We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeffrey Ball and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeffrey, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I learned pretty early on that, for me, risk is an inherent part of getting to where I want to go in life and my career. I grew up in a very conventional household, one that provided me with the privilege to take risks, for which I will be forever grateful, but also one that pushed me toward the “safer” more “secure” decision. I have given up so many opportunities that would have provided me with more stability, allowed me the freedom to relax but that I always knew I would be unhappy with in the long run.
Taking those risks has been the only way I have gotten to where I am. Wether it was getting on that plane to Yemen, turning down work as an assistant to pursue operating, or pushing past a bad cam placement onto a clean face of rock. Risk has also kicked me in the teeth several times, I invested about $50k in equipment in the hopes of pushing my career as an operator forward and had it all stolen from me. (Should have been more on top of my insurance) I’ve lost partners, missed time with friends and family, all for the sake of pushing myself forward.
Risk is something that we encounter on a daily bases and are all incorporating into the decisions we make. For me the greatest risk would be letting my dreams fade away.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
At a baseline my art is storytelling. I’ve refined the craft through which I make art to now be focusing on camera operating and cinematography. Telling stories through the medium of film.
In ways it’s come very naturally to me, the moments that stick out in my memory or my imagination directly dictate the style of the images that I capture with a camera. It’s the ability to see pictures in my mind as clearly as standing in front of a large print at a gallery show. For me that’s the easy part.
The hard part has been making that into a career that I feel happy about.
I started out as a teenager shooting skateboarding on Ilford HP5. I took that skillset to Brooks Institute of Photography where I paid a fortune to get a degree in photojournalism. I was one of the only people in my class to ever work in the journalism industry. I worked at a few newspapers and pulled down assignments as. a “stringer” for some bigger publications. I spent some time overseas in the Peace Corps after college and it was upon my return that I really started the push towards work in film. I stepped in as a 1st AC pretty naturally through my knowledge of cameras / lenses and experience pulling focusing. And have progressed through some beautiful and also very difficult experiences to now be working primarily as a steadicam and camera operator with some work as a DP in the documentary world.
Each transition has meant starting back at 1, or close to it, and that has been the difficult part. Overall however I wouldn’t change a thing. I have loved all the experiences that I have had all over the world and all of the people that I have met along the way.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The museum cruise in LA can be so fun and feel like such a micro vacation. Would definitely recommend that. I love having a little wine and snacks on the lawn at The Getty.
Griffith Park and the observatory are an obvious stop.
In all honesty I’m not much of a city person and part of what I like about LA is the proximity to so many beautiful places throughout California and the southwest.
I’ll let you find those for yourself though 🙂
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The pandemic has been a blow to everyone. So many of my friends and colleagues have struggled, each in there own way, over what is quickly approaching two years.
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my partner Kali Basman (@Kali_Durga), the only member of my quaranteam. It’s been together that we’ve surmounted countless hurtles and found creative ways to keep our passions progressing. Thank you for your support!
All Images © Jeffrey Thomas Ball