Today's Guest: James Harris of James Harris Photography in Flagstaff, Arizona
Today's Host: Damien Allen
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ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the VTalk Radio Photographer Spotlight with your host, Damien Allen.
DAMIEN: Good afternoon. Welcome to the VTalk Radio Photographer Spotlight, sponsored by morephotos.com. My name is Damien Allen. I'm in for John Bentley, who has the afternoon off, and today, joining us in the studios via telephone is Mr. James Harris of James Harris Photography and Frame-Up of Flagstaff, Arizona. Welcome to the program today, James. How are you doing?
JAMES: I'm doing great. How are you?
DAMIEN: Oh, very few complaints. It's nice weather here in Michigan today, and nice weather out there in Arizona most of all the time, isn't it?
JAMES: It's very beautiful today.
DAMIEN: Well, tell us about your photography business, James.
JAMES: Well, I'm a portrait and wedding photographer. I started in 1974 as an environmental photographer, and I wanted to do something different than putting people into a studio, so I came up with the idea of photographing them in their environment. So, I would take them out to the scenic areas of northern Arizona; Oak Creek Canyon, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon. There's countless locations here. And I would do their portraits in that type of a setting, and that's how I became known. And, I guess at that time, there was maybe a handful of people around the country that were doing similar things to this. So, that's how I got started. I introduced the environmental photography to high school seniors, and it was met with some resistance in 1975 because they still went to the studio and they still had the drape and the cap and gown picture taken. The first year, I did about seven seniors. The second year, I did about 70. And, by the third year, I was doing in the 100's. So, my style caught on.
DAMIEN: That was mostly generated by word of mouth and people seeing those proofs, I would imagine.
JAMES: Word of mouth, passing the photos around. I would let some of the seniors come in and do radio spots for me, where they would tout the benefits of my style of photography. And then after a few years of that, then I did open a studio for the diehards that insisted that I have one, and that studio has been in operation since about 1977 here in Flagstaff. And, we added picture framing to it in 1979, so we're really full service.
DAMIEN: Besides the picture framing and having the great outdoors of Arizona; and, being a former resident of Arizona, I can attest to the fact that you will be hard pressed to find more beautiful scenery anywhere in north America. Besides the outdoor photography and your studio, what other services do you offer to your clientele?
JAMES: We also offer photo restoration and copies. I've been doing that for quite a while. I used to do it with an airbrush. Now, of course, it's all done digital. And, weddings. I'm getting more into the commercial side of things. I'm doing some hotels and food preparation; that type of thing, which is a different niche for me.
DAMIEN: What made you want to go into photography in the first place? You said you started out in 1974. Was this something that was passed on through the family or did you just wake up one morning and go, you know, I think I want to take pictures for a living?
JAMES: I fell into this. I will readily admit that. I was in television and film production and I was working for a university, and a professor came in to me and told me that he had just received a quite large federal grant to produce some educational programs on the Navajo and the Hopi Indians, and that part of this program involved the information being disseminated to the tribes in the form of slideshows. They would have a taped commentary and a carousel of slides, and the slides would change to the beats; that sort of thing. And, of course, he knew that I could do still photography, so he asked me if I would be his photographer for this project. And I didn't have the heart to tell him that I really had never taken a still photo in my life other than family snapshot-type thing. So, of course, I jumped on that and this job went on for four years, and I taught myself. I taught myself how to do location work. He gave me a blank check. At the camera store, I could buy anything I wanted. And, at the end of the four years, the equipment was of no use to him, so he gave it to me. So, that's where I got my equipment to start that first studio.
DAMIEN: That's a bargain and a half right there. Now, you mentioned, starting way back when, you were using film and, of course, we just discussed that you're doing all digital now. When did you make the conversion fully over, and do you still have film equipment around for a client who may want actual film shot?
JAMES: I actually never shot 35mm. I started out with a . . . one of the first Pentax 6x7 medium format cameras that was imported into the United States. And I did all my work on medium format. I never actual shot 35 ever, and I made the transition five years ago, cold turkey, no segway. One day, I was shooting digital and I've really never looked back. Even though I have film equipment still here, I haven't shot a roll of film in five years.
DAMIEN: And it's amazing how quickly the technology has jumped over and it's just absolutely splendid images on your website, and speaking of your website, could I get you to give your website and contact information for our listeners, please?
JAMES: Yeah. It's www.jamesharrisphotos.com. And I'm, again, located in Flagstaff, Arizona. And my email address is email@example.com.
DAMIEN: We are in the studio today via telephone with Mr. James Harris of James Harris Photography in Flagstaff, Arizona. We're gonna take a short break for these important commercial announcements. We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This VTalk Radio Spotlight is sponsored by morephotos.com, the online photo sales solution for professional photographers worldwide.
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ANNOUNCER: Looking for a bridal show in your area? Visit www.weddingdetails.com for a list of upcoming bridal shows in your area. Visit www.weddingdetails.com tonight. We now return you to the VTalk Radio Photographer Spotlight, with your host, Damien Allen.
