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Interview by Photo District News

Photo District News interviewed me for a short piece about my photography and how I use my website. The article is sponsored by Photoshelter, the company that hosts my online portfolios, image archive, and client delivery galleries. Full interview below.

PDN interview with Jay Watson
Interview by Photo District News with Bay Area lifestyle photographer Jay Watson

intro: Jay Watson has been living and working in California’s Bay Area since the turn of the century; his work as a photographer is a love letter to his adopted state. He balances commercial clients in Silicon Valley with editorial magazine work, and shoots plenty of “car porn” for the likes of Porsche and Audi Sportscar Experience. We called him up to talk about his work, his website and “California culture.”

PDN: How’d you get your start in photography?

JW: I studied photography in college at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. It was a conceptual fine art program, but while there I started assisting other photographers to learn about commercial art. As I moved more in that direction, I slowly started getting clients. Then, I moved out to California in 1999.

PDN: You’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 17 years, and on your website, you say that much of your personal work is “inspired by California culture.” What exactly is California culture?

JW: To me, California culture can be any scene like lowriders, custom cars, or motorcycles – to surfing, BMX, and skateboarding. Some of these subcultures and sports were born here, so California is a creative birthplace whose culture affects the rest of the country, if not the world.

PDN: What California projects are you working on now?

JW: I’m slowly narrowing down selects for a portfolio from over 20,000 images of coverage from an on-going “gentleman’s” F3 race series. The client gave me incredible access to the tracks. It allowed me to capture some images that other motorsports photographers may not necessarily be able to get. One summer, I shot about ten days over five weekends at the same track. You have to push yourself in these situations: How am I going to make this work look different from each race so the coverage doesn’t become formulaic? It’s not a “California project,” but I’m trying to apply a similar approach by covering the culture of motorsports.

PDN: Do you remember the first website you used to host your work?

JW: My first two websites were that classic example, where I had a great friend create a good website for me. But I couldn’t change or switch any of the images on my own. So for years, my website sat stagnant. I initially switched to PhotoShelter for client delivery and to create custom proof galleries. Now I use it for everything. It’s awesome, with clean, intuitive navigation and the portfolio views on PhotoShelter look fantastic.

PDN: How else does your website figure into your business?

JW: Besides proofing and delivery, I have galleries on the back-end of my site for certain categories that I don’t necessarily market to. For instance, if someone calls to ask if I shoot products, I can share a gallery on the back-end of my website that’s just products. I get a couple of apparel jobs this way too. I want to have different examples of work ready, but I also don’t want to water down my site. If I showed automotive, editorial, lifestyle, apparel, sports, industrial, corporate, and products. It would be too much. So I have things I’m focused on, my specialties—the galleries that are always visible, and I have galleries of secondary work that are ready to share on the back-end. PhotoShelter is great for managing both. The secondary work is still searchable, but it’s not published on the main website.

PDN: What’s the most fun part of your job?

JW: Shooting at different locations. Days at race tracks are really fun. Shooting car-to-car from the back of a moving vehicle is exciting. Or getting to shoot surfers at Mavericks [California] is also great. Fun days are where I come back thinking, “wow, this is my job!” I’m pretty lucky. Starting out I never imagined working on some of these things.

Thanks for viewing. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about Photoshelter. If you would like an estimate for a photo shoot, please send an email here to ask for a photo shoot questionnaire. 🙏

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Jay Watson
San Francisco Bay Area based lifestyle and people photographer Jay Watson shoots editorial, apparel, automotive, corporate, and sports subjects for commercial clients. Published in over 70 magazines.

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