To Top

Meet Geoff Rowe and Mary Jo O’Neal of muse & creator in Northern


Today we’d like to introduce you to Geoff Rowe and Mary Jo O’Neal.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Geoff and Mary Jo. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’ve been taking pictures for almost as long as I can remember, and that is a long time! I think I first picked up a camera around my mid-teens and was smitten. There’s something amazing and fascinating about the idea of freezing a second in time which can be re-lived over and over again that just got to me on a fundamental level.

My most proud moment came in 2006 (December) when I was awarded my Licentiate of the British Institute of Professional Photographers. It’s a very nerve wracking process but I got “it”, my LBIPP!

It was here that someone mentioned the “Peter Gudgeon award” but at that moment I was too happy to actually remember. This is an award given to the overall best panel of the year and I’d been shortlisted for it but didn’t even realize what it was all about!

This was, however, the point where my course was set but I doubt I realized it at the time. My view is that all shoots are fashion editorials. I have often said that I’m at my happiest with a studio, a ton of lights, a rail of clothes, a wonderful fashion model, hair and makeup artists and 500 feet of grey seamless! This is exactly the style and energy I want to bring to portrait and wedding shoots.

Oh, and that Peter Gudgeon award, well sadly I didn’t get it!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s the complete opposite of smooth! There are so many challenges you need to find solutions for. Way back when I was taking portraits for friends and in the process learning the rudiments of posing people it all seemed much easier than today.

People ask me if I fear competition and the truthful answer to that is no, well mostly no. I believe that I have a well-developed style, born from years and years of shooting (film) and criticizing my own work, so I think I can differentiate myself from the hordes. That said there are still those days you wake up wondering what the heck you’re doing! No, the big issue these days is marketing.

Finding the right clients who appreciate and buy into your vision is actually a really tough job in spite of, or perhaps because of, things like social media. This is the reason we have been engaged for the last year or so in a turn from the Temecula market down towards La Jolla and San Diego. We feel that our style could find more receptive clients in a larger metro area and we think that this change is already bearing fruit. Right now we are looking at possible office/studio space in the San Diego/La Jolla area.

I know that I share this frustration with just about everyone else in the “wedding” business. Those articles that keep telling brides that they don’t have to spend “X” on their wedding and the one that really kills me, that you don’t need a photographer, just give all your guests disposable cameras or let them take pictures with their phones. It’s crazy.

Firstly, every wedding is bespoke, like a fine suit. It’s all about the bridal couple’s unique look for their wedding and that is different for every wedding. Wedding pro’s try really hard to realize what are often challenging requirements, and that is going to cost some dollars to make happen.

What we are trying to do at muse is to provide a photography “experience”. Something you don’t get with a selfie or an iPhone “snap”. The concept of dressing up, having make up done, the lighting and paraphernalia of a shoot in a photography studio. Bringing back to photography the excitement of that experience.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about muse & creator – what should we know?
Let’s start with the name, muse & creator. Actually I just saw that director Darren Aronofsky has used this very name when explaining what his latest movie, mother, is all about. Simply put the (picture) creator is me and the muse is the client.

muse is all about making an experience of being photographed. The styling, maybe having a makeup artist to do that smokey eye thing you wanted to try but for whatever reason you didn’t. The feeling of walking onto a set irrespective of where it is, the lighting, the paraphernalia of a photo studio, the buzz! It’s the one thing that you can’t get from a selfie, or an iPhone snap.

We try to take that same vibe to our wedding photography too, where you can really go all out with the “fashion editorial” theme.

The boudoir side of the business is something we’re keen to push. We’re inspired by, and somewhat mentored by, Jen Rozenbaum of Long Island. She’s one of the countries premier boudoir photographers, an awesome public speaker, and one of the few good photography educators out there. We’ve had several in-depth conversations with her on men doing boudoir photography and one thing she has repeated often is that she thinks men have a distinct advantage when it comes to boudoir photography at least if you take a view that the end client is often male. That advantage is that men know what men like!

We are also all about the print. The great thing about prints and albums is that you don’t need a computer to look at them! There are some amazing album and print products available today and we’d love to take this opportunity to plug our Italian album makers, yep our albums come all the way from Italy.

We are also experimenting with a new idea called the “Whole Life Collection”. We understand that it can be financially tough for people to come up with a large fee for photography and that is where the Whole Life Collection (WLC) comes in. You pay a monthly fee and that entitles you to a set of photography products you can schedule throughout the year. So you get your holiday session, a professional headshot session, a school or senior session (and this can be substituted for another family portrait session) and a birthday or special celebration event coverage.

We never forget that in this business it’s all about teamwork. When I was shooting fashion in Europe that message gets drummed into you constantly. Obviously as a photographer you can’t do it all yourself so you rely on the team to get the job done, makeup artist, assistants, models all play their part to make a shoot come together.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I think it highly likely that I would have gone on a different path had I not met Olivia in Arizona. She was, at the time, a commercial model edging towards retirement but looking for photographs as she was relocating to the UK for a while. Long story short, and about 5000 pictures later, I’m was a much wiser (and better) photographer.

Likewise, Jen Rozenbaum deserves a big dose of credit. She has a very active “photographers only” Facebook group and, unlike many, she does interact one-on-one with the members giving out really helpful and supportive real-world information and advice.

Fast forward to now, and like so many I couldn’t do without my Creative Team Leader (wife) supporting me and occasionally “correcting” me. We often have fairly heated discussions about my “quirky English” phrasing but I think we are more on the same page now, at least I hope so. She has a creative side that compliments my quirky British side!


  • Wedding pricing starts at $2,799.00
  • Boudoir pricing, including a makeup artist on set for the entire shoot, from $1,199.00
  • Portrait pricing from $249.00

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jeana Turner, Sueann Henage Garzon, Tiana Malia, Jaime Stephens, Ashley L Robinson, Jorah Ebert, Steliyana Filipova, Lindsey Legako, Sarah and Ben Matlock

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in