MS: When did you first pick up a camera and take a shot that sparked your interest in pursuing photography as a career?
JL: I had taken photos with an old manual camera for a little while of dead trees and sunsets but only started taking photographs of people in late 2004. At that time I was quite involved in the music scene as a multi-instrumentalist and music producer and a number of singers I was working with needed shots done and were getting quoted ridiculous prices. Ended up showing my work to a touring US talent manager who told me that my stuff was better than the stuff they had on their website so I decided to take it more seriously. I launched my website in March 2005 and its grown exponentially since then.
MS: You also wear other professional hats, ie Make up artist, doctor/volunteer, how do these three careers intersect and do you full fill different values in each?
JL: The makeup artistry I have been doing since 2009 – initially I just thought it would be a good thing to understand the process of makeup better so I could communicate with my makeup artists on shoots but I found I really enjoyed the creativity of it and I now do makeup for almost all my shoots now. I became a doctor in 2001. After spending my pre-requisite residency in numerous areas ranging from radiation oncology to psychiatry to breast surgery I eventually found that I like working in Emergency. I like the fact that anything can come in the door, the need to think on your feet and the adrenaline. In addition the shift work nature of emergency with high patient turnover suited my lifestyle as I have always had strong interests outside of medicine. As a result I do 2 shifts a week in charge of an emergency department overnight and the rest of the time is for me to indulge my creative side.
MS: What was your most inspiring shoot to be involved in?
JL: In all honesty I enjoy almost all my shoots equally. I’ve had some fantastic opportunity to work with some amazing dancers as I used to have my studio located in Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance and I’ve also been getting into more creative avant garde high fashion shoots where I get to go a little crazy with the makeup and themes. Got a lot more of this stuff to come!
JL: Be professional. Anyone with a camera can call themselves a photographer but to truly be respected and to become successful you need to conduct yourself as such. A piece of paper does not make you a photographer nor does the camera or the lens. How you conduct yourself in your business – punctuality, reliability, back up plans and preparation, courtesy, creativity, dedication to work long beyond the allotted time to make sure you get it right – these are all keys. Always carry business cards wherever you go. Have a website or facebook page that shows your best work – not ALL your work. Of any one shoot I will only upload 4-5 shots from it even though there are anywhere from 50-100 usable frames. Your reputation is everything in this industry so be careful what you say and to whom. Recruit equally professional makeup artists and hairstylists. They are invaluable.
MS:What Make Up tips can you give models or people who are going to be photographed?
JL: I don’t have much makeup tips per se as if the shoot is truly professional there should be a makeup artist on hand to do the work for you. That being said some general rules for preparing for a shoot would include – keep your face clean of product and moisturised; if you’re doing a swimwear shoot spray tan at least 3 days prior to make sure it comes out right; for swimwear or lingerie shooting always bring fillets and double sided tape if you’re a C cup or less; for any sort of modelling –PRACTICE! While it feels stupid, get quality fashion mags and practice the poses in the mirror until they come naturally to you. Always bring spare light/dark coloured bras and flesh coloured g strings. Bring your own small makeup kit for touch ups if a full day shoot. Water and lip gloss essential! Look after your skin – spray tan vs. solarium (that’s both the photographer/makeup artist AND doctor speaking!)
MS: Do you have a published book or considering publishing a book, if so what would be your focus?
JL: It would be about sharing my approach to life – there is so much out there but we often find ourselves getting bogged down in the trivial problems of daily life that we turn them into such melodramas… “A client abused me at work today, it was horrible” or “My car broke down, I was late for work, my boss was furious”… don’t get me wrong, they are stressful but sometimes we need to take a step back. A bad day at work for a doctor is having a 13 month old child die in your arms with nothing you could do could save them but you always torture yourself with the question “Was there something else I could’ve done?”. And if that sounds bad, imagine what its like for the parents. Whatever you are going through, if you think hard enough you could easily imagine someone having a worse day.
One of my life mottos is “Sh*t happens – but what really matters is what you do about it then”. You can sit there in it and complain or you can get up, clean yourself up, and move on. Another motto of mine is “You don’t know what you can do until you try it”. I’ve done many things in my life, from my current hats as a doctor/photographer/makeup artist; to working on radio as a DJ, doing stand up comedy, teaching martial arts and playing as a musician, even jamming with Matchbox 20 a long time ago. People then say “Oh, you’re so talented” but I disagree. My talent, if anything, is not being afraid to fail. So many times we stop ourselves, saying “Oh no I could never do that,” before we have even tried it. I think people will surprise themselves at what they can do if they only give it a try.
MS: What is the motivation behind each of your careers?
JL: With all my careers it is to be the best I can be in that career. The key point is the best “I” can be – not that I have to be better than someone else. I have to sometimes force myself not to try and compare myself to others but use my own successes and failures as my yardstick – this is particularly true for the fashion industry which can be very competitive amongst photographers. For the doctoring in particular I guess there is also that added buzz you get when you know you have saved someone’s life – there’s not much that can top that.
MS: Where to from here, what is the big goal to reach for you?
JL: This may sound flippant but its to just see where life takes me. From a photography point of view it’d be nice to be a photographer for French Vogue but I don’t put those demands on myself because I don’t know whether that is possible and I don’t see the point of being disappointed when it doesn’t come to pass. Instead I keep my eyes open for opportunities and when they present themselves I throw myself into it 100% with the knowledge that I am accepting ANY outcome ranging from disaster to 100% success. If I fail, I know that it was not meant to be, but if I succeed, I am pleasantly happy as I never expected to get that far to begin with. Medically I have formed an organization with a group of likeminded medical professionals that aims to travel to various 3rd world countries to do volunteer medical work – search us on facebook under TrekMedic. I’ll be leading a team of 4 to Nepal this May to trek into the remote villages in the Annapurna region to bring basic health care and emergency aid to the locals there. From a photography point of view I’ll be shooting some fashion and swimwear in Thailand on the way back so that’ll be fun!
Learn more about Jon Lee and his Projects at: