By Liam and Jeila
We all can say that a certain person is beautiful just by looking at him or her, but all we see is the outer shell. We can’t see what the shell hides. However, there are people in this world who, with just a single glance, can see what is under that shell. They can see more than the outer beauty in others. They can see their bright futures, their potential, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their insecurities…every single detail of others just by looking at them. These people have insight. We call them talent scouts.
We were honored and very excited when we had the opportunity to talk to Jim Jordan, who is a famous celebrity/fashion/advertising photographer. He is also a talent scout with a cache of well-known names to his portfolio. It was fascinating to have an in-depth conversation with Jim about his career path. His trajectory started as a young man with a passion for transforming people through makeup and hair, which led to a passion for photography, which then led to his current career success of managing talent. His mantra for success is to believe in yourself and never give up.
I hope you will enjoy this article about Jim Jordan and learn as much from him as we did during our chat.
Q: Jim, please tell us who are some of the famous models you have scouted and signed so far? How did you discover them?
A:I discovered two of the most current famous models in the world: Taylor Hill and Gigi Hadid. I found Taylor Hill when she was 14 years old. I was in Granby, Colorado to do a photoshoot for Macy’s. I was scouting a barn as a possible location when I ran into Taylor. She was there with her horse, and I immediately noticed her potential to be an amazing model.
The other current famous model that I scouted was Gigi Hadid. I found her on a playground in Malibu at a place called John’s Garden. She was playing with a toddler, either her niece or nephew, on the swing sets. When I saw her, I immediately knew that she would make a successful model.
Q: What’s one of the most obscure places you’ve ever scouted? Is the scouting process different in other countries?
A: The scouting process is the same regardless of the country. The language barrier might be a challenge, but the scouting process is always the same.
I would say that the most obscure place I’ve scouted was in the prison system. As you know, one of my biggest models in the world right now is Jeremy Meeks who was in jail when I discovered him. Since then, he has turned his life around and become a huge success.
Q: What’s trending in modeling now?
A: I don’t have an answer for what’s trending in modeling right now. However, I believe that people are always looking for the newest best thing and a unique look. Having something special to bring into this industry will always catch attention. For example, we have been seeing people with skin disorders trend in the marketplace. Uniqueness is key. Regarding something special, I represent a beautiful girl named Taylor Muhl who is a human chimera. A chimera is somebody who was meant to be a twin, but one twin absorbs the other twin and causes the surviving member to have two bloodstreams and two DNAs. Taylor has two DNAs and two bloodstreams, which is very rare. She has a straight line down the center of her torso with two different skin tones. She is very beautiful, unique, and different, and she is becoming a superstar.
Q: How did you become interested in photography?
A: When I was doing hair and make-up I would scout models all over the world. I would do the hair and makeup and take pictures of the models I would find; I never showed the pictures to anybody. I had these voices in my head saying to me: “You can never be a photographer. There are so many great photographers” “You are not technical enough!” I was always afraid; I kept these pictures locked up in a closet. It was one of my best friends to challenge me: “How can you take these great pictures and not show them to anybody? What are you so afraid of?”
This was like a wakeup call for me.
I remember, all the models on the J Crew shoots I would work with would say to Emily, the owner of J Crew, “Why don’t you guys have JJ shoot for J Crew?” One day Emily the owner came up to me and she said to me “JJ, I hear you are an incredible photographer. I would like to see your pictures.” So for the first time, I brought out the locked up pictures to light. My first picture in my book was when I was 16 in Italy. I did portraits of Italian rugby players, who were all muddy from playing in the rain. The next set of photographs I had taken of Whitney Houston, Nicholas Cage, Tatjana Patiz, etc. Emily then hired me to shoot for J Crew and that was the launch of my career as a photographer. Then I met this agent Bonnie Winston on my search for agencies; she looked at my picture and immediately got on the phone to call a client. She said “Rene, this is Bonnie Winston in New York and I am about to sign a photographer, that is so amazing, that I will never ever call you again to see another photographer. That’s how I am sure you are going to love this guy”. I got on a plane and left New York that evening, when I returned to Los Angeles the next day, I got a call from Bonnie, she said, “J, this is Bonnie Winston, are you sitting down? Because I just booked you on a 16-day job for Bloomingdales”.
