Thursday, September 18, 2014

IN THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS...NEVER QUIT DREAMING The Story of Photographer Jeff DeLaCruz

Meet Jeff DeLaCruz, a good friend and a very talented Chicago based fashion photographer. 

His work can be viewed on facebook @ Jeff DeLaCruz Photography  and his website @ http://www.JeffDelaCruz.com/. He also has a successful product photography company called  POW  Product On White Photography. It was created as a way to help small business and start ups get better product photography for new e-commerce websites.  The ironic thing about our friendship is that he is a photographer originally from Lacey, Wa that ended up in Chicago and I am a photographer originally from Chicago that ended up in Lacey, Wa. Who knows, maybe we will be neighbors again soon. 

"After all those years of struggling, I’ve finally created a photography business that people love and helps people who dare to dream of creating a business for themselves."

This is the home you grew up in. How old were you when you moved out? 

We moved here when I was 5 and I lived here up until I left for the Army when I was 17. I enlisted in the early entry program and I left for boot camp right after I graduated high school. I came back home after basic training and pretty much after any big changes in my life. I moved back home after basic training for a short time I ended up leaving for college.  When school didn't work out I moved back home again.  After a while of being at home, I moved down to Santa Barbra. Shortly after that I ended up going to Iraq for the Army. After Iraq, I moved back home again. Home has always been kind of a safety net for me. Knowing I could always go home if needed was a good feeling and really allowed me to chase after me dreams. 

As a kid what did you dream about being when you grew up? 

When I was younger I wanted to be a creative writer. It was something I always had an interest in. Even with that I was always taking pictures but never really thought of photography as a career. Besides, I was never really close with my real father and he was a photographer. Him being a photographer made me not want to have anything to do with it. For some reason I just kept shooting and I really enjoyed it. The want to be a creative writer never left me so I went to college for writing right after basic training. It was a terrible experience. I realized I was not a naturally gifted writer and I didn't have the stamina to write a novel. Even while in school for writing, for some reason I kept shooting. I even had a dark room in my friend's garage. I tried to get into the film program in Western, Wa. When Western wouldn't let me into the film program I ended up moving back home to try and figure out my next step in life. While at home this time I took a photo class at the community college. I thought if I am going to do this, (pursue photography) I have to go to the best school and surround myself with the best people. I wanted to be the best photographer that I could be. In my mind, that meant go to the best school.  I decided on Brooks Institute in Santa Barbra. They were the most technical school in my opinion. The other schools I looked at taught more about the art of photography. I figured I was already taking artistic photos, so I needed to be as technical behind the camera as I could be. After all, I wanted to make money as a photographer.

I have always lived under the idea you have to be all in. I know I couldn't work a side job while going to school, so I went full time and immersed myself in photography. I feel you can't be successful if you are not all in because you will have these other things pulling at you. You need to be able to focus on that one thing. I  also think you need that fire under your ass. If you don't have any other source of income you will find a way to make it with photographer or what that one thing your passionate about. 

Did your parents encourage you to be creative? 

My mom said that whatever I do she will always love me. She was always super supportive and proud of whatever I was doing.  She still has some of my first photos hanging on the walls. 

At this point in your life are you happy where you are? 

Sometime I am and sometimes I am not. It's been a pretty hard road. I had to go to the Army in order to go to photography school. Even with that, I have a mound of school debt. I worked through the recession as a photographer, which was extremely difficult. I made it through all that and I am still here. I have a product photography business that generates a steady stream of revenue and I am proud of what I have accomplished as a photographer so far.


"I don't know, am I happy? Well, it is kind of complicated.... LOL!" 

If there is one significant thing in your life right now that you could change, what would it be? 

How about a few changes? I wish I didn't have so much debt. I wish I could take back the recession. I wish we never switch to Digital photography. It just seems photography has become so devalued. Everyone with a digital camera thinks they can do the job themselves. 

Eventually, I want to get more into the multimedia industry. Something like motion graphics.
 

What is one of your most vivid childhood memories? 

I don’t know, my memory is pretty bad, which is probably why I became a photographer.  I clearly don’t remember anything until I was at least four.  Apparently, there was some pretty rocky beginnings prior to that time.  Perhaps, my first memories are of my little sister Becki, who was born around that time.  I remember holding her and playing with her. She’s always been very special to me.  Faded memories, like an un-coated type 55 Polaroid

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 

From a survival stand point, there a few key things that I've done in my life that I feel that I’m proud of.  First, was surviving the Iraq War.  I was soldier back in 2004 right after the invasion and Baghdad which was a dicey place to be.  I  joined the reserves when I was 17 to help pay for college.  In 2001, on my first day of school at Brooks Institute of Photography I watched the towers fall as I was packing up my books to head to class in the morning.  Less than 2 years later I was packing my duffel bags and hugging my college friends goodbye.  

When I returned in 2005, I did very little except exist and drink, but finally went back to school a year later and finished my degree at the beginning of 2007.  This is moment number 2 I was most proud of; being the first person in my family to graduate from college and with highest honors.  

After that, I moved to Chicago.  Things were great, then things got bad.  As a young freelancer in Chicago between 2008 - 2010, life was hard, as it was for a lot of people during the recession.  Somehow, I managed to keep shooting as a photographer and didn’t give up through those extremely difficult years.  After surviving those terrible years and not giving up, there are many people that I know who should feel as proud as I do.  

Finally, as of July 26th, a business that I started during the heart of the recession years hits it's third year.  POW  Product On White Photography was created as a way to help small business and start-ups get better product photography for new eCommerce websites.  I’m crazy proud of what we do there and I can’t believe that after all those years of struggling I’ve finally created a photography business that people love.  It helps people who dare to dream of creating a business for themselves.  


If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self? 


Don't join the Army, that was kind of a foolish idea. Please try not to accumulate so much debt.


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