Behind the Scenes with Reed Young

How this talented photographer got where he is and does what he does — and even some tales of high school shenanigans that got him on the right track.

If I had asked JPG staffers to name the most talented community member, the majority would have said Reed Young (and a few interns would have admitted to Internet crushes on him). He’s that good. Read about how he developed his signature style and got started in photography.

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.

    My hometown is Minneapolis, Minnesota. I lived there for the first 18 years of my life. Growing up I never liked traditional school very much — I wasn’t the best student and I couldn’t concentrate in a normal classroom to save my life. In my junior year I heard about a prestigious arts high school called the Perpich Center for Arts Education. I decided to apply to the media arts program which included film, animation, sound design, and of course photography. At the time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew that I didn’t have the required portfolio to apply. I called a friend, used her portfolio as my own, and was accepted two months later. When I arrived I think they found it a bit strange that I didn’t know the difference between and aperture and a shutter speed.

  • When did you start developing the lighting technique which has become your signature?

    After high school I went to college at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. I graduated three years later with a degree in advertising photography and moved to New York City. While I was in NYC I worked at an advertising agency and assisted some different photographers on the side. Then I was offered a year long scholarship at Fabrica, Benetton’s creative research center in Treviso, Italy.

    My first job at Fabrica was shooting people in the street for a weekly Italian fashion magazine. The people I photographed were complete strangers so I had to figure out a way to light them very quickly. I learned that if I brought an assistant and had them hold the light in their hand instead of putting it on a light stand we could work much faster. This is how I developed my style of journalistic portraits without much production. Most of my portraits only require one or two lights and many of them are of complete strangers I stopped on the street.

  • What’s the focus of your work?

    My main goal is to continue telling other people’s stories. People are fascinating and photography is my excuse to see as many sides of the bigger picture as I can. I’ve photographed the CEO of one of the world’s largest energy companies and I’ve photographed a man that goes to bed early because he can’t pay his electric bill. I’d like my work to represent the huge contrast of human perspective.

  • You work out of Milan and New York City. What’s it like having a split lifestyle, especially when your signature style requires so much equipment?

    Living between two cities is not as exciting as it sounds. Luckily in recent months the flights have gotten much cheaper but traveling with my equipment can get really old sometimes. I try to keep my setup as basic as possible but I still find myself traveling with three bags every time I go somewhere.

    It’s also not the best for personal relationships, I’d never recommend it.

    The reason I live in Milan and New York is because I don’t have a Visa to live here in Italy. The process to get a visa is very difficult for a freelancer and I just decided that it would be better to be in two markets anyway. New York is a hard place to get started and I figured it would be much easier to only be there half of the time.

  • Photography is a tough and very competitive industry. Do you feel like you were born to do this and nothing else, and if not, what keeps you sane?

    I don’t know if I was born to do this. I’m very fortunate to have work that I love but I also think people adapt well to the hand that is dealt to them. If I didn’t have photography, I like to think I would be passionate about something else.

  • What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen recently, photography related or otherwise?

    I just recently saw a film called Il Divo. It’s beautifully filmed and It helped me decide that I want to be a cinematographer when I grow up.

"I called a friend, used her portfolio as my own, and was accepted two months later. When I arrived I think they found it a bit strange that I didn’t know the difference between and aperture and a shutter speed."


Behind the Scenes with Reed Young

How this talented photographer got where he is and does what he does — and even some tales of high school shenanigans that got him on the right track.

If I had asked JPG staffers to name the most talented community member, the majority would have said Reed Young (and a few interns would have admitted to Internet crushes on him). He’s that good. Read about how he developed his signature style and got started in photography.

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.

    My hometown is Minneapolis, Minnesota. I lived there for the first 18 years of my life. Growing up I never liked traditional school very much — I wasn’t the best student and I couldn’t concentrate in a normal classroom to save my life. In my junior year I heard about a prestigious arts high school called the Perpich Center for Arts Education. I decided to apply to the media arts program which included film, animation, sound design, and of course photography. At the time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew that I didn’t have the required portfolio to apply. I called a friend, used her portfolio as my own, and was accepted two months later. When I arrived I think they found it a bit strange that I didn’t know the difference between and aperture and a shutter speed.

  • When did you start developing the lighting technique which has become your signature?

    After high school I went to college at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. I graduated three years later with a degree in advertising photography and moved to New York City. While I was in NYC I worked at an advertising agency and assisted some different photographers on the side. Then I was offered a year long scholarship at Fabrica, Benetton’s creative research center in Treviso, Italy.

    My first job at Fabrica was shooting people in the street for a weekly Italian fashion magazine. The people I photographed were complete strangers so I had to figure out a way to light them very quickly. I learned that if I brought an assistant and had them hold the light in their hand instead of putting it on a light stand we could work much faster. This is how I developed my style of journalistic portraits without much production. Most of my portraits only require one or two lights and many of them are of complete strangers I stopped on the street.

  • What’s the focus of your work?

    My main goal is to continue telling other people’s stories. People are fascinating and photography is my excuse to see as many sides of the bigger picture as I can. I’ve photographed the CEO of one of the world’s largest energy companies and I’ve photographed a man that goes to bed early because he can’t pay his electric bill. I’d like my work to represent the huge contrast of human perspective.

  • You work out of Milan and New York City. What’s it like having a split lifestyle, especially when your signature style requires so much equipment?

    Living between two cities is not as exciting as it sounds. Luckily in recent months the flights have gotten much cheaper but traveling with my equipment can get really old sometimes. I try to keep my setup as basic as possible but I still find myself traveling with three bags every time I go somewhere.

    It’s also not the best for personal relationships, I’d never recommend it.

    The reason I live in Milan and New York is because I don’t have a Visa to live here in Italy. The process to get a visa is very difficult for a freelancer and I just decided that it would be better to be in two markets anyway. New York is a hard place to get started and I figured it would be much easier to only be there half of the time.

  • Photography is a tough and very competitive industry. Do you feel like you were born to do this and nothing else, and if not, what keeps you sane?

    I don’t know if I was born to do this. I’m very fortunate to have work that I love but I also think people adapt well to the hand that is dealt to them. If I didn’t have photography, I like to think I would be passionate about something else.

  • What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen recently, photography related or otherwise?

    I just recently saw a film called Il Divo. It’s beautifully filmed and It helped me decide that I want to be a cinematographer when I grow up.

"I called a friend, used her portfolio as my own, and was accepted two months later. When I arrived I think they found it a bit strange that I didn’t know the difference between and aperture and a shutter speed."


Posted 5 years ago 2 notes

Notes:

  1. haileysezekiel reblogged this from spaceminer
  2. spaceminer posted this

About:

Laura Brunow Miner, founder of Pictory and Phoot Camp, loves photography.

Following: