Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Focus On: JaredKS

It's a real privilege to get to know the photographers of Etsy. Everyone has such incredible varied and wonderful stories of art, inspiration and life. Our interview this week takes us to Kansas to meet one of Etsy's first photographers. Jared May has had great success here, and after talking with him for just a short while it became apparent just why he is so successful. Here is an artist who loves without regret or without condition, and it shows in everything he does. If you have any questions about your photography, your inspiration, or even your Etsy shop, please read on and be inspired by a genuinely wonderful person. Welcome, Jared, and thanks for agreeing to talk with us:

Ann Wilkinson: Your photos depict your travels -- Colorado, Yellowstone, Utah -- but your heart really seems to be in Kansas. Clearly, you love where you live. Can you describe how you see your life from a photographic perspective?

Jared: I have put a lot of energy and thought into the idea of loving my life as it is, here and now. I genuinely believe that a miserable person can manage to be miserable anywhere, and a happy person can manage to be happy anywhere. Once I came to that conclusion, it only made sense to choose to be happy as much as possible.

It pleases me that the spirit of that sentiment comes through in my work. As I travel, I find that every place is beautiful, and the trick is learning how to see it.

One thing that fascinates me is that my photographs of places I am visiting for the first time never quite capture how I feel about the place. I have to visit multiple times before I'm able to find a way to express what I'm seeing and feeling. I wonder if I'll learn something later that will allow me to do better on my first visit, but I won't be surprised if the answer is no.

AW: How often are you out taking pictures? What gets you out of doors?

JM: I go in spells. Sometimes I will carry my small camera in my pocket all day every day and shoot all the time. Some of my favorite photographs come from me pulling over while driving somewhere and having a three-minute photo shoot on the side of the road. Yes, I'm that guy.

But sometimes I'll go months without shooting anything. I used to worry about it, but I don't anymore. I found that when I forced myself to shoot when I was feeling inspired, the photographs reflected that. I can be patient.

AW: What's your relationship with your tripod?

JM: I have only begun to experiment with my tripod. We're planning to move in a few months to a wonderful place in the woods, and I have a lot of ideas that I'm really excited about trying once we get there. One shot in particular that I've tried in the past but I think might be doable with a tripod in my new location is to try to capture the magic and beauty of fireflies on a summer night. I've had no luck shooting them in the past, but I have a new idea.

AW: I love your idea about photographing lightning bugs. Now that I live in Utah, I don't see them anymore, and I miss them very much. I really look forward to seeing what you come up with! Are there any other areas of your life from which you derive your inspiration to get behind the camera?

JM: I have certainly loved Utah each time I've been through. On our first trip, we went from Canyonlands to Bryce Canyon down through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. I was shocked by the scenery. I don't know that most of the country is aware of just how amazing southern Utah really is.

As for inspiration, I am constantly inspired by other artists. I am a fan of art, and creating art is simply part of that. At least so far, none of my images move me as much as those I see from other artists, and I don't know if that will ever change. It's cool to me that other people seem to enjoy my work in the same way that I appreciate the work of other artists.

Morning Glory Pool

AW: I understand what you mean about garnering more inspiration from others' works. Is it something about being able to see it from a greater distance than you are from your own work?

JM: I don't know exactly what it is. Greater distance is an interesting idea. I suppose I think of art as a means of seeing the world through another person's eyes (emotions, etc.), and since I always see the world through my eyes, there's only so much my photograph can do for me. When I see a remarkable piece created by someone else, it can provide me with a new way of seeing the world that I can take with me everywhere. That's what I find to be so inspiring and wonderful about art.

Kansas Wildflowers

AW: You have had tremendous success on Etsy. What advice would you give to a new photography shop owner here?

JM: My advice to any budding photographer is shoot, shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more. The best advice I've ever gotten about photography was a tip I got my my mom when I was a kid. We were looking at a roll of film I had shot, and there were two or three that I liked and the rest were junk. I was disheartened, but she told me it was wonderful. If you don't take chances and accept that a lot of the experiments won't work, you won't be able to find anything truly unique. There's a lot of truth to that, though I know there are plenty of fantastic photographers who take the time and effort only to press the shutter when they have their shot.

I attribute a good portion of my success on Etsy to good fortune. I had never sold a print before I dipped my toes in the water on Etsy, and I'm not convinced that I've done much business-wise to make my little shop successful. That said, I can share what I've done, for what it's worth.

