-Dear Friends, Followers, and Peers:
-Dear Friends, Followers, and Peers:
January 29, 2020
Meet Jorge Parra
Today we’d like to introduce you to Jorge Parra.
Jorge, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Hello and thanks for the opportunity to tell my story! I have been a Commercial, Fashion and Fine Art Photographer for most of my adult life. I started shooting editorials and covering fashion shows while in college for small magazines and that eventually led to commercial projects. In time, I became one of the top Advertising Photographers in Venezuela and hard work and good luck made me enjoy a very successful life.
In 2003 we went through a massive, general strike that lasted almost four months and after the terrible economic impact it had on all Venezuelans, I decided it was time to move on and find a new life in the US. After trying unsuccessfully, to thrive in a country in chaos, I relocated to Miami. Fl in 2005. We never had any idea about emigrating to other places. It just never crossed our minds! We just had a great life there and I was one of those who had the opportunity to enjoy it to the maximum, all while it lasted…
Now I am a US citizen based in Miami, FL, living with my family, working in what I love the most, my visual work, which you may be able to enjoy in the links listed below.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think it is a smooth road to any immigrant in general, no matter how well prepared they think they are for the changes and challenges ahead! Living a new country, a new society, new culture, new rules, new social and business skills are required and also, you need to find the way to “blend in” and eventually get a sense of belonging to at least some group within the new society and community where you are living. On many occasions, that aspect is the hardest one to resolve.
When I look back, I can tell that it was a huge challenge to re-start my business from zero. In brief, I had to reinvent myself, build an entirely new portfolio, something that takes time, and then work on developing a new set of clients in a market that did not know about me at all. The visual works from Venezuela were seen as proof that I have done top quality work before, but people want to see work done here. So the first steps were much slower than I had expected. What helped me back then really well was my personal work, as I was able to start exhibiting my images very soon and having my name mentioned in the media and in the art scene, running both group and solo shows during Art Basel Miami. That is why I keep telling every commercial photographer to never ever stop shooting personal projects! They can save or re-launch your career!
I feel I was lucky with the unintended consequences some of the strategies that I set up before moving to the USA that helped me a lot. For example, while I was still in Venezuela, I joined the Photographer’s trade organizations here in the USA, and back then I joined as an International Member. That allowed me to establish contact with many professionals in Miami, New York, San Francisco, etc, many years before thinking about moving here. Later on, when I relocated to Miami, I was upgraded into a regular US member and met many local Miami shooters in person. Those guys were VERY helpful when I finally arrived, giving me a good amount of support, and I found myself surrounded by good vibes and assistance in many aspects of both the personal and professional challenges I had to deal with.
I am humbly and deeply thankful for those fellows who gave me such a good, helping hand back then. They have now become my good friends, and our relationship goes far beyond the profession we share. They really helped me get that essential sense of belonging I mentioned earlier.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
I have been working as a freelance photographer, and here in the USA I quickly understood the benefits of setting up a business structure in order to work with other businesses, so my company Jorge Parra Photography was created as soon as I started operations.
This structure allows me to offer many services to go along with the photography and/or video projects that I am hired for. Most of these are Production Services that allow my clients to get rid of the headache that implies hiring multiple teams and have everything working well. That is now my company’s responsibility and thanks to that, I coordinate all the services that might be required for a project or campaign, from talent casting, to location scouting and permits, catering, video services, etc, etc. The list could be annoyingly long (see it on my website) but the idea is to offer the capability to build Production and Creative Teams as small or large as necessary, depending on each specific project.
As a photographer, I have been most of my life a people photographer. I have been shooting Portraits, Beauty, Fashion and Fine Art Nudes since my early days, and that has, of course, expanded to lifestyle and corporate, and the large majority of my clients are in the Luxury, Travel/Leisure Markets. I also shoot editorial work for selected magazines and one of the most challenging situations I have experienced here in Miami happened when some Creative Directors engaged me into shooting Architecture and Interior Design Photography, and thanks to those challenges, I now have an extensive portfolio in those fields, which of course, bounces back as a cool added value for my Luxury and Travel/Leisure clients.
My ability to handle people with the experience accumulated over time is by far, one of my main assets, especially when I have to deal with difficult personalities, celebrities, sports divas, TV and/or Movie Stars, etc, all the more so, since I manage to make people look FANTASTIC in my images! Many praise my lighting for this, I feel it is all a mix of talent, lighting, and communication with my subjects! Working in Advertising also requires a special level of patience, understanding and a high level of effective communication, to make things work seamlessly.
