Jeff Phillips (https://www.jeffphillips.me/)is a photographer living and working in Chicago. He is resident artist for CPS Lives (https://www.cpslives.org/), documenting the lives of students in the Chicago public school system. Jeff serves on the executive board at Filter Photo, and since 2009 he’s helped produce the week-long Filter Photo Festival. He is the creator of the found photography exhibition, Lost and Found: The Search for Harry and Edna. Jeff develops photography workshops, facilitates panel discussions and has presented work to audiences at Pecha Kucha, SPE, SXSW 2014, and other conferences and festivals.
Scheduled to Teach
LACP Interviews Jeff Phillips
LACP asks Jeff Phillips ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography.
Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?
Jeff Phillips: I am a multi-disciplinary photographic artist, zinemaker, and educator. My work spans genres of documentary, editorial, still life, and vernacular photography. I am most interested in blending traditional photographic process with contemporary methods of presentation, such as self-published books, digital projection mapping, and virtual reality applications.
LACP: How long have you been shooting?
JP: I have been photographing for more than 40 years. It began in 1980 when the teacher in my 9th grade Journalism class and she asked for a volunteer to be the photographer for the school newspaper. She asked for someone who knew how to use an SLR film camera. I’d never even held a camera before, but as the saying goes: Fake it until you make it.
LACP: Where did you get your training?
JP: I studied photography throughout the remainder of high school and throughout college. I was hired as an assistant at a commercial photography studio, which led to a full-time position as a photographer and a promotion to studio manager. Later in life I earned an MA in Photography and Integrated Media from DePaul University in Chicago.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
JP: It dawned on me during another transformative moment in Ms. Herman’s Journalism class. I watched my very first photograph appear in the developer tray, under the warm glow of the safelight. I was hooked.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
JP: My passion for photography has never wavered, although I have taken long breaks from working in the photography business to explore new paths. I always return to it, though.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
JP: When I was much younger, my desire to succeed as a photographer and artist was all-consuming. I prioritized my work over my personal relationships, which suffered until I learned how to achieve a more mindful balance.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
JP: I am grateful for the friendship of many creative and talented people I can now call friends. I’ve grown as a person through many meaningful experiences, including working with young artists on public art projects that focus on issues of social justice.
LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?
JP: I’m currently teaching a Special Guest/Master Photographer course titled, Creating Your Own Photo Zine with Jeff Phillips. Previously I was part of LACP’s monthly Photo Book Discussion series.
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
JP: I love the feeling that I have when I am working with a class of like-minded artists that have a shared passion for the visual arts — and seeing the amazing work that they create as part of our collaborative experience together.
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
JP: I’d say, “Go for it!” In today’s market I’d also recommend that you strive to be a multidisciplinary photographer, so that your practice is not limited to a single type of niche service or ‘style’. Be an exceptional project manager, too. Your client is buying more than your creative vision; they’re also counting on you to deliver awesome images, on time, that will help them achieve success in their business.