Jessyel Gonzales is the photographer behind dailysnap.
PetaPixel: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Jessyel Gonzales: I’m 25. A guy, in case you were wondering (yes, I have an odd name). Live in Denver, Colorado with my wonderful wife and crazy wiener dog. I’m Mexican-American, and am an editorial and portrait photographer. I also love filmmaking (was a film major in college) and that’s actually where I got my start in still photography (had never held a camera of any type until college).
PP: Does your name have any special meaning?
JG: It’s a mixture of my grandparent’s names – Jesus and Estelle. The ‘y’ in the middle is the Spanish word for ‘AND’.
PP: How did you come to live in Denver?
JG: I was born here. Lived here my whole life. My parents came here from Mexico many years ago.
PP: What was your first camera?
JG: The first camera I ever used was a Bolex Super 8 (don’t remember the exact model number, though), an 8mm film camera (motion picture). I still remember the first thing I EVER captured through a lens – my girlfriend (who’s now my wife) sitting in a chair. I could only shoot three minutes of footage, and between the cost of the film itself and its processing (and lab fees to edit the footage), it was going to be VERY COSTLY to learn the rules of photography and composition. That’s how still photography began.
PP: Could you list the equipment you currently use?
JG: The equipment doesn’t make the photographer, and the best camera is the one you’re using, but that said – I use a lot of cameras (every one has its purpose). I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a wide assortment of lenses, a Canon EOS Elan 7, Hasselblad 500C, Yashica Mat-124, Nikon FM, Leica M3, a Flip MinoHD, and a lot of other trinkets to mull me over.
PP: If you had to stick with one body and one lens, what would you choose and why?
JG: That’s such a difficult question. I’m a film guy – just love the look and the analog/chemical nature of it – but require digital for most of the work that makes me my living. There are many problems with digital (not to mention that any camera I mention now will be ‘obsolete’ in a few years), but I suppose I would have to choose my 5D Mark II. Great camera, has video, and is good for my work. As far as a lens… well, that’s another tough question. I love all types of photography and they all require different focal lengths. In the end, I guess a very fast 50mm prime lens will do just fine.
PP: I guess that leads into my next question. If you had to stick with one medium, would you pick film or digital, and why?
JG: I suppose in the long run, digital wins (can’t believe I just said that). On a personal level, I will always love film and think it will offer things that digital may never in my lifetime, but the immediacy and tech of digital wins me over, especially for the hustle and bustle of the photography (can’t believe I just said hustle and bustle, too). The cost of film is high, finding a competent (and affordable) lab is getting more and more difficult, and you still have to scan everything; too time-consuming. As far as the photographic side of it, digital has an advantage in the way it handles ISO. I can’t even begin to imagine what we’ll see next. 3200 ISO isn’t a problem anymore. I’m getting shots that were near-impossible a few years back. As a professional, digital is the way to go.
PP: What are the pros and cons of being a professional photographer?
JG: The pro is easy – I get to photograph amazing things and make a living off of it. Dream come true (even though I have MUCH to accomplish). The cons may make me sound like an old geezer, but I’d say the competition and the current state of the industry. Digital means everyone can be a photographer – a great thing. However, there are many people with a camera who call themselves a professional when there’s much to learn and experience. Bidding for jobs has become difficult – between cheap stock photography and some photographers even doing work for free, it’s hard to compete at times. A lot of people don’t take into account the years spent building your portfolio and look, the thousands of dollars of equipment and software (not to mention time learning), the amount of marketing dollars you use, etc. A lot of people don’t take photography as a professional craft per se. You’d never ask a chef as a fancy restaurant to make you a steak for free to ‘test the waters’, but it happens like that with photography. Okay, now I’m babbling and the blood is boiling. Babbobling.
PP: How much time and money does your photography hobby cost you?
JG: Hobby photography? Not too much now (basically just the cost of film when I use it), but it took a lot of money, time and effort to get to where I am today. My photoblog was basically an exercise in photography – showing everyone my progress. Yet, that’s now five years in the making, and I’m still learning a lot. I saved up my pennies to afford my gear, making crazy deals and trades on Craigslist and other sites. It was only until recently when I was able to afford gear without it being an absolute struggle. Gear isn’t the answer (the photographer is), but it sure does make some shoots a lot easier.
PP: Is there a reason you choose not to have comments on your photoblog?
