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Life and Work with Justin Bartels

Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Bartels.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I got started in photography when I was a child. My mom got me a camera to shoot with when I was five and have been using one ever since. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the Art Center College of Design in 2009 in Photography + Imaging. I have been doing photography professionally ever since. I also teach Photography + Imaging at Mira Mesa High School with SDUSD.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
For many freelance workers with student loans in a creative field, it can be hard to get consistent pay, that is why I always had another job to supplement my income. Now I teach photography so it is great to be able to talk about what I love and inspire future photographers.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I love creating photographs that will last and keep interesting people to look at them and find new meanings from them. Photography will always be special to me, it is very different than a video clip or other visual media. Photography you can really spend some time with the piece, explore each corner, try to find meaning of the photographer’s intent, or interpret it your own way. A photograph can also be projected, displayed, and used in so many different mediums to reach audiences of all types. I also view a photograph as a document of a moment, an ideology, or a representation of who we were at a certain date and time.

My photography process usually involves a lot of research on the front end. Constantly looking towards the art community of all media types for inspiration. When I conceive a concept that could potentially work, I flush it out and sometimes sketch how I would like the photographs to look. Once I have a solid concept and idea of how I want it to look, I will go into the schematics of finding the right subjects for the photographs, location, lighting styles, etc. Hopefully, the shoot goes to plan, and then I will spend some time with them in Photoshop testing out different looks and styles until I get to a point where I like the image(s).

I am most known for my IMPRESSION Series I created in 2010 showing how women’s fashion was physically damaging their bodies. In Southern California a lot of women make physical sacrifices to be on the trendy end of fashion and styling. They want to be tall, skinny, have clear skin, and accessorize to show off what labels they can afford. When I went on dates and spent time with different women, I began to notice all of the physical marks or impressions left on the skin from these fashionable clothes and accessories. I thought the imprints were an interesting visual that would make for a compelling photograph, but I also thought of the social implications of showing this issue could enlighten some people on the matter. I wanted to start the conversation with these photos to get women and the fashion industry to question why they make what they make and at what physical cost to the consumer. With the emergence of new companies that do more research and development finding more comfortable materials and textiles to make their products with. In 2010 I decided to take photos of a woman I was dating who constantly had these imprints on her figure from the clothes and accessories she wore.

I now primarily photograph Fashion, Sport and Landscape subjects. I love working with teams to create an amazing fashion or sport visual, but also like to go out on my own and explore an interesting location.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
I will always remember when I was six, we traveled to Germany when my dad was undergoing cancer treatment. My mom bought me a 35mm Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle camera I could take pictures with while we were there. It would leave little borders around the photos on the TMNT characters which I thought was amazing!

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Image Credits:

Man holding track spikes is Norris Frederick Model tossing dress is Amber Rosario Ballerina with Layered Ground is Gena Nelson Soccer Player is Zlatan Ibrohimovic from the LA Galaxy.

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