Create the right kind of energy: The vibe is everything, not just in the photo world but to every aspect of life. If your subject is feeling good about what you’re putting out there they will respond by trusting you, taking direction, and you’ll have a better chance of them wanting to work with you in the future.
As a part of my series about “5 Strategies To Take Stunning Photos” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Louvau.
Jim Louvau is an award-winning world renowned photographer and musician. He’s worked with legendary artists including Chester Bennington, Maynard James Keenan, Josh Homme, Corey Taylor, Jonathan Davis, and more.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Rock n’ roll was alive and well in my household from the time I was born and immediately became something that I connected with from an early age. My mother took me to see Cheap Trick at the Arizona State Fair right after I turned 4-years old, after that it was game over for anything outside of music. Then MTV came along and it became my babysitter and I would watch it for hours everyday and learn everything I could about these aliens on my television. As soon as I was a teenager and started going to shows I would often sit in lines for hours to be up front and I started noticing photographers showing up minutes before the band would take the stage. I thought to myself, so I’ve been standing here all day and this person gets to just stroll in right before the show starts and has the best seat in the house, a free ticket, and captures memories of my favorite bands? That sounded like a way better option than buying the same tour t-shirt that everyone else was going to buy on the way out of the show. The music and the bands weren’t just 4–5 guys onstage playing music to me, they were the fiber of my being, they were my teachers, they became part of my DNA. Becoming that person who strolled in, got the free ticket, and left with forever lasting memories was the only logical step for me, I just didn’t know how to get there. Luckily I was able to find my way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The stories are the best part of this whole photo gig and I’ve worked with some real characters over the years and when I look back at images I’ve created with these people the memories of what they were like, what I was working with, and how I got to the final images are always interesting. I have a knack for working with artists who aren’t always excited to have their photo taken or are sometimes viewed as “difficult.” People like Maynard James Keenan from Tool or Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age often fit that narrative but I had great experiences working with both of them and I am good at dishing out the banter as well as receiving it and that goes a long way with artists of their caliber. Making your subject comfortable and setting the vibe is everything in the photography world, they can sniff out what you’re putting out there in a hurry.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There are no mistakes, just lessons.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My passion for music goes beyond the camera, I’ve been playing music since I graduated high school. My understanding of how artists work and how they operate comes from years of doing it myself. I capture artists the way I like to be captured when I’m on the other side of the lens. I’ve also played shows with different acts, gotten off stage and right into the photo pit to shoot their performance. I haven’t heard many stories of other photographers who live in both worlds.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
For the most part if you really dig doing this sort of thing then you likely won’t burn out. The challenge for me at times is getting out of my comfort zone and trying new approaches, techniques, and experimenting to keep things exciting. Working with the same people multiple times can also become redundant if you don’t find new ways to bring something different to the table each time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I first started working professionally I primarily shot concerts and once I was pretty comfortable with the live stuff I really wanted to venture over to shooting portraits of musicians. In 2000 my band at the time opened for Linkin Park right before their debut record came out and I met Chester Bennington that night and he really liked our show. We ran into each other a bunch of times that year and we eventually became good friends. He was the first musician that I ever took portraits of and when people saw that I had worked with him many more doors opened for me. I worked with him several times over the years on and off stage in the various bands he was in as well as charity events. He was instrumental in helping me get to where I wanted to go and now that he’s gone he continues to open new doors for me. I wouldn’t be the photographer I am today if it wasn’t for his willingness to work with me.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I just wrapped up my first music video for ex-Dillinger Escape Plan singer Greg Puciato for the track “Do You Need Me to Remind You?” from his upcoming solo debut. I directed/edited the video alongside Tony Aguilera and Greg. We had a really short window of time to shoot the video and complete the edit before it premiered a couple weeks ago through Revolver Magazine. My current band There is No Us played with Dillinger Escape Plan when they made their final stop in Phoenix a few years ago, that was one of those days I played and shot the same show. Meeting people you jive with along the way can take you to some interesting places and that’s always exciting.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
After Chester passed away I started going through hard drives with the idea of putting together a photo exhibition of a bunch of the stuff that we did together over the years as a way to say thank you and to also raise money for 320 Changes Direction a mental health awareness charity co-founded by his wife. It was a tall task but it was my way of honoring his memory and giving friends and fans something special. The exhibit debuted in Los Angeles on his birthday in 2019 and sold-out two nights. I also brought the exhibit to Phoenix in June and it also sold-out and between both cities I was able to raise over 5,000 dollars for the charity. After the covid-19 pandemic is over I am open to the idea of bringing the exhibit to other places around the world.
Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please an example for each.
- Do your homework: When I photographed KISS for the first time I went online and watched clips of the songs I’d be shooting and I noticed there was a moment in the song that Paul Stanley did a massive jump in the air. When that time came I was prepared and I captured a definitive moment in time that 5–6 other photographers missed that were standing right next to me.
- Direct your subject: People generally love when you tell them what to do, after all they can’t see what they look like and if you’ve gained their trust it will show in the images.
- Find great subjects: A great model never takes a bad photo. Pop/rock artist Poppy is an example of someone who is a natural in front of the camera. Great photos almost take themselves.
- Just keep shooting: Some of the best frames are the ones you take in between poses when your subject is relaxed and not trying too hard.
- Create the right kind of energy: The vibe is everything, not just in the photo world but to every aspect of life. If your subject is feeling good about what you’re putting out there they will respond by trusting you, taking direction, and you’ll have a better chance of them wanting to work with you in the future.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Making art/music programs more accessible to people of all ages is a movement I can get behind.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!