To tell you that I was shocked would be an understatement; I was so scared. I promised myself that no matter what I will do my best. I flew back to New York and went to the address, and there was a huge group of people, motor homes and a very beautiful girl sitting on the curb. I approached the group and introduced myself. And the girl sitting on the curb said “Are you Jim”“She stands, I am Rene, I am the art director, I am the one that hired you. I want to tell you why I hired you. When I saw your pictures, I saw something in the eyes of these people in your photographs, it was different, and I wanted to meet the guy who these people were looking at like that”
So this is how I ended up laying my hair and make-up brushes down, and picking up the camera full time.
Q: We all know that celebrities get along well with cameras. But are there any celebrities that you have photographed, that get shy or it takes time to make them comfortable enough for the shoot?
A: That’s a good question. Among the celebrities that I shoot, there are lots of actors, who are used to having a script to work from. So, some actors are not comfortable being in front of a camera when they don’t know what character they are to play. A lot of actors become actors because they don’t want to be themselves. I have learned different techniques when I direct an actor in front of my camera. One it is very important to tell them the story and the narrative that I want and what I want to capture. When I take photographs of an actor I get in character to show them, I wear my heart on my sleeve.
If I want a celebrity to give me a certain pose, look, a feeling or have them tell me a story through their eyes, I will be reciprocating to them what I want. So, what I show, and give them they mirror back to me. By me being open, transparent, and vulnerable to the celebrity, they will turn around and do the same thing. That’s how I work, my technique and how I make incredible moments.
Q: What kind of DSLR do you shoot with? Also please tell us about White Cross Management.
A: I love to shoot with many different types of cameras and different types of lenses. It’s important to be using top of the line gear and products to have a seamless workflow and a successful photography business.
So the cameras I choose to shoot with are Phase One and Canon 5D Mark IV. My lighting equipment and power packs I use is Pro Foto Gear. The flash card I use and have never failed me is Lexar. The camera bags I travel with for all my lighting and camera gear is Tamrac. To edit, catalog and color correct my images I use Capture One Software. I also back up all of my photography images, video content with an onsite and offsite backup system / servers called Synology. They are durable, reliable, user-friendly and their tech support is amazing.
I have 8 computer workstations using Macintosh platforms, and all of my workstations are equipped with the Wacom Intous Pro Tablet, and on the road I use the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. They are amazing to work with.
I started White Cross Management about 15 years ago. We are based in Los Angeles, California and have an office in New York City and Australia. We are a full service production and talent management company. We represent models, actors, musicians, and creative people such photographers, hairdressers, make-up artists, stylists, designers. White Cross Management manages about 45-50 models, men and women. I have a cosmetic company about to launch as White Cross Cosmetics. White Cross Entertainment develops non-scripted and scripted movies and TV shows. So, there are many divisions throughout White Cross Management; it’s a flourishing business. It’s an incredible gift and vision that I am able to wake up to and be excited for each and every day.
Q: What advice would you give to a young photographer who is just starting?
A: For young photographers starting out I would say that they need to continue to shoot, and to learn how to shoot editorials, and stories, not just one picture. When you go and put those photos in your portfolio, you need to pageant them together, not just one picture here and one picture there. You need to learn how to tell stories with your photographs.
Just remember that every photographer has his/her own secrets and techniques; it’s their little secrets to keep. Everyone has their own story of how they became a photographer. I want to encourage people that there is no right way of being a photographer or going around and doing it. Like the way it happened to me isn’t the way it’s going to happen for somebody else. