We had the good fortune of connecting with Johnny La Vallee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Johnny, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
It’s something that actually came very natural. I’ve always been interested in photography, images and capturing the human experiance. I started acting when I was 12 years old, I’m still an actor, but I fell deeply in love with photography about 6 years ago. My brother in law, Tim Davis, a well known photographer in New York came to LA for a sebatical and I started following him on his street Photography walks. He inspired me to buy my first camera. Photography is an expensive habit, cameras, lenses, lights etc. So it was all a bit daunting at first. Around the time that Tim was in town I booked a Jeep Commercial. It put enough money in my pocket to buy my first point and shoot Sony camera. I was immediately hooked, within 3 months I upgraded my camera 3 times, and stayed up until 4am every night studying You Tube Photography tutorials. I became obsessed with light and started shooting all of my actor friends for free. Slowly their friends started asking who shot their photos and I started charging a little bit of money for a shoot. And it just grew from there!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work is constantly growing. I have an obsessive passion for what I do. I find inspiration in other artists every day. I’m most interested in the truth of whatever or whoever I’m shooting at the moment. And that can be tricky, Annie Leibovitz says that it’s impossible to capture the full essence of a subject in a photograph. I agree and disagree. I feel like we, as Human beings, are a series of moments the lead us to where we are today. When I photograph someone I am most interested in where they are on their personal journey at that moment. I like to encourage them use whatever they have going on in their lives; not to be afraid of where they are, and certainly not push for something that isn’t happening. It’s that moment that I’m interested in, the brief instant that they sink into where they are, who they are. That is where the beauty is. I don’t always capture it, but I try to facilitate a space for such moments to happen. When they do, it’s really incredible. I feel like all my years acting has helped me understand the human experience, and work with people in a special way. I always try to listen and tune in to my clients.. It’s like a dance. I deeply enjoy it, and I can only hope it comes through in the work.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live on the east side in Los Feliz, I love it over here. In my neighborhood id recommend Little Doms, Yuca Taco Stand, Yen sushi, Weho Bistro!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I wanna give a shoutout out to my wife Stephanie Sanditz! We have been together for 11 years and married for one, what a first year of marriage, thanks covid. But seriously, she’s been such an inspiration for every move I’ve made. Steph is an amazing writer, and an even better human. She’s made her way in this industry as a woman and has risen to the top. Her work ethic is unprecedented. Watching her makes me go the extra mile, wake up an hour early, and get IT done even if I dont want to at the moment. She forced me to take a good look at myself and my actions, I’m forever grateful.
Paul Smith Photography