Native Austinite, John Rogers, has over thirty years of photography and television film production under his belt. After graduating from the University of Texas, Rogers went on to have a successful career in media and photography. His photos have been featured in various books, magazines and galleries around the world.
I corresponded with Rodgers via email about his career, light paint photography and more as follows below.
How did you get started in photography?
John Rogers: I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. I purchased my first camera while still in middle school and also started making 8mm movies about that same time. I really started as a commercial photographer after moving back to Austin. I had been out of the production business for several years and had lost contact with many of my production resources from the DFW area. Filmmaking is such a collaborative medium (if you want to look great, work with a great crew…) it would have been more difficult to restart in that business in Austin. Whereas as a still photographer it’s mostly a solo gig.
I understand you were born and raised in the Austin area and did all of your schooling here, graduating high school from John H. Reagan High School, and continuing on to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin. What about the photography scene in Austin is unique or resonates with you the most?
JR: First off, we are fortunate to have such a great artist community. Also, (this is going to sound pretty ingratiating), but it’s actually the access to one of the best camera stores in the country. Precision Camera is a real asset to the local industry. From actually being able to put your hands on a piece of equipment before you purchase, to access to rental gear and staff that know what they are doing and can answer questions. It makes me a little crazy when a friend shows up with a new piece of gear they purchased from a New York store. Buy local. It doesn’t cost any more and you can support your local store. (I’ll get off my soapbox now…)
You have a background working as an in-house producer and director for RadioShack National Advertising. What was your overall experience like working there? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working for yourself vs. with a big team like at RadioShack?
JR: I fell into the job at RadioShack. Right place, right time. I had no idea they were the largest in-house agency in the county and one of the very few companies that produced their own print and TV media. I was a new kid surrounded by some tremendously talented and experienced folks. I learned a lot and got to work with some really big budgets. At the University of Texas I learned to be on time, and the proper way to coil a mic cable. Pretty much everything else I learned on the job at RadioShack.
It seems your photography knows no bounds from portraits and commercial work, to landscapes and architecture. How does your approach change for each subject as far as gear and planning?
JR: Shockingly similar actually. I’m not a “run-and-gun” photographer. My camera is virtually always on a tripod and every shot (architecture, portrait or landscape) is planned. (Less lighting gear is required for landscape…)
Out of all the many things you photograph, do you have a favorite? Why?
JR: Lately I’ve been focusing on light painting. It’s quite a bit more challenging than the other work I do, and I truly have total control over how the final product looks.
Tell me more about light paint photography and what purpose it serves. What do you like best about it?
JR: So often photography just documents. I want you to look at one of my light paintings and see your car/home/widget as you see it, including the emotion and romance you automatically project on to things you care about. Below is short video I made that showed the process of light painting a home and car.
Check out Rodger's Instagram dedicated to his light paint photography for more.
I think some people get it in their heads that commercial photography is “boring” or “stale.” How do you maintain that creative spark when doing commercial photography?
JR: I tell people I photograph beauty (pretty people, places or things) and try to capture a feeling or story in my images. Boring is a state of mind. It’s also easier not to get bored when you charge a fair rate for your services and don’t give it away…
You’ve received numerous impressive awards from the likes of the Texas Professional Photography Association, the Austin Professional Photographer Association and the International Television Association. Aside from creating amazing work, how are your photos considered or nominated for such awards? Do you have any advice for photographers looking to get more recognition for their photos?
JR: Backing up a bit…While the recognition is nice, (and possibly helps with marketing) to me, competition is about striving to improve your craft. The number one bit of advice I would give would be to join a local organization that does print competitions and continuing education. The Austin chapter of the Professional Photographers of America is great! They have photographers with a range of experience from those just getting started to extremely talented. It’s a great opportunity to learn from their monthly speakers as well as enter in their monthly and annual print competitions. By competing, you will become a better photographer.
What are your go-to pieces of equipment?