James Wimberg (https://www.jameswimberg.com/) was born and raised in Connecticut and graduated with a BFA in Printmaking from the University of Connecticut. His interest in photography began during high school with “photo safaris” around his hometown of Old Lyme. Taking pictures of collapsing barns, landscapes and interesting things in nature helped him develop his eye for light and composition. After graduation Jim moved to Los Angeles to pursue commercial photography. In 1986 Jim Wimberg and local photographer Mark Mercier founded Mercier-Wimberg Photography. The two began a long and successful partnership photographing products and people for such clients as: adidas, Breville, Callaway Golf, Canon, DKNY, Epson, Hilton, Honda, Infiniti, Intel, Kenwood, Ketel One, Mattel, Mercedes, Merle Norman, Neutrogena, Nolets Spirits, Oracle, Peet’s Coffee, Qualcomm, Sanyo, simplehuman, Singapore Airlines, Sony, Sprint, Starbucks, Teleflora, and ViewSonic. Wanting to give back to the photographic community, Jim taught photography courses part-time at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and at Santa Monica College. Jim is a passionate photographer and visual storyteller working to create high-level content that conveys the stories of his client’s brands. What sets his work apart from others is his talent with lighting. Jim has an eye for composition and the ability to light a product, person, or scene to convey the appropriate mood with feeling and impact. “I am an artist and an observer of light – I’ve studied it all my life. I especially enjoy the challenge of manipulating light to achieve the mood and visual impact necessary for a memorable shot.” – Jim Wimberg.
LACP Interviews James Wimberg
LACP asks James Wimberg ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography.
LACP: What kind of photographer are you?
James Wimberg: Commercial and fine art. I’m mostly a studio photographer, shooting products and people. I like to have full control of my set and lighting. I always have a plan in mind before I begin a shoot, but I’m open to going with the flow and following what feels right. I feel that my job is to make the art director look good by giving them what they asked for and more. Time permitting, I will also give them my artistic interpretation as well. For my personal work, I’m mostly an outdoor photographer. I really enjoy taking photo safaris with my film cameras.
LACP: How long have you been shooting?
JW: I was 16 years old when my dad handed me his new camera and asked me to teach him how to use it – that was the last time he saw that camera! I had no clue what to do. At one point I remember pulling the tail on a roll of 35mm film out of the canister!
LACP: Where did you get your training?
JW: I was self-taught in the beginning (during high school), but in college I took as many photography courses as I could find. That’s when I learned about aesthetics and polished my technical abilities. I was a fine arts major, so I had some great professors who emphasized the art side of photography.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
JW: In high school I was thinking about career choices. I loved looking at magazines and wondered – who shot the ads? I was really enjoying photography and decided to find out how to make commercial photography a career.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
JW: At times yes, there have been some low points where I thought it wasn’t the best career choice. The commercial photography business is not an easy one to navigate. It’s extremely competitive. With the onset of digital, the bar was significantly lowered. The entry point for people to come in and become decent photographers got huge. At the same time, it seemed that many clients were accepting mediocre work at a cheaper cost because it was “good enough “. Unfortunately, this, and the increased competition had the effect of devaluing the images commercial photographers produced. But I knew I would never give up shooting for myself.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
JW: No, I don’t believe I have. In fact, I feel blessed to have had a successful 35+ year career as a commercial photographer. I think photography is a perfect blend of art and science (analog- film, chemicals, darkroom, etc.). and commercial photography is a great blend of art and commerce.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
JW: In a word – fulfillment. I’ve gained the satisfaction and pride of having a successful career doing something I love. All the great shoots I’ve had and wonderful people I’ve met add up to a rich and satisfying experience. I’ve been able to be a successful commercial artist, which is actually a fun way to make a living.
LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?
JW: – Outdoor Macro photography – Product photography lighting – Studio
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
JW: I enjoy teaching because of the give and take nature of it. I learn as much from the students as they learn from me. The rewards far outweigh the challenges and I feel good for having given my knowledge to people eager to learn.
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
JW: I recommend they try all the different kinds of photography that appeal to them before committing to one type. Be patient with yourself until you find the correct discipline that fits. Then go for it with all your heart. Eat, sleep, and breathe photography. Make it something you HAVE to do – your passion in life. Study the masters of all the arts, not just the photographers, then you will understand how to better express yourself as an artist. Know your worth as an artist and charge accordingly for it. And keep shooting!