We had the good fortune of connecting with Jodee Debes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jodee, how do you think about risk?
My favorite quote is “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to who’s courage.” – Anais Nin Meaning in order to live a large, fulfilling life, you must be brave. You must take risks. I’m constantly grateful for the feeling of nervousness because it signals to me that I must really want that outcome. And what a gift it is to recognize what it is that you want. Mainly so that you better understand the direction you’re striving towards and what risks are essential to getting there. I’m a big believer in failing forward. If you never hear “no” or “try again”, then you’re not reaching far enough. You’re too comfortable. Sometimes it’s nice to live in that space, but not for prolonged periods of time. I personally seek out more nos than yeses in my career because every once in awhile, you’ll get that yes that you didn’t expect that will propel you towards your goal.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I believe a fundamental part of being an artist is having a POV. Rather than mimicking or copying others, it’s important to find your own purpose for your art. I personally love telling stories of real couples and individuals. For me it’s more than setting up poses or adjusting camera settings, it’s allowing people to come alive in front of the camera and give them space to have real connection, emotion and moments. Being able to pause time with a click of my camera is powerful, so I work very hard to ensure that what I’m capturing is real and meaningful. I’m most proud of the feedback I’ve received from my couples. From one bride that told me at the end of her wedding, she’s never felt beautiful or worthy of being photographed until we worked together. From another bride that lost her father after her wedding and told me how thankful she is for the moments I captured of them because she didn’t realize it would be some of their last. From a couple that uses their wedding images to remind them of their joy on their wedding day as something to hold onto throughout their marriage. I got to where I am today by holding onto this POV. Staying true to myself and my goals. Saying yes to every opportunity when it aligned. Being lucky enough to call several artists mentors. And being kind. Always be kind. People notice. I wouldn’t say it was easy; but when you’re doing what you love, it’s not hard. It’s difficult to explain. I think one metaphor most might understand is that your career is kind of like a romantic relationship. It always takes work and effort and reflection to ensure you’re headed in the right direction. But it’s worth it, it’s enjoyable, and it’s easy to prioritize when it’s the right thing for you. I want people to know that my brand is less about me and more about you. I want to capture your moments, not project my moments onto your story. I don’t want you to get married for the photoshoot. I want to document your wedding day, not force my art onto your wedding.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh goodness, as a photographer based in San Francisco, this is incredibly difficult to answer. There are so many photogenic, inspiring, cultural and alluring places. It depends on the friend and the goal of the trip. Check out this blog post for a “choose your own adventure” list of recommendations: https://jodeedebes.com/2020/11/10/ultimate-guide-to-sf-things-to-do-where-to-stay-what-to-eat/
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m incredibly grateful for so many who have helped me achieve. The main contributors being my strong grandma and mom who always demonstrated to me what it means to be a powerful woman with a voice worth listening to. And of course my dad who played a large role in demonstrating how women deserve to be respected. The love and support from my entire family is my safety net and I’m so thankful for them. The next is my mentor and now friend, Brian Leahy, who fast tracked my business with his guidance and encouragement. My piece of advice for anyone in any industry is to find a mentor. Learning from others is essential in growing yourself and business at an exponential rate. I’m also so lucky to have best friends that are more like sisters achieving at high rates right alongside me. They never view my accomplishments as a threat or something to compete against. They’re my biggest cheerleaders and therapists, depending on what I need at the time. There are too many books and thought leaders to name but one in particular that stands out is Brene Brown. Her views on vulnerability paired with her storytelling capability are a huge inspiration to me.
Other: TikToK: www.tiktok.com/@jodeephoto Google: https://goo.gl/maps/YNU8SAjd9xek5DbD7
Image of me: Valorie Darling Photography All images of my work: Jodee Debes Photography