I am also committed to giving back to the community that is giving me so much, so I dedicate my talent and resources to help Non-profit Organizations dealing with critical subjects. I have worked for years with foster agencies, doing portraits for kids waiting for their adoption, I have done campaigns for the University of Miami’s Organ Donor Program, images for the Breast Cancer Association, Fighting HIV, Photographing kids in terminal stages of cancer (this has been the hardest), and I keep pushing any social agenda where my work may contribute, no matter the size of the impact. Every two cents will always help!! I also give back to the community through education, and I run workshops for Advanced Photography and Lighting, for individuals, (mentoring), basic training for groups and corporations, plus in-depth training in college-level institutions like the Miami Ad School and the Miami Institute of Photography. I strongly believe in the words of the Dalai Lama when he said: “Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality”. You may find more information about education and mentorship on my website.
I have been Board member Vice-President and eventually, President of the local South Florida Chapter of ASMP, one of the main photographer's trade organizations for over 8 years. I am currently an active member of the Miami Creative Mornings, an amazing group putting together the most interesting local creative people in Miami.
Also, in a few days, I am to be appointed as a member of the Advisory Board of Education of the PPA, the Professional Photographers of America, by far, the largest photographers organization in the USA, to further expand the outreach of our educational resources and professional knowledge on behalf of other photographers.
As an artist, my work has been showcased in different galleries in Miami and collected by serious art lovers and collectors. For several consecutive years, I have run at least one exhibition per year, some years doing 2-3 shows, and I keep working on my personal photo projects as a way to explore new creative venues and keep pushing myself outside my comfort zones. My personal/creative work is taking me to new business ventures, one of which is meant to appear in the market this very year.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
In the very end, the bottom line, I feel the human touch is the most relevant element in almost every exchange between humans. I feel there is not one single quality that may lead anyone to success, it is always a mix of qualities that range from the human touch to the technical know-how to the ability to communicate effectively, but eventually, the human touch, combined with discipline and perseverance, all personality traits, may become the decisive key!
Usually, when a client or potential client contacts you, they are assuming the obvious: that you are qualified for the project at hand, but, just like you, there may be 10 -20 photographers who -technically speaking- qualify for the job just the same, so I think they are also looking for other, subjective values that you can provide to the mix, from the creative side of things to the overall understanding and “chemistry” between client and photographer. It’s a human thing!
There is an old saying that claims that you only do business with the people you like, therefore, it follows that there are more subjective elements involved in those decisions than just what is tangible. Again, the human touch is king. That is why staying true to yourself is essential!
Email: [email protected]
This is the reproduction of an interview to Photographer and Creative Director Jorge Parra in Voyage Miami Magazine. An invitation-only publication, always looking for inspiring stories. Enjoy!!
Every neighborhood in South Florida has its own vibe, style, culture and history, but what consistently amazes us is not what differentiates the various neighborhoods but rather what they all have in common. From South Beach to Boca (and everywhere in between) we’ve been blown away by how many creative and talented people call South Florida home. Check out some of the inspiring stories we’ve discovered throughout Miami and the surrounding areas. Today we’d like to introduce you to Jorge Parra. -Thanks for sharing your story with us Jorge.
So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
"Starting up was truly disruptive, which I enjoyed at every moment! I started learning on my own the basics of black and white photography, and my training became an obsession and a way of living. I think that when you have a drive as intense as I had, life itself brings the opportunities, and then after years of living a quiet life as a Chemist ( 2 university degrees in the field), and after a few editorial publications in local fashion magazines in Venezuela (my country of origin), I got a call from a big local fashion firm, and got into my first commercial shooting. I received as payment the equivalent of 8 months of my salary as a Chemist, and I said to myself : “I have at least 8 months to land my next gig”, and with that in mind, I instantly quit my job as chemist, and never again looked back.
The disruptive change in lifestyle made me pay a toll, and a few years later I divorced my first wife, not to mention all the disappointing comments from my family, since I was abandoning the quiet and comfortable life of being an employee, with regular salary, health care and all corporate benefits, and chose to become a pariah, a freelancer who never knows when is the next gig coming.
Luckily, the same drive who created the disruption kept pushing me in the right direction, and soon enough I was getting hired by other companies, especially in the swimwear and lingerie fields, and those shootings eventually led me into Advertising Photography, and I ended shooting for the largest agencies like Grey, Ogilvy, McCann-Erickson, etc, and most well-known consumer brands in the industry.