I would encourage anyone looking to sell prints of their work to make full use of Flickr. My first few days on Flickr I added twenty or thirty of my all-time favorite photographs. I quickly learned that three of them were shots that resonated with people, and the others,while they got some appreciation, weren't on the same level.

As I make new images, I find I'm almost always surprised by which ones are popular. Sunset/Dandelion, the shot I use for my avatar, is far and away my best seller, and it's the one I thought would get very little attention. It was the second-favorite dandelion shot I posted that particular day. But it exploded with comments and favorites almost immediately, and I knew I had stumbled onto something that really spoke to people on some level.

Flickr popularity will not correlate perfectly with sales, as I have a few images that have many Flickr favorites but have not sold a single time, and I have a few images that sell repeatedly but get no love on Flickr. But it is super useful in helping me to know which images are compelling to others, and which are really only compelling to me (I love all of them).

All that said, relative to selling on Etsy, I have spent many hours on the forums, and I argue that it's time well spent, if and only if you enjoy it. People who don't enjoy posting simply shouldn't, but if you get hooked on it, it's a fun way to bring a bit of traffic to your shop.

Your avatar should be your most beautiful thumbnail. Every time you post in the forums, you get the opportunity to show off your best piece and invite others into your shop.

I recommend offering multiple sizes of your images, so someone can buy one even if they can't afford a large print at a given time, then they can buy one if they're looking to make an investment in a decorating project. Different customers have different budgets and different needs, so I try to accommodate that.

And the last thing is to offer outstanding customer service. I genuinely appreciate each and every order, and I try to treat it as if it were the only order I am ever going to get. I try to ship quickly, and my wonderful wife, Heather, does most of the work there, thank goodness. I try to be quick to respond to any question or concern at any point in the transaction process. It still amazes me -- every time -- that people want to have my work hanging in their space. I just love that.
AW: Jared, you have given such great advice and tips to all of Etsy's shopowners -- and not just the new ones. Thank you so much for your insights. How did you and Heather meet? Finding one's creative path is nearly impossible without the support of the people you love. It's so great that you two complement each other so well.

JM: Heather and I met in college -- she and I lived in the same dorm. I have nothing but wonderful things to say. She is constantly supportive and wonderful, and she's actually a great photographer herself. Thanks to her, we have thousands (yes, really) of top-notch family photographs. She's a plant person, so we always have green around the house,a nd we get fresh veggies in the summer. She always fixes my computer when it's broken, because she's much better with that sort of thing than I am. She's a phenomenal mother, and I'm lucky to be with her. And, bless her heart, she does almost all of the shipping for the Etsy shop, which is probably the main reason I still have an Etsy shop.

Thanks again, Jared. You have given some inspiration to us all. We wish you continued success in all that you do!

A world traveler and self-taught photographer, look for Ann wandering around city streets and tromping through woods and hiking trails with her camera. After owning an international transportation business for many years, Ann has found her creative spirit again through the lens. See more at Ann's shop and her website.


Celtic Cat Photos said...

What a wonderful way to start the day, with a great feature, and awesome captures.

C. Wade said...

Wonderful, informative feature!

m. campbell-zurek-Urban Junkies Photography said...

ann & jared, what a fantastic interview! jared you are such an inspiration for the photography world and the etsy world!
and all of those images are simply gorgeous!

Julie Magers Soulen said...

Great interview! I really enjoyed meeting Jared as I've admired his work for some time.

gigi said...

i love jared's work. great post.

Jared in Kansas said...

Thanks for the kind comments everyone, and thank you, Ann, for taking the time. :)

Pam said...

Wow what an awesome interview! Thanks Ann & Jared for sharing all this amazing talent & tips with us!


From My Eye said...

Fantastic interview and images!

jlz said...

love this feature- all the questions (well, some of the questions) I have recently been thinking were answered here.

Best wishes to all!!

Melissa said...

Great interview! I have been a fan of Jared's work for a while and I wondered what made him so successful. Thanks for the tips!

EAGCG said...

Great insight!

Amy said...

What a great feature just lovely.
I love how you said " I genuinely believe that a miserable person can manage to be miserable anywhere, and a happy person can manage to be happy anywhere."
With your talent and positive attitude and the support
of you sweet wife your destined for greatness. Jared your photography is just lovely.

Kitty Wilkin said...

What a great interview! Jared, thank you so much for all of the great advice. I have admired your shop and photography since I first got started on Etsy. You are an inspiration, and it's so wonderful that you were so generous with sharing your tips and hints! Thanks again, and I'm honored to be a fellow POE with you!