When you get comfortable, move.
First off, thanks to Scott and Brad for this opportunity to connect with such a broad and passionate audience. I’m Scott Rinckenberger, right hand man to Chase Jarvis, the fastest moving photographer I’ve ever seen.
We recently brought on a new intern at Chase Jarvis Inc. It’s a tough gig to get. For a while I couldn’t really put my finger on why he had made the cut, despite being the person in charge of the hiring. Sure, he was hard working with a great attitude, but that’s an absolute prerequisite among the talented field of applicants seeking work at our shop. I knew he was the right guy for the job, just couldn’t say exactly why. Then we were having chat on the way back from a location and he was explaining his life’s path. He said something that made me realize why he had been the one chosen. “I hate to be comfortable. When I get too comfortable I move.” And with this offhand comment I realized why he is so qualified. He had landed at the very core of what it means to work at Chase Jarvis Inc. An absolute dedication to kinesis. Some companies fear change. Ours is built on it.
Chase and I met while he was early in his career and specializing in outdoor sports photography. He was one of the outstanding ski photographers in the country at the time, and I was enjoying a position of some regard as an aspiring pro skier. Our paths crossed with increasing frequency as magazines and ski companies took notice of the skiing and photography we were working together to create. Soon we were traveling the globe to produce images for the best publications and companies in the sport. It was during this period that our relationship was cemented on a foundation of hard work, ambition, and an overarching positive outlook on life.
The professional respect that Chase and I fostered in our photographer-subject relationship soon transitioned into regular assisting gigs for summer clients during my off-season. This eventually lead to an internship, then part time employment, and finally six years ago into a full time gig as the “right hand man”. Chase has been in the professional photography game for around thirteen years. I’ve been there for ten of those. Watching, helping, and learning as Chase has grown a budding outdoor sports photography business into one of the most recognized brands in photography today.
Ten years ago you could have asked me if I could assist a single photographer for almost a decade. The answer would have been a resounding no! How could I possibly be expected to change rolls of film (yup, started with film), clean lenses, edit slides, and track an inventory of images for ten years? I mean, it only takes a year or two to master the whole gig, right?
Well, there were all those interesting changes. The advent of professional digital photography, the Photoshop era, the rise and fall of macrostock, changing copyright laws, online photo distribution, social media, nothing short of the largest shift in the photography industry since, well maybe ever. These changes could have kept me in the assisting role for even a couple more years to put new systems in place, learn some Photoshop skills, and then move on to shoot my own work. Interesting times, but not interesting enough to keep a fast moving guy like myself in the same gig for years.
Until you add the Chase Jarvis factor.
Chase Jarvis. The whirlwind of energy who has already in his thirties become something of a living legend has managed to keep me not only interested, but running at ABSOLUTELY FULL SPEED to keep up. Editorial and stock shooter, commercial photographer, Hasselblad Master, Nikon poster boy, award winner, blogger, social media wizard, fine art photographer, book creator, software developer, video director, mobile photography evangelist, all of these titles and more have been attached to Chase Jarvis in his relatively short career. There are few who doubt that Chase runs one of the most dynamic shops in the business.
With each of the arenas in which Chase has seen fit to expand his business, comes a new set of requisite skills, both the outward facing skills (i.e. Chase’s role) and the background skills (those of myself and the rest of our incredible crew). When Chase was specializing in editorial photography I focused on selecting, submitting, and tracking slides around the world. Stock was all about smart editing and attention to minute detail. When we moved on to exclusively commercial work, the volume decreased, but the travel skills, workflows, and post production had to be of the highest level. The Hasselblad and Nikon days called for a more experimental brand of photography with complex lighting and retouching projects (you can’t imagine how many hours I spent in Photoshop making this dirt explosion just right, it’s almost embarrassing.)
Once the blog, behind the scenes videos, and social media came into the picture there was an almost constant need for evolution. I’ve learned the ins and outs of shooting and editing video and behind the scenes stills, becoming comfortable on camera, blog writing, social marketing strategy, and working hard to find ways to inspire other artists in as many ways as can be imagined. Now books and iPhone apps are requiring long term planning and vision, and a lightning fast response time as the projects change and develop.
We have been fortunate enough to be able to expand our staff as the complexity of our projects has increased. The first to join in was Chase’s wife, Kate. She keeps the productions tight and the numbers in the black. Dartanyon came on board next. He combines an encyclopedic knowledge of photography with an innate ability to actually talk to computers (seriously, he can talk to computers and make them do what he wants). Mikal was the next to join the team. She brings production, PR, and marketing skills. And we are happy to welcome the aforementioned Norton, Brazilian intern extraordinaire. Most of what we do would not be possible without the support that comes with this fantastic crew.
Not one of us have an education in photography. We had college majors like English, French, Philosophy. You know, those subjects that inevitably prompt your parents to ask just exactly you plan to make a living with that degree. But what we lack in formal training is made up for in a blue collar work ethic, a disdain for convention, and a never ending search for new creative outlets.
So here I find myself ten years down the line with a passport that is almost completely full of travel visas, a server almost completely full of ridiculously complex Photoshop files, a computer bursting with applications that all strangely mean something to me, and a collection of memories that can hardly be accounted for.
As a team, we’ve hit ambitious revenue goals, won sought after awards, landed the big gigs, built a huge community of like minded creative people, all of the trappings of a successful photography business by any measure. But here comes the punch line. At our annual retreat, Chase wrapped up two days of meetings with this characteristic line that could only come from a mind as remarkable as his. “For the first time in my career, I really feel like things are starting to happen. Now we’ve got to really go for it.”
I don’t think anyone’s going to be getting comfortable any time soon.
Many thanks to Brad Moore and Scott Kelby for facilitating this venue for photographers and their crews to share their insights and rants about all things photography. To learn more about myself, Chase and the rest of the crew, visit chasejarvis.com, chasejarvis.com/blog, facebook.com/scottrinck, or facebook.com/chasejarvis.