April 23, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Jerry Habraken

We live in a time where everyone wants to be a photographer, myself included. Photographers are like the new rockstars in our digital, visual culture. Well, today we want to introduce you to a real photographer rockstar. Meet, Jerry Habraken.

When we decided to do an artist spotlight for the blog, Jerry was one of the first people who came to mind. I have always been in awe of his photos and how they evoke all sorts of raw emotions. You’ll feel struggle, hope, beauty and everything in between. He is a true artist capturing glimpses of history. The way he tells stories from behind the lens continues to stir my soul. I’m so happy he agreed to answer some questions about his work and personal life!

Opal+Wonder: Give us the backstory- how did you discover your calling as a photojournalist? There are so many avenues you can take with photography.
Jerry Habraken: My father is a photojournalist so I started shooting when I was fairly young. I stopped shooting entirely in high school and my first few years of college while I studied music production. After I didn’t feel that was the right path for me I still wanted to do something creative so I gravitated back towards photography.

OW: Do you feel like you have found your photographic niche?
JH: I fell in love with the ability to go places I shouldn’t naturally be in photojournalism gave me. The ability to people watch for a living isn’t a bad gig. Currently as a staff photojournalist at a newspaper I’m not sure if I’ve found my niche. I don’t exactly know where I should be.

Fire, 2014

O+W: How would you describe your photography style?
JH: I don’t have a style. I wish I did, but I’m not at that point yet. I’m trying to work towards that, but I’m sorta just floating at the moment. I generally feel like I’m far from it.

O+W: The creative world can be hard to break into. Do you believe in fallback plans? Did you ever have a plan B? 
JH: I never really had a plan B. I’ll just figure out how to keep making photography work for me.


O+W: As a creative, you are constantly thinking outside the box and trying new ideas. Do you ever hit a wall?What happens when you are in a creative drought?How do you keep yourself inspired?
JH: I’m constantly hitting walls. When I’m in a drought I tend to stop trying so hard. I try to disappear for a while and just live my life. When I’m running around with a camera telling myself to do something weird and unique, it never works. If I stop thinking about it so much and just let it come organically I tend to feel I’m more successful.

O+W: I know you like to spend time with people and swap stories before you photograph them. Any good behind-the-scenes stories you can share with us?
JH: I was driving around town recently and I saw a woman in colorful clothing working outside her house so I pulled my jeep up in front of her house and got out to visit with her. She ended up being super sweet and she talked my ear off. I found out she doesn’t have a phone, doesn’t get the newspaper, no TV, really no outside entertainment other than this giant copy of The Bible in her living room which she reads everyday. She had been widowed for a few years now and she said that since her husband had passed away that the only thing she wanted to do is stay close to the Lord until she can be with him again. She also told me about the time Jesus took her by the hand and gave her a tour of hell. That was a pretty cool story. There’s more on her on my instagram. ​​​

O+W: I can see the wheels turning in your head when I watch you work. What goes through your mind when you're with someone and photographing them?
JH: My main goal is took make people around me feel relaxed and comfortable. I just tend to observe their body language and mannerisms to get a feel of how naturally they are acting around me from the start. From there I like to get them involved in the creative process instead of treating them solely like my subject. I’m usually in a space shooting that their more familiar with than I am so they usually have some interesting insight.

Ace, 2013

O+W: Do you take your camera everywhere you go?
JH: No. I guess I have my phone with me if I want to make photos.

O+W: You take hundreds of photos with your iPhone. What are some of your favorite photography apps?
JH: As far as taking photos I just use the camera app that comes with the phone. If I need to tone anything I use an app called snapseed, and when playing around with double exposures, which I’ve done a lot lately I use an app called Blender. That’s really it.

O+W: What’s your best advice for young artists trying to make it in the creative world?
JH: Don’t try to love something you don’t naturally gravitate to. Figure out what really gets you thinking and enjoying work. Practice that craft, style, or method until you feel confident in it. Do what you have to do to pay the bills, but when you’re practicing on your own time have fun.

Hard to Find

OW: Let’s have some fun. Your going on an adventure for several days, what’s in your pack?
JH: Ummmmm, All the boy scout essentials because its been engrained in my mind since I was little. My hammock, a little journal so I can write, my phone for the camera, and almonds.

O+W: I’ve been on several of your micro adventures and had a blast! I’d love to hear about your latest one. Where did you go and what made you want to take one?
JH: I had driven around 2 hours to shoot soccer playoffs for the newspaper only for it to be canceled by a thunderstorm that rolled into town. I was driving back and tired from wasting my time driving when I saw a little farm road off the two-lane highway I was on.The sun was setting on it and all the reflections and colors from the storm were pretty so I decided to drive on it for a while. I saw some colorful landscape and crazy lighting in the distance and it made the trip worth it in the end.

O+W: You have the opportunity to photograph 2 subjects. Who or what would they be?
JH: One, this guy named ‘Red’ I met like a month ago. I shot one of his grandkids for the newspaper randomly a while ago, but every other week or so I stop by at his house to talk to him and try to convince him to let me photograph him. He has a really great face and I’m pretty determined for him to warm up to me enough to shoot him. Every time he says, “Next time you come by I’ll let you take my picture.” Two: It would be pretty cool to have a few minutes with Bruce Springsteen.

O+W: You have a no-obligation day. Walk us through what you would do?
JH: I would catch a soccer game, preferably Liverpool. Go to my favorite place in the entire world, the zoo. Find a forest to explore with my dog. End the day cooking dinner with a beautiful woman, that sounds pretty legit.

O+W: Who is your favorite person?
JH: My Father

O+W: Create us a mini playlist of what you are listening to now.
1. Hot Dreams by Timber Timbre
2. Love Letters by Metronomy
3. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
4. Coffee by Sylvan Esso
5. A mix of Bruce Springsteen

O+W: I love your creative heart and blessed to call you my friend. Thank you for taking time to share bits of your life. Any other random things you want to add?
JH: I don’t believe so. Thanks for the opportunity you can keep up with me on my instagram @jerryhabraken to see some projects and stories like the one below at www.jerryhabraken.com.

"I thought I would never smile again," said Rhonda Dolberry. A survivor of breast cancer for 6 years, Dolberry cherishes the subtle things in life now. "I get to pick up my grandchildren later today and that's maybe something I wouldn't have the opportunity to do," said Dolberry.

*All of the photos in this post are taken by Jerry.

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