We had the good fortune of connecting with Jesse Sutton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jesse, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Since early on, I’ve always wanted to pursue something to do with Art. I struggled for a long time to figure out what that focus in art would be. I dabbled in many mediums within art, drawing, painting, even graffiti. I started to focus my attention on graphic design in High School. I would make my friend’s bands flyers and work on their websites. For a while, I thought graphic design was the direction I would pursue. It wasn’t until I got my first DSLR that my path would change. My good friend Gabriel Valentin (currently in the band Digital Lizards of Doom) asked me to shoot his band’s upcoming show. I think this was like 2006 or 2007. At that point, I was highly focused on photography. I went to college for photography at California State University of Sacramento to learn more. At this point, I still didn’t know that this would be my career. I just wanted to nerd out more with photography. I don’t think it became clear to me until my senior year when I took a class with my professor Nigel Poor (who is currently co-host of Ear Hustle), where she really questioned my own abilities and creativity. I pushed myself to create something substantial. From this, I created my series Color Flows. You can see these on my website. At the time, no one that I saw was creating work like this. My main focus was to have color itself become the subject. This idea can still be seen in my artistic work, where I do a lot of capturing of paint drips. After college, I bounced around from job to job. A typical out of college story, not knowing how to survive with the degree I just earned. But one day, I got a call from a friend of mine who asked if I wanted to take an internship in a product photography studio in San Fransico. I jumped right on it. They hired me on as an Assistant Photographer, where I got to work closely with some very talented people in the industry. I learned a lot about the photography studio, and I felt right at home. I left that job with the fire in my belly to build my own commercial photography studio. I moved back down to San Diego to follow this dream. That’s where we are today. There is still a lot of growth that can be had and a lot of direction to be made. But that’s part of the fun of it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I really have 3 sides to my photographic work. One side is my product photography work. This work is usually safe. My main focus is to help sell these products on different platforms. I work with the clients branding styles instead of sticking with my own style. I do throw in my own style as well when the client is open to new styles. The second side is my portrait work. I always love to have more dramatic portraits. Really this is where I focus a ton of time on lighting. I try to represent the personality of my subject with lighting and backgrounds. Usually, I can do this on the fly and while getting to know my subject on the first look of a portrait session. The third side is my personal artwork. I am obsessed with allowing color to be one of the subjects instead of having color be a detail of the subject. This all started with my Color Flows series where I dropped color ink into water. This has been done over and over again in the past few years but in 2010, no one had really photographed this type of work. My idea was to give motion to color. That idea is still engrained into my brain. Now I do a lot of paint drips. I love to have vibrant colors dripping over different shapes and objects.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Anytime anyone comes into town, we stop off at Big Front Door off of Park Blvd. The best Sandwiches in town. Sheep and Laura are the best people you will ever meet. They are a great representation of San Diego. Then Grab a drink either at Small Bar or Fall Brewery. Most likely I would take them to Morley Field for a round or two of Disc Golf.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Every single one of my clients deserves credit for my successes. They believed in my work enough to have me be their photographer. A big shout out for Grabriel Valentin from Digital Lizards of Doom. Without him, I wouldn’t be on this photographic path. Really we are both each other’s mentors. We both have different creative mediums, but we both encourage each other to do some amazing work. He has opened a lot of doors for me and presented me with some very unique challenges. I just did a lot of work for his first graphic novel for Digital Lizards of Doom. That already presented me with some great opportunities and experiences—an amazing guy and doing some amazing work. Peter Williams (who is now President of Atomic D) presented me with interning at Big Red Door Studios in San Fransico. He has really been my biggest mentor when it comes to the business side of things. Brian Kent from ABM Wedding Photography gave me my first internship while in college and allowed me to work closely with him and his crew. He gave me an understanding of how photography can be a business. Timothy Joseph and Dan Brozo for allowing me to come on board with the now-defunct radio show “The Local 949.” I was able to meet and photograph a lot of talented people. One major person who believed in my work early on was Conrad Patrick Alberto. He is the definition of an entrepreneur. He has started many different brands and brought me along the way. At one point, he believed in my work so much that we became business partners with another photography company we had for almost 2 years.
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