We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonathan Harper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonathan, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I had been working a series of full-time jobs after I finished college. Photography was still just a hobby but I was completely hooked. My job had a really long commute and I never had any free time outside of work, so I left my job and started trying to make money shooting photos. I already had some connections in the automotive world from my past jobs so I started reaching out to people and letting them know I was available. Someone from a well known auction house saw my photos on Instagram and sent me a DM asking if I was available, and from there I spent most of summer 2016 shooting high end automotive auction lots.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Even before I was ever hired for a photoshoot, I was looking for ways to set myself apart. I fixated on taking photos of cars at night. Using a technique called light-painting I set out teaching myself how to light a car and make it look somewhat realistic in its environment. I have no formal photography training and I can be quite stubborn so it took a lot of youtube video watching, and a lot of trial and error before I had anything even close to a good result. Different designs react to light in different ways, some cars are easier to light than others. Each shoot is a new challenge, but that’s what makes it interesting. Looking back, I wish I had just taken an actual photography class as opposed to piecing it together myself over a much longer period of time. I’m still a student, I still have so much to learn, but I relish each new experience.
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?
Good photo locations are like gold, or maybe even diamonds, to an automotive photographer. Without giving too much away, there’s a few key locations we would have to hit. In our city where traffic chokes the streets all week long, early on a Saturday or Sunday morning is a car enthusiast’s time to shine. Set your alarm early because a socal sunrise is just as good, if not better than a socal sunset, and it’s all about the light when you’re shooting cars. Depending whether you’re feeling mountains or coast, you can decide whether to head for the hills of Angeles Crest Highway or over to the beachside Pacific Coast Highway. A breakfast burrito in either location while you watch the parade of sports cars and motorcycles stream through on a weekend morning guarantees you some truly world class car spotting. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Since I moved to Los Angeles four years ago I’ve met so many inspiring people many of those have become good friends. I spend a lot of time with journalists who are reviewing cars so it’s nice to be able to have fun while you work. One person stands out, who has pushed me creatively and in terms of my career, is fellow photographer Stan Evans. With his vast knowledge of portraiture and lighting as well as understanding the business side of photography, Stan has been a huge influence and help on my career.
Portrait by Tuukka Koski