Just as we’ve found that there are many routes into a career in photography, and it’s not necessary to formally study photography; there are many people who do decide to take a photography degree, and there are many careers open to those who wish to make photography their career. Philadelphia based photographer Jared Gruenwald is one of those who chose to specialize in photography.
He told us how he landed some aspirational jobs shooting professional tennis, and what it’s like to be a working photographer in the fifth largest city in the US.
With the City of Brotherly Love as a beautiful, and vibrant backdrop, Jared finds the time to explore it and shoot some wonderful street photography too.
Jared has been a long term user of PortraitPro, and we love his work, so we were very happy that he agreed to tell us his story so far.
PortraitPro: Did you study photography at university?
Jared Gruenwald: I did. I have a degree in journalism with a specific concentration in photography for the mass media from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
PortraitPro: How did you get started in the world of editorial and documentary photography?
Jared Gruenwald: My high school had a wonderful photography department complete with an arsenal of Pentax K1000’s, an unlimited film and paper supply, and access to a darkroom whenever I had free time. This freedom allowed me to fully invest all my creative efforts into my photographic endeavors. I started shooting anyone and everyone as well as everything around me and began to develop a style that lent well to documentary work. I enrolled at Temple University with the initial intention of studying biology, zoology, or some other ology but realized pretty early on it wasn’t for me. This may have had something to do with discovering Temple’s darkroom and photojournalism major. Without a whole lot of hesitation I switched over and haven’t looked back.
Of course as I was completing my major degree requirements the newspaper world was disintegrating and everyone around me was telling me to bail, as I wouldn’t have a future in the industry. But as luck would have it I landed a full time staff position shooting for a paper in Philly a few months after graduating. That just goes to show, follow your heart, passions, dreams and goals and blow off those who try to squash all that.
PortraitPro: What is the most interesting thing you can tell us about your work?
Jared Gruenwald: No one else can do exactly what I do. Just as I can’t do exactly what anyone else does. That’s what I love and find most interesting about any creative field; Varied interpretations.
PortraitPro: What inspires you to do what you do?
Jared Gruenwald: Oh, the standard cliché that my surroundings inspire me. But that’s as honest an answer as I can give. I live in the same world as everyone else but I also live in my own little world and I feel my inspiration comes from the melding of the two and the photos I create represent that. I don’t really know what others see when they look upon the same scene as me just as they don’t know what I see. I want to show them what I see then we can discuss, compare and contrast. That conversation is what inspires me.
PortraitPro: You seem to have a variety of photography related jobs. Are these concurrent? Could you tell us about the demands of working for multiple outlets concurrently? Does it get hard to balance deadlines for a variety of employers?
Jared Gruenwald: I’ve never really been one to limit what I do creatively. I like to keep challenging myself. If I only shoot tennis I’ll be the best at shooting tennis but when it comes to portraiture or street work I may be inadequate. Obviously one could argue “well why not master one field instead of simply being competent in many?” Well I’ve met dozens of veteran photographers who did just that and after decades working in only one field often express regret.
It can be demanding working numerous concurrent jobs, but you simply keep to a schedule and mark everything down on a calendar and it all works out. It can be quite stressful though when you have a day that begins at 7 and ends at 7 and you have four or five different jobs within that span.
Working for a newspaper early on in my career really prepared me for this though as there would be days when I’d have 5 assignments and there was no excuse for missing any of them. I’m lucky enough to have a fairly flexible schedule so it’s not terribly difficult to make it all work. I also take on a variety of non-photo related jobs like teaching terrarium classes because sometimes it helps to take a step back and try something completely different.
PortraitPro: How did you get in to the pro tennis circuit?
Jared Gruenwald: I was living in Brooklyn at the time. It was late August 2009 and the city was sweltering. I was dead broke, couldn’t find much work as the recession was in full swing and as everyone knows you can’t throw a rock in any direction without hitting a pro photographer in NYC. The whole small fish BIG pond thing was a serious reality.
I was at the end of a long day scouring the Internet for jobs. Photo jobs, cleaning jobs, cooking jobs, any job… and I see an ad on craigslist asking for a photographer with sports experience that owns pro equipment and speaks French. Well I met two of the three requirements (which do you feel I fell short on?) and decided to respond. I wrote a pretty lengthy cover letter, included my resume and a link to my website.
Not too long after I received a phone call from a stranger inquiring about a craigslist ad I responded to. The voice on the other end asked me a variety of questions about my background shooting sports and after a while I interrupted and asked “Wait, is this a job to photograph the US Open?” (the tennis one not golf. I actually worked as a gopher for the Star Ledger [a New Jersey] newspaper, sports photo team during the Golf US Open a few years prior).
The voice on the other end confirmed my assumptions and after chatting a bit more I was hired. After our three weeks together shooting the 2009 US Open Tennis Tournament came to an end, the man who hired me nonchalantly asked: “So do you have a passport?” and thus I ended up as a mainstay on the pro tennis tour for the next three years. And what an amazing three years it was.