DAMIEN: Welcome back to the VTalk Radio Photographer Spotlight. I'm Damien Allen, in for the vacationing John Bentley. Today, via phone, we are in the studio with James Harris of James Harris Photography and Frame-Up of Flagstaff, Arizona. Welcome back, James.
JAMES: Thank you.
DAMIEN: Okay. Well, we've been discussing your website and the services that you offer to your clientele, and I've been looking at the website during the interview and before the interview, and there's just some absolutely gorgeous shots of a wedding down in a canyon. And, being in Flagstaff, it's not like you're right in the middle of the Grand Canyon or anything like that. Are you a destination wedding photographer? Is this a big part of your business? How far do you range when you're doing a wedding shoot or an event shoot?
JAMES: Well, about 10 years ago, maybe a little longer, people started calling me about whether I would travel to do their wedding or not, and I came up with the term “destination weddings,” which at the time no one quite knew what that meant. Now, I think most people do know what it means. And, I would go as far as they are willing to buy me a plane ticket to go to shoot their wedding. And since we have a university in Flagstaff, we have students from all over the world, and a lot of them I have taken pictures of over the years, so they felt comfortable with someone they trusted. And, I've gone to quite a few spots; California, Hawaii, east coast, Midwest, and people would . . . you know, with the internet know, it's so simple, I don't really have to be in the same community as they are any longer. They just go to my website and they see their images and they order online, and everything's sent right to them and it's much simpler than it used to be where you had to send out a proofs book, and they had to mail that around, and they had to decide on who was going to order what. And, of course, with morephotos, that's all taken out of the equation. Now, it's a simple matter for them to order those photos.
DAMIEN: Do you do on-site lab work if you are doing a destination, or is it ‘wait a day or two when I get back to the shop and I'll send it back out to you?'
JAMES: I don't want to spoil people completely, so I make them wait. I feel that having a time factor built in somehow translates into a better product rather than me just handing them something on-site.
DAMIEN: Anticipation does make the pot a little bit sweeter indeed. Noticing that you have this beautiful wedding photography that is posted in your portfolio up there, do you also do . . . what I see up there is the outdoor stuff . . . do you do the wedding facility in Flagstaff, or is there any particular room that you do use down there, or a series of rooms, or is it mostly your studio is the great outdoors?
JAMES: Well, I have a studio here, and people can come here and meet, and this basically has become an office. I don't do much in the way of taking photos here any longer. I do have wedding announcements and invitations they can order, and I do have slideshows of images set to music that they can view, so that's the purpose of the studio.
DAMIEN: Your website states that you specialize in group events and functions, proms, parties, weddings, reunions, and I noticed sporting events. Is there any particular sporting events that you cover or is this just generally what the client wants?
JAMES: Well, again, I sort of fell into this one. The local high school has been highly dissatisfied with the national chain discount school photographer studio setup, and they wanted better quality on their athletic sports pictures, so I did a football team for them, and when they saw the difference, they retained me to do all of their sports teams. So, every team that they have, I am doing the photos for that.
DAMIEN: Do you have any specific advice you would give a client who wants an event shot; let's say, they want a family reunion done at one of the state parks or . . . What do you do to prep a client for something they want shot?
JAMES: Well, the first thing I would tell them is, chances are you're not going to get a second chance at doing this, and I have the experience and I have the ability to work under that kind of pressure with all the things I've done over the last 30 years, that they should feel comfortable that they're going to get exactly the kind of quality and exactly the kind of pictures taken that they want if I show up. And, it's taking the uncertainty out of the equation of some maybe inexperienced person showing up and wandering around looking for a spot, looking for the light, looking for this and that. I get in there and I get it done.
DAMIEN: When you shoot one of these larger events outdoors, say in the canyon, are you using just yourself as the photographer or do you use multiple photographers for a shoot like that?
JAMES: People seem to want me and I have the knack of mimicking several photographers. I know where to be at the right time, so I shoot everything myself. I used to have a grunt person that would carry the bags and everything when I shot film, and I'd show up with 50 or 60 lbs of gear. Now, it's basically a shoulder bag and sometimes a tripod.
DAMIEN: If you had one dream shoot that you could do, what would it be?
JAMES: One dream shoot?
JAMES: Other than Ann Margaret in her prime?
DAMIEN: Well, that would be a dream shoot, indeed.
JAMES: I'd like to do a . . . I'd like to do some concerts. I'd love to be able to photograph some of my idols; Paul McCartney, people like that. That would be my dream.
DAMIEN: Well, we are speaking today with James Harris of James Harris Photography and Frame-Up of Flagstaff, Arizona; specializing in group events, proms, parties, weddings, reunions, sporting events, families, pets, glamour. They also do restoration and retouch. You can get a full list of services at their website. And, your website information again, please, James?
DAMIEN: Thank you very much for joining us today, James. We really appreciate having you, and lots of great information.
JAMES: Thank you so much.
DAMIEN: My name is Damien Allen. I'm in for the vacationing John Bentley. You have been listening to the VTalk Radio Photographer Spotlight. Have a great afternoon.
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