruption created a personal chaos, while professionally I was thrilled at every second of my new life! Some things are lost along the way, and you have to decide if the losses are worth the change. I tried to keep things together, but eventually, I had to follow my passion.
I was starting to getting paid to do what I LOVE to do the most, so I knew I could not go against myself.
Professionally, everyone is meant to find obstacles and deal with struggles, sometimes they seem nonsense, but just the same, you have to learn to choose your battles and deal with them with your best spirit.
In general, I think that the main struggle in this type of career is against yourself and your inner fears. As I said, being a freelancer is a lifestyle, and not knowing when is your next check coming, specially at the start, can almost defeat your spirit, put to question your main purposes and goals, or at least you tend to think so. Only by persevering and KNOWING that your drive and passion will move you ahead, is how you eventually succeed.
Not everyone is built and ready to become a freelancer though. I feel this is the first step each aspiring shooter has to deal with, and making the right decision should be matter-of-fact, if you are truly passionate about what you are doing. The first challenge to bypass is not the market or the business, it is yourself!
– So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Jorge Parra Photography story. Tell us more about the business.
The work in Editorial Photography is a fine start for most every shooter, and it gives you a fine taste of how to develop creative approaches to specific themes or subjects, but as I see it, getting involved in Advertising is a growing process where you get more involved with every aspect of the visual challenge.
Sometimes the corporate and brand restrictions imposed by either the Agency or the Client or both, tend to discourage many shooters, who are expecting a free range like in editorial, but that in itself is another great challenge.
So, I started by shooting fashion runways for magazines, (I still shoot runways every once in a while, as It brings back the thrills of my first assignments!), which led me to fashion editorial projects, then I started shooting commercially for local fashion brands, and my handling of people got the attention of advertising agencies.
I was basically tagged as a People Photographer, and that made me shoot from kids to celebrities to sports, corporate, etc, and as times went by, some Creative Directors started calling me to shoot projects outside my comfort zone, which led me to keep learning and improving my skills, to cope with the situations imposed by each briefing.
This “expansion” led me to shoot interesting projects as varied and different as Architectural Photography, Food Photography and Product shots. All this time, I kept working on my personal work, based on the female nude, and to date, I have a large record of gallery exhibitions in that field.
This evolution/expansion brought the inclusion of Production Services for my own projects. My company can provide (of course, by hiring third parties) just about everything required to fulfill a shooting, no matter how big or small, and that has helped me coordinate properly with the teams that I build for each project.
For clients, this is a useful resource, and added value, as most aspects of any project are centralized and client/agency, does not have to talk to several third parties or hire a producer to do what my company does.
At this point, I am focused on both Editorial and Advertising Photography and I am orienting my efforts towards the Luxury Market. This means that, in addition to my shooting Fashion and Portraits, I also shoot for Spas, Hotels, Restaurants, Basically the Luxury Travel and Leisure, which makes me travel a lot, and I LOVE to travel! Of course, I keep shooting my personal projects as an ongoing, never ending process.
I feel that my handling of people, my abilities to directing them properly are something that is part of my own nature, so that cannot be acquired or taught. Either you have those abilities or not. Even though I have photographed hundreds of relevant men in so many fields, from corporate to sports to celebrities, I love to work with women. I have enjoyed the challenges I have received from creative directors, since those challenges have expanded and enhanced my work in different fields that I may have not developed otherwise. The success of the projects shows that it all worked out fine for everyone!
- How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Technology is affecting every aspect of the business, and photography is being affected massively. I usually tell my students in Photography Workshops that they must adapt to the changes more rapidly that any previous generation, and that applies too to currently successful shooters, as some areas of photography tend to survive while others tend to go away.
We must be alert and in “learning mode” to be able to cope with the changes. The disruption created by Digital Photography was in itself huge, but more disruptions created by tools like CGI, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Lytro cameras, and more emerging technologies, will reshape the market and the business.
Those who choose to stay with a just a camera in their hands may become irrelevant, all the more so when smartphones are turning just everyone into a photographer, or so they think!!
In the end, quality and professionalism will prevail, but the process is slow and troubling! Only those persevering with passion, discipline and commitment will build a career for themselves.
Link to original publication