Vibrant Table met Jonathan Marrs of Atelier Pictures a few years back through a venue that we both love: Bella Via in Sherwood. A recent Portland newcomer, Jonathan photographed the then-new venue and his images blew us away. Jonathan, a self-proclaimed nerd, has a Masters in Fine Arts and blazes his own path, comfortably straddling the chasm between the artistic world of photo-journalism and event and wedding photography.
Atelier Pictures uses images and video to tell a story. Since our first meeting, Vibrant Table and Atelier Pictures have had several opportunities to work together and they continue to impress, with several of their shots easily making our upcoming capability brochure.
Interesting, funny, and self-effacing, we asked Jonathan a few questions about his journey to event and wedding photography, his inspirations, and what makes Atelier Pictures unique.
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VT: Jonathan, how long have you been practicing photography?
My interest in photography took shape over a long period of time. My primary focus during college was painting, so it wasn’t until after graduation that I really began to take photography seriously. Initially, taking a photograph simply preceded the attempt to paint a photorealistic version of the image. As I traveled the world with my camera from 2003 – 2005, I became satisfied with the photograph as my intended creation. I stopped feeling the need to prove something in terms of my ability to paint and it has now been about 9 years of intentionally using a camera as the outlet of my creative endeavors.
VT: You have a background in fine art, correct? Tell us a little bit about what you studied, where, and how it influences your work?
I studied art at Azusa Pacific University for my B.A. and then Vermont College of Fine Arts for my M.F.A. By the time I finished grad school my primary focus was filmmaking and documentary practices. The intensity of these programs really pushed me to excel in both craftsmanship and intellectual rigor. Through these experiences I became confident in my role as an artist and comfortable with my creative process.
VT: Why event and wedding photography? What was your first taste like?
My first taste was enough to scare me away… for a short time at least. You have to remember that during my college years I spent a lot of time creating artwork essentially for myself. The pressure of having to make great photographs for demanding clients was nerve wracking at first. I think the biggest change came when I was able to see how my creative energy could empower ideas and portray the experiences of those around me.
One of the projects that will always be significant for me was a documentary I created for Peace Rehabilitation Center in Nepal. They are a small organization that helps girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking as well as educates communities in Nepal to help prevent future tragedies. It is impossible to be self-centered in the midst of the amazing people whose stories I was capturing.
Learning to position myself as a wholehearted observer has impacted how I photograph weddings, corporate events, and editorial shoots.
Yes, yes. I know that the photography and film industries love Apple products, but my work on a PC goes back to my childhood. It is a tool that I am really comfortable with, especially knowing how to build a computer that can maximize the programs I use. I’m not an Apple hater by any means, but I do get a good laugh from Apple fanatics! (Also, I think that the beautiful designs of Apple products have the potential to make me look slightly cooler than I am, which is an intimidating prospect for a nerd.)
VT: What is unique about your particular style? There are a lot of talented photographers; why do you stand out?
Agreed. I am always inspired (and often humbled) by the excellent work of the photographers around me. In the end, my work comes from a few core motivations: the desire to remember, the exploration of beauty, and the need to tell a story. I want to stand out by being myself and enjoying the ride!
VT: Atelier Pictures offers more than wedding photography. What other services do they offer?
I am only half of Atelier Pictures; the other half is my best friend, Josh Ferdaszewski. We began making movies together in high school, continued making art in college, and then each delved into photography. Our history together has positioned us to offer both photo and video services. As a team we have worked on weddings, events, commercial projects, and outdoor adventures. In some ways that sounds like a lot of variety, but I think the point is that we love to capture action in a way that effectively relates that experience to a viewer. We want to find a place where creativity, craftsmanship, and adventure collide. Ultimately, this process is significant to what our clients need.
(VT Comment: In testament to the adventurous spirit of the Atelier team, Josh Ferdaszewski hiked nearly the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail, starting in Campo, California. He totaled 2,350 miles until poor weather forced him to abandon the journey in Washington state. Ask him about the experience if you meet him!)
VT: What are the advantages to hiring a team that offers both videography and photography?
We have a consistent quality of craftsmanship and original perspectives. Josh and I rely heavily on each other to make our collaborations more powerful than we would be individually. On top of that, I think it is comforting to entrust your needs to a single company when you know they can deliver.
VT: What/who inspires you? Are there any individuals, ideas, or trends you find exciting right now?
One trend that we have had a lot of fun with is the creation of cinemagraphs, which are essentially new manifestations of the “Animated GIF.” Cinemagraphs hit the bullseye between the stillness of a photograph and the movement in a video. It was Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg who started the fire with their high-end fashion experiments, but it has carried over into a variety of styles. If you haven’t seen these yet, you should investigate at Cinemagraph.
VT: How has photography changed since you’ve been practicing? How have you changed with it?
I initially started photography with the traditional darkroom techniques, but quickly adopted the digital workflow. The tools themselves have been in constant flux, which is really exciting for someone like me who loves to experiment.
Some of the biggest changes on the horizon have to do with cameras that capture video footage in such high resolution that every single frame could be printed as a high quality photograph. Not only that, but the videos are in RAW format, so they maintain a ton of quality for tweaking in post-production. As a company that loves the relationship to the two mediums, these are signs of exciting times ahead! Check out the work over at Red Digital Cinema if you want to see more.
VT: Just for fun, any professional pet peeves?
Hmmmm… Well, Josh and I pretty much freak out anytime we see someone use the Papyrus font.
VT: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?
I’ve recently determined that the “Sports of My 30’s” are going to be skiing, rock climbing, and golf. These three activities have always been relegated to the “once every few years” experiences and I’m all geared up to stop looking like a newbie every time I try them!
Also, I love the comedian Mitch Hedberg because he says things like, “I’m sick of following my dreams. I’m just going to ask them where they’re going, and hook up with them later.”
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More Shots by Atelier Pictures
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