Charlottesville photographer Jack Looney can only be described as beloved. The brides and grooms he photographs love him; the community of wedding professionals love him; his fellow photographers look to him as a mentor, role model, and friend. Jack steps into leadership roles with an effortlessness reserved for only the most humble, talented, and kind creatives. Teamwork, collaboration, and showcasing the talents of others are what Jack does best– besides, of course, creating photographs.
What first sparked your passion for photography?
Jack: I spent my early childhood living on an island off the coast of Georgia (St. Simons Island) and in Savannah, and was inspired by the live oaks, Spanish moss and history, not to mention the marshes and all that live in and around them.
Photography didn’t strike me on a serious level until I worked for United Airlines filling in at airports such as Chicago O’Hare, Portland Maine, Charlottesville, Charleston, SC, Allentown, Shenandoah Valley, and others. There was lots of downtime between flights, and there were wonderful things to photograph (jets, helicopters, big sky views/storms/sunrise/sunsets on the ramps, ramp high jinks, propellers and chrome, etc.). I love ‘behind the scenes’ access and all that comes with it. I spent a small fortune on film processing in my airline years. I’m quite certain I spent more at Stubblefield’s Photo Lab in Charlottesville than I spent on my college degree. Frank Crocker was a friend and fellow United employee (with United in Charlottesville), and we’d have informal photo contests while at work. We also took photo trips (first class for free, as an employee) to photogenic places like Zion National Park, and others. I never thought of myself as a wedding photographer early on, but once I shot one (as a favor to a friend) I was hooked!
What is your strongest personality trait and how does it positively influence your work?
Jack: I’d like to think that I engage and get along with people, and as a photographer, that makes me enjoy what I do, because if you listen well, sincerely care and are willing to adapt, then clients appreciate those traits. That’s just my opinion. Plus I work a bazillion hours to stay on top of things.
Photography is profession in which very subjective results are created, so you (as a photographer) really should listen to a client’s vision and preferences, AND be willing to do things in addition to your expectations, wedding check-list and comfort level for that matter. Plus, I believe that enthusiasm for your profession is pretty valuable. I’m lucky to have a job that I absolutely love.
What is one of your favorite images and why?
Jack: No favorites. You know, all images (in terms of weddings) are important, even if in a checklist sort of way. That said, I always hope to find (among my images after a wedding) that candid moment in which I’m amazed as a viewer. That keeps me going, I think. Sort of like a fisherman always thinking with the next cast he’ll catch THAT fish. I think that’s a photojournalist’s motivation. That moment when having great equipment (and knowledge of that equipment), enthusiasm, assertiveness, positioning, knowledge of settings for that lighting situation, and just plain luck will create a timeless shot. I love weddings, the documenting, creating, and all of the posed and family shots. Every bit of it. But I’m always hoping for some unexpected amazing highlight shots. Absolutely. And it doesn’t happen as often as you’d think.
What is your favorite part of a wedding day?
Jack: It’s all fun with weddings. I guess the time I’m allowed to be alone with the couple is my favorite. That’s my best chance to get the shots the couple will really cherish.
What is your dream project to shoot?
Jack: Nothing comes to mind, but I get particularly excited by collaborative projects, whether music, music video, weddings, weddings as 2nd shooter, weddings for friends, documentary projects, insect and reptile projects, etc. Documentary projects for organizations such as The Nature Conservancy or Southern Environmental Law Center excite me. Going out on the road on occasion for musical artists does too. Meaningful pro-bono projects are aplenty here in our area, and I try to be available for as many of them as I can! I also really enjoy working with local musicians. I have to be careful about what it is I dream about, since I try not to travel much anymore, having young kids and all…
My perfect day is spent _____.
Jack: We’re in the process of booking a lakehouse for a week this summer, and I’m really excited about days on or around the dock fishing, swimming, canoeing and grilling with the kids and Ryan (my wife).
You’re such a leader and mentor in the Charlottesville photography scene– who are your mentors? Who and what do you look to for inspiration?
Jack: I don’t really have a traditional mentor, although I draw inspiration and advice from all sorts of folks around here, and my parents and in-laws are wonderful people and advisors. And my wife is someone I respect immensely and rely on a lot. I’m very fortunate.
Dan Addison, UVa’s photographer, was sort of a photo-mentor early on in the process. To this day, we bounce lots of ideas off one another. And Jim Hall and I share lots of ideas. He moved, unfortunately, to San Francisco long ago. But our careers are in parallel in many ways, and he’s a guy I really connect with. Oh, and my Dad’s a nature photographer, and has been really supportive over the years. And we’re able to share lots through photography, which is really nice. I admire so many people in and orbiting around the photography community here, and feel a tremendous amount of support within the community. It’s great considering my profession is sort of a solitary one, traditionally.
What’s next for you? What’s next for Jack Looney Photography?
Jack: I just love being a part of the scene here in Charlottesville. Every day brings a chance for a fun, new project, collaboration or event. And weddings every weekend!
Follow along with Jack on his blog, Twitter, and Facebook! All images by or courtesy of Jack Looney.