Fast forward, in 2005 I decided to emigrate to the USA with my new family (my second wife was a model), leaving behind a torn-apart country and re-start from zero in the US. In 2006, I opened up my company, Jorge Parra Photography, the same name as my business in Venezuela, and from that point on, I have been re-building both my personal and professional lives on the States.
Has it been a smooth road? As mentioned before, the original disruption created personal chaos, while professionally I was thrilled at every second of my new life! Some things are lost along the way, and you have to decide if the losses are worth the change. I tried to keep things together, but eventually, I had to follow my passion. I was starting to getting paid to do what I LOVE to do the most, so I knew I could not go against myself.
Professionally, everyone is meant to find obstacles and deal with struggles, sometimes they seem nonsense, but just the same, you have to learn to choose your battles and deal with them with your best spirit. In general, I think that the main struggle in this type of career is against yourself and your inner fears. As I said, being a freelancer is a lifestyle, and not knowing when is your next check coming, especially at the start, can almost defeat your spirit, put to question your main purposes and goals, or at least you tend to think so. Only by persevering and KNOWING that your drive and passion will move you ahead, is how you eventually succeed. Not everyone is built and ready to become a freelancer though. I feel this is the first step each aspiring shooter has to deal with, and making the right decision should be matter-of-fact if you are truly passionate about what you are doing. The first challenge to bypass is not the market or the business, it is yourself!
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Jorge Parra Photography story. Tell us more about the business.
The work in Editorial Photography is a fine start for most every shooter, and it gives you a fine taste of how to develop creative approaches to specific themes or subjects, but as I see it, getting involved in Advertising is a growing process where you get more involved with every aspect of the visual challenge. Sometimes the corporate and brand restrictions imposed by either the Agency or the Client or both, tend to discourage many shooters, who are expecting a free-range like in editorial, but that in itself is another great challenge. So, I started by shooting fashion runways for magazines, (I still shoot runways every once in a while, as It brings back the thrills of my first assignments!), which led me to fashion editorial projects, then I started shooting commercially for local fashion brands, and my handling of people got the attention of advertising agencies. I was basically tagged as a People Photographer, and that made me shoot from kids to celebrities to sports, corporate, etc, and as times went by, some Creative Directors started calling me to shoot projects outside my comfort zone, which led me to keep learning and improving my skills, to cope with the situations imposed by each briefing. This “expansion” led me to shoot interesting projects as varied and different as Architectural Photography, Food Photography and Product shots. All this time, I kept working on my personal work, based on the female nude, and to date, I have a large record of gallery exhibitions in that field. This evolution/expansion brought the inclusion of Production Services for my own projects.
My company can provide (of course, by hiring third parties) just about everything required to fulfill a shooting, no matter how big or small, and that has helped me coordinate properly with the teams that I build for each project. For clients, this is a useful resource, and added value, as most aspects of any project, are centralized and client/agency, does not have to talk to several third parties or hire a producer to do what my company does. At this point, I am focused on both Editorial and Advertising Photography and I am orienting my efforts towards the Luxury Market. This means that, in addition to my shooting Fashion and Portraits, I also shoot for Spas, Hotels, Restaurants, Basically the Luxury Travel and Leisure, which makes me travel a lot, and I LOVE to travel! Of course, I keep shooting my personal projects as an ongoing, never-ending process. I feel that my handling of people, my abilities to directing them properly are something that is part of my own nature, so that cannot be acquired or taught. Either you have those abilities or not.
Even though I have photographed hundreds of relevant men in so many fields, from corporate to sports to celebrities, I love to work with women. I have enjoyed the challenges I have received from creative directors, since those challenges have expanded and enhanced my work in different fields that I may have not developed otherwise. The success of the projects shows that it all worked out fine for everyone!
- How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Technology is affecting every aspect of the business, and photography is being affected massively. I usually tell my students in Photography Workshops that they must adapt to the changes more rapidly that any previous generation, and that applies too to currently successful shooters, as some areas of photography tend to survive while others tend to go away. We must be alert and in “learning mode” to be able to cope with the changes. The disruption created by Digital Photography was in itself huge, but more disruptions created by tools like CGI, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Lytro cameras, and more emerging technologies, will reshape the market and the business. Those who choose to stay with just a camera in their hands may become irrelevant, all the more so when smartphones are turning just everyone into a photographer, or so they think!! In the end, quality and professionalism will prevail, but the process is slow and troubling! Only those persevering with passion, discipline and commitment will build a career for themselves. —————————————————
Link to original publication http://voyagemia.com/interview/meet-jorge-parra-jorge-parra-photography-miami/
Email: [email protected]