The first time I was introduced to the work of Jessica Cruz, I believe I may have stopped breathing for a second. It’s a collection of nude photographs that she’d captured using the shadows cast by natural lighting through a window. It’s pure perfection!!
Soon after, I started my quest for an opportunity to speak one-on-one with Jessica about her work, personal style, and passion for the art of photography. Lucky for me, Jessica grew up right outside of Tampa, FL in a small town named Dade City (it also didn’t hurt that I happen to know someone very close to her), so it was just about planning the right time.
Recently, we met at a fantastic local tea lounge, Kaleisia (it’s absolutely terrific…if you’re in Tampa, be sure to check them out) and spoke for hours about her journey as a photographer. Here’s what she had to say…
How would you describe your style of photography? How are YOU reflected in your work?
[It is] very relaxed. That’s why I choose to shoot out in the woods so much. It’s where I’m most comfortable and relaxed. A lot of my inspiration can come from anything. It can be anything that’s around me, so it’s not necessarily a reflection of me but more of a reflection of my experiences.
When I first experienced your work my initial thoughts were that you’re a very cool and laid back person, down-to-earth, and takes things with a grain of salt. Would you consider that as a good sense of your style?
Yes, it is. I think that’s why I tend to choose models that are laid-back. I choose locations that are very relaxing and laid back as well, because often when you first meet someone you’re doing something that’s so personal and their right in your face. You want them to be comfortable and their personality to come out through the photos.
Of the forms of photography that you practice, which would you consider as the most enjoyable and inspiring?
My favorite is just working with models. Just taking one person and trying to capture their personality. That takes time and I do multiple shoots with them. I like photographing girls, but I am trying to expand into photographing guys. I’ll start with my boyfriend. I think he’s very handsome; he has high cheek bones and I think he’d photograph well.
I’m also trying to get into fashion editorials (I would like to continue shooting those in natural settings), but the thing with that is, there’s a lot of planning that’s involved. Then you’re often working with a team, so it’s not as intimate for me as I’d like it to be. It’s not genuine anymore.
Weddings are fun too, especially if you’re their all day.Those candid moments are a lot of fun to take. At first I’d say “I’m never gonna shoot weddings,” and then I did one and said “Yes, I can do this.”
In your personal life, what would you consider as your greatest source of inspiration?
I take a lot of it from my brother. I started around the time that he was born, I was fourteen I believe. I would take pictures of him all the time. It’s funny because he’s such a ham now. When you bring out a camera he’ll pose for you. He’s actually getting into photography too; he does stop motion videos. It’s drawing stop motion, so he’ll draw lines and add lines then take a picture.
This is a question that I ask all of our inductees of The Collectiv, describe the most challenging moment you’ve encountered as an independent photographer.
I don’t know if I can narrow it down to just one. A lot of people aren’t very understanding of the Arts and photography. Trying to change it from a hobby of mine to a business has been the most challenging because you’re dealing with some clients that aren’t very understanding and not very friendly. I just take a step back with all the stress and just breathe.
To shake things up a bit, I have a couple of questions that are directly from other photographers. The first being, do you have a preference of digital photography or film? If so, why?
I started on digital, so I prefer digital. I love the quality of film and I would’ve gone that direction, but when I started taking a photography class they closed the dark room the year that I started. It’s something that I still want to pursue. It’s so expensive to get into, but you can’t beat the quality that you get with it.
The other is, what are some of the common mistakes that you see made by photographers, including yourself?
That’s a hard one, because photography’s so objective. You can shoot anyway you want. I don’t think that there’s a right or a wrong way to shoot. It really just depends on your personal style, what you prefer. Of course when I see other photographers taking pictures I’m always eyeballing to see what they’re doing. Everyone has a different view on things. So, you can’t be too critical of other photographers.
What I don’t particularly enjoy are people who are very egotistical about their work and who aren’t very friendly. I haven’t met a lot of photographers that are willing to open up about how they shoot and help other photographers, and for me that’s a big thing. I want to get involved in a bigger community of photographers and learn from each other because everyone has so much to bring to the table; and if you’re not willing to do that how are you supposed to grow?
I think it’s very competitive, when in reality it’s not competitive because everyone has their own complete style. It’s going to appeal to some people and other people aren’t going to like it. You could put three different photographers in the same room, tell them to take pictures of a subject, and all of their photos are going to come out differently, because everyone has a different way of viewing things.
You make a great point! Only if people viewed life, in general, that way…this world would be such a better place. Now here’s my last question, based upon your experiences, what advice would you give to an aspiring photographer that may be fearful of his or her success in this industry?
Practice, practice, practice. That old saying of practice makes perfect holds true in regards to most things, and especially photography. Know that you’re not going to get to where you want to be over night, it’s a learning process. Some days you’ll be really motivated and some days you won’t want to even touch your camera. But just remember to try and enjoy it as you go and always try to make it fun.
There is a ton of information out there on how to shoot this way, under these conditions, what gear to use and so on but the only way to learn what is going to work for you is by going out there and just doing it!
Network when you can. Meeting others that have similar interests will only fuel your motivation. This was hard for me as I have always been shy but being a photographer and working with strangers forced me outside of my comfort zone and now I have made a few life long friends in the industry as well as clients and I only hope to make more.
To finally get a chance to sit down with Jessica was such a pleasure and worth every second. Of course, when there’s great conversation, the time flies. We ended the conversation, with plans of meeting up again to discuss a collaboration for Cold Hard Fash. I cannot wait until we’re able to bring our two worlds of style together. I can guarantee it will be epic.
I encourage you to visit Jessica’s official site at www.jessicacruzphotography.com and check out her blog! If you’re not following her on Instagram, it is an absolute must! She has one of the most inspiring and enjoyable accounts on there: @jessicacphotography. Jessica can also be found on Facebook.
To close, I would like to thank Jessica Cruz for taking the time to share her Photography Style Story with Cold Hard Fash. A special thanks to our photographer of the evening Shaunette Stokes of Shaunette Stokes Photography for capturing the occasion and Kaleisia Tea Lounge for providing such a wonderful atmosphere (and delicious tea).
Love & Style,