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Meet John Riedy of John Riedy Photography in North County

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Riedy.

John, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After graduating from Duke University and a ten year stint working my up in the film business in Los Angeles, I decided to turn my photography hobby into my business. I soon became a highly sought after wedding (and portrait) photographer shooting weddings all over the US and even some internationally. By the year 2000, I was completely out of Hollywood and 100% earning my living at photography. After many years shooting almost exclusively weddings and portraits, in 2009 my career to an unexpected turn. I was invited to come to France to document the return of 20 WWII veterans back to the D-Day beaches of Normandy. I thought it was just a one off cool project, but little did I know it would become the first of now almost thirty programs documenting WWII and now, Vietnam veterans on their journey back to the battlefields where they fought. The group I shoot for is called The Greatest Generations Foundation and in those 30 programs, I’ve traveled from the landing beaches at Omaha, to the caves of Okinawa, to the top of Mount Suribachi, to the top of Hamburger Hill, to the frozen forest of Bastogne, to the mangrove swamps of the Mekong Delta and many, many, many more the world’s great battlefields. Most recently, I accompanied seven WWII veterans aboard the Queen Mary 2 from London to NYC for a Battle of the Atlantic program where our veterans gave daily programs to anywhere from 400 to about 800 passengers describing their war experience.

These men, some upwards of 97 years old, travel completely on their own with the help of Foundation staff. No family members or spouses are allowed. Combat veterans only. Their travel expenses are 100% covered. All they have to agree to is that they will open up and tell their story. Rarely is this a problem. Having now accompanied hundreds of veterans back to the battlefields, I have been able to capture some of the most powerful and meaningful images of my career; the end result of which will someday, hopefully, be a coffee table book. In the meantime, shifting my attention away from weddings and toward my work with veterans has inevitably reduced my wedding workload. Where I used to shoot over 30 a year, I now average fewer than five. Know, however, that when I DO shoot a wedding these days, I’m ALL IN. I get so fired up in a way that was hard when I had to shoot them week in, week out.

In addition, when not photographing veterans, I have somehow found time to expand my areas of expertise in photography to include, real estate, architectural, commercial and even drone photography. I just got my official drone pilot’s license in the mail last week! It’s been an exciting 30 year career getting to where I am today and I can’t wait for the next 30!

Has it been a smooth road?
I know the “right” answer here is to talk about how hard it’s been and how many obstacles I’ve had to overcome to get where I am today, but if I’m honest, because I’ve always loved doing what I do, it really hasn’t felt like a struggle. Without a doubt, my career hasn’t remotely taken a straight line path, but just because a road is windy, doesn’t mean it’s rough. The hard part, I think, has been coming to terms with what my major career goals were. One thing I learned from my dad has been that life balance is important. I knew early on that I never wanted a career that would consume my life to the point where it was no longer mine. I cherish the fact that I’ve built a career that allows me to provide for my family, but enjoy my time with my family as well. I guess you’d call it work/life balance. I’m okay with the idea that I am never going to be the “rock star” photographer who speaks at conferences and puts his name on some photography gadget. I’m quite happy to have a core of clients who hire me year after year and I get to go to their homes and see the pieces of family history that I created. I LOVE that I shoot multiple different kinds of photography and all at a high level, which keeps all photography from ever becoming boring to me. And I REALLY love knowing that I’ve done something that no one else has done (at least to my knowledge at the level that I’ve done) in documenting the few remaining heroes of our Greatest Generation on the most remote battlefields of WWII.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with John Riedy Photography – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The photography business today looks NOTHING like it did when I got into it 20 years ago. Back then, we all shot on film, there were no websites, and if you didn’t know how to expose film properly, your career would be very short lived. There were a handful of photographers shooting weddings at a high level. Today, with digital, the barriers to entry have dropped almost completely. For the quality of photography, it’s been a great thing. There is more great photography out there than ever before. For the professionalism of the industry, perhaps not so much. I feel like you hear way more horror stories today of photographers who just don’t do such a great job at the business side. Having survived a career of just stills for 20 years, I feel confident that I can guarantee 100% that I will deliver for my client. There’s very little I haven’t seen and almost no photography challenge I can’t meet.

While cameras are now SO good and SO cheap, just about anyone can take a good picture. What differentiates someone like me from both the Uncle Bob with his $3000 Nikon and the photography newbie who touts themselves as a “natural light” photographer, is that when the Gods of lighting and beautiful backgrounds don’t cooperate, I don’t panic. I have the tools and the knowledge to create beautiful images no matter when or where I have to shoot. If every shoot took place in the beautiful light of sunset at the beach in La Jolla, aside from my ability to frame an image beautifully, I’d say take your pick of photographers. But when you need to shoot those portraits at high noon and you’re NOT in a gorgeous location, you’ll be very happy you have me.

These days, I’m probably best “known” for my work with veterans. However, on any given day, you will still find me shooting weddings, mitzvahs, portraits, corporate, commercial work, real estate, architectural, head shots (corporate and actors) and drone. If you look at my website, you’ll see that whatever type of photography I shoot, I do it at the highest level. If I don’t feel I can excel, I won’t even offer it.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
This is an easy one. Wait, maybe it’s a hard one. I was going to say it’s the people. San Diegans are just freakin’ cool. They’re laid back. They’re creative. They appreciate the finer things in life. In short, I’ve got phenomenally cool clients. I don’t know that I’d still be doing what I’m doing if I lived anywhere else. But WAIT! How can I leave out the tacos!?!?! I mean, come on! I can literally walk from my house to a place (El Pueblo) where I can get sensational fish tacos for one measly dollar. A DOLLAR! And then there’s The Taco Stand in Encinitas! I mean, really, is there anything better than their Al Pastor taco?!?!? I think not. As for what I like least? I’m not one to dwell on the negative things, but let’s face it, the traffic blows. Luckily, the words “daily commute” are not part of my vocabulary. Overall, we live in San-freakin’-Diego. What’s not to love?

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Image Credit:
John Riedy Photography

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