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Meet Jake Poehls of JPP Studios

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jake Poehls.

Jake, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Photography kinda fell on my lap. It came at a time when I wasn’t looking for it but had an instantaneous effect and within a period of months, immediately changed the course of my life.

I ended up enrolling in an art school in San Francisco which, in hindsight, was probably the biggest risk of my life (sometimes naivety is a good thing). Initially, my plan was to be a fine art/street photographer, but around the second year of the program, I started photographing weddings on the side. It should be noted that this was still a time when wedding photography as “art” was still in its infancy and hadn’t yet scratched the surface of its potential… so there wasn’t much enthusiasm, at first, to be totally honest.

However, as life would have it, I slowly began to experiment and over time, I began approaching wedding photography like I did with my candid, street photography work. My attitude began to shift and I started to get pictures that made me excited and realized that this path might have some long-term potential.

I continued like this for many years in San Francisco, working my way up as both an assistant and second shooter for other companies. In 2010, I made the decision to start my own business and move back to my hometown of Chicago. Another risky move, but totally worth it!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been able to able to run my business completely on my own terms, which has been the biggest gift. I’m an enormous advocate of DIY, so everything is done by me, in the exact way I want to do it. I think a lot of that success & confidence comes from looking outside the wedding industry for guidance (whether for creativity or business purposes). Every industry has it’s own “bubble” and the more you can get out of that, the better you can stay ahead of things.

The only obstacle, really, has been adjusting to the mindset that every year is a different year. It’s very easy to get complacent and when you’re in a rhythm, it’s hard to want to explore new territory. But, especially in this day and age, things move very fast and you have to be willing to let go of what’s comfortable.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about JPP Studios – what should we know?
JPP Studios is an independent, photography boutique specializing in creative, candid wedding and family photography. My goal is to capture what I see as ‘the human experience.’ Whether it’s an intimate moment, an expressive gesture – or even something funny – it all makes up our humanity and is what photography has the power to capture.

For me, it’s all about showing what it felt like to be there (wherever that may be). I think that approach alone is what sets me apart. Despite all of the technical skills I’ve built up over the years, the most important tools to a great picture are being in tune with your environment and listening to your gut. As Henri Cartier Bresson said, “To photograph it is to put on the same line of sight: the head, the eye and the heart.” In a nutshell, that’s essentially been my approach every time I’ve picked up a camera and what continues to keep me motivated.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
First and foremost, I have to thank my parents for supporting me and not calling me crazy when I said I wanted to drop everything and become a photographer.:-) It can’t be understated how powerful that kind of support is.

I’m hesitant to mention any specific clients or professionals I’ve worked with, because I know I’ll be leaving someone out. But they’ve all been important and supportive in their own way.

My biggest cheerleader and supporter, though, has undoubtedly been my wife, Bernadette. She’s had more effect on the success of my business and creativity than anyone else. No question about it.

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