Photographer’s Q&A – Jordan Verlage
This week’s Q&A is with Edmonton photographer Jordan Verlage. His web site is jordanverlage.com.
Craig Zellner’s face is covered in blood as Ryan Jimmo performs a choke hold on him at the MFC mixed martial arts event at the River Cree Casino.
What were your first steps in the industry?
I became interested in photography when I started cruising late evening shifts with my cousin Nathan Gross, an ENG photographer for A-Channel (now City-TV) in Edmonton. After deciding that I wanted to become a news photographer, with a few raised eyebrows, I set out to somewhat blindly accomplish my aspiration.
Tom Braid, photo editor of the Edmonton Sun, met with me at a Canadian University Press conference and looked at a set of my horrible photographs and informed me that I needed to go to school. Next thing I knew I was Belleville bound in the “Swedish News Unit”.
When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation and are you where you thought you would be now?
My goal upon graduation from Loyalist College was to work for a major daily newspaper. But once out of college, I found that I still had a lot to learn. After about three years of freelancing, I took a staff job at the Edmonton Sun.
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
I have met so many people that have inspired me. Some of the bigger inspirations include:
• National Geographic photographer Nick Nichols who gave me an understanding of what it means to be obsessed with photographs. He also gave me a glimpse at what it takes to be one of the best and hardest working photographers in the world. Check out his book “The Last Place on Earth.”
• Photographers that I work with day-to-day inspire me with their creativity and vision. Working with photographers like Darryl Dyck and Jason Franson, to name a few, was great because I was able to get daily feedback and criticism. I also got to see what they produced on a regular basis.
• My wife Rachelle has always inspired me. She has faced more difficult struggles than I have and she has always worked her way back to the top.
Do you have a mentor?
I’ve had a few mentors who have helped and coached me along. Edmonton photographer Dale MacMillan showed me how to expand my photography to a variety of different industries and circumstances. His influence is much of the reason why I am still working in this business. My father has also been an ongoing mentor to me.
What was a pivotal point in your career?
I think taking a staff job at the Edmonton Sun was pivotal. I really enjoy the challenges of the variety of assignments that we do. I never have the same day twice!
How important is multimedia to you?
Multimedia, for me, is something that I look forward to doing more of, but it hasn’t become a priority yet. I enjoy multimedia that’s original in its design; multimedia that doesn’t mimic the television news broadcast.
I think multimedia is a great tool for newspapers to tell important and compelling stories in a format that’s new and interactive. Some newspapers have started to figure out how to make and deliver interesting content, but some have not.
How do you ensure that you are progressing as a visual journalist?
I have always been cautioned about hitting a creative plateau as a photographer. Setting weekly creative goals for yourself is a good trick, no matter how small they may seem.
I think it’s easy to get bogged down with all the new forms of multimedia and become worried about always being on the cutting edge of things. Every week or month, there will be a new way to deliver your message or images to the masses. People are at risk of becoming a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. I just try to be in the right place at the right time and then concentrate on making the most compelling photograph I can.
What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education).
• Magnum in Motion – Do I really need to mention why? This site shows how multimedia can be used effectively.
• Sports Shooter – Photo resources and portfolios from some of the best photographers in the industry.
• Social Documentary – Just nice documentary work from around the globe.
• Boston Globe’s Big Picture – Compiling the best of photojournalism and then delivering the content in a simple, large format. Finally, a news web site that knows how to show photographs. I visit this site every day as it illustrates what type of work wire services, newspapers and magazines want.
What is your favorite way to unwind?
I like to spend time with my wife Rachelle and my pug Kaiser. I shoot landscapes and abandoned places out in the country and then find a small-town pub to have a beer.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
This is a tough one but I would have to say Nick Nichols when he was asked how to develop a photographic style of your own. He replied that you must become completely obsessed with photography for at least five years to get any good.
By the way, my photo attempt, (shown in the picture above), was not good.