JG: Out of all the questions I get via email about the site, this is the one that I get the most. I used to have comments on my site (using the standard photoblog template). It was actually useful for a while in getting feedback and constructive criticism on my work. However, after the site started getting popular, it became a struggle. I started thinking there was a correlation between number of comments versus how ‘good’ a photo was (a mistake). Photoblogs were exploding at the time, and it all became a popularity contest. People commenting only to advertise their sites. It was basically SPAM, only with a real human and site behind them. The great feedback was gone. I would receive forty comments that all said ‘nice!’ or ‘good photo’ with nothing else. The site was about a way to improve my photography through community, and I ended up taking the community feature down to become a better photographer. Ironic. I found that by taking away the comments, people who care to say something will via email. No more spamming, no more popularity contests, and I feel this works better for me. Additionally, there is also a great feedback system that works via other sites, like Flickr and Twitter (still some problems as before, but still works much better).
PP: How have you developed as a photographer over the years? What tools, websites, or resources have you used?
JG: Knowing that the Internet is your friend. So many great resources, a lot of inspiration, a lot of feedback and opinions, and many other great photographers that can help/mentor you. Social media has become huge as of late in getting work, and a big thing I’ve learned is that marketing is key in today’s market. It’s no longer about how good a photographer you are (you’d be amazed at how many photoblogs and Flickr streams with quality work are overlooked), but about how you get your work noticed. But again, the power of the internet has provided photography with such an amazing period right now.
PP: What are some of the best ways to get your work noticed?
JG: Talk to people. Send emails. Introduce yourself. Make comments (only if they’re genuine!) and talk shop. Let people know you exist. Meeting people at workshops/classes is also a great way to get introduced to local photographers. And obviously, don’t forget to shoot during this time. A strong portfolio will still be required. But again, once word of mouth starts spreading, your hard work will pay off. I’ve also been able to get noticed just by having a business card (I use moo.com mini cards that feature your photography). Anytime I’m taking street portraits, I hand them out and tell people I’ll give them a free print of the shot I just took of them. That had lead to many opportunities through unlikely channels. You have to be creative and introduce yourself nowadays – you’re very rarely going to have people knocking at your door otherwise.
PP: What is one thing you’ve learned that caused the biggest improvement in your photography?
JG: Running my photoblog. Without it, I’m not sure what I’d be doing in life right now. It remains an exercise in photography for me – a timeline of photos and seeing what I need to improve upon. Having people contact me and talking about photography has helped. Knowing about film and the many genres of photography has helped me grow and improve. As far as the photographic skill that has made me improve the most? Looking at your scene carefully. I guess that goes without saying, but I used to look at one feature of a scene (say, the subject or a foreground element) and kind of ignored the rest. Heck, I was shooting digital – twenty quick snaps has to produce something, right? Or I also had a mentality of, ‘I’ll fix it in post’. Wrong. Now I try to survey the whole scene; everything in the frame, and make sure the composition works. Doesn’t always end up that way, but seeing everything in the viewfinder (and trying to make a shot work QUICKLY) has made me a better photographer.
PP: Can you briefly describe your workflow?
JG: My film workflow consists of buying a load of all types of films, then choosing the appropriate one (and camera) for what I want to shoot that day. After I’m done shooting, I either process it myself (B&W, C41) or get a lab to do it (E6). THEN, I scan everything using a Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED. Getting a handful of shots into a digital format will take four hours to many weeks from the shooting stage to now. So we’re now up to the step where I would be with digital. I import everything into Aperture, and make my edits. Once I’ve chosen the shots I want for whatever purpose they’re needed, I do some light post-processing in Photoshop (and use it to get the shots web-ready). Finally, I upload the shots via my CMS online and that’s that. Since I do a lot of film work, you can see why it’s difficult to get stuff up on a timely manner.
PP: Who are your favorite photobloggers?
JG: I really respect Sam Javanrouh at Daily Dose of Imagery. He’s been delivering a quality shot DAILY for over six years now. It’s hard enough to post anything daily, nonetheless GOOD work everyday. I don’t know how he does it. Someone else would be Miles Storey (Mute). Tristan Campbell (Absolutely Nothing) and Kathleen Connally (Durham Township) are my favorite landscape photobloggers. Justin Ouellette (Chromogenic) was my favorite photoblog back in the day – he shot exclusively with film, and it was all just mind-blowing work. He’s what got me started with film and experimenting with photography as a whole. He’s obviously a lot more busy nowadays, so he rarely updates.
PP: If you could see one person interviewed by PetaPixel, who would it be?
JG: Let’s get Sam Javanrouh at Daily Dose of Imagery interviewed. That would be splendid, no?
PP: Do you have any final thoughts for PetaPixel readers?
JG: Just keep shooting. Don’t be afraid to try out something new or approach new people. I know a lot of editors and photographers will disagree when I say this, but don’t get stuck doing just one genre of photography. Perhaps there can be one you’re really good at, but try them all. Don’t be afraid of street photography. Get that macro and telephoto lens out and see the world in a new way. Try exploring all possibilities. You’ll see how it will improve you all-around. Oh, and don’t do HDR. Seriously… just don’t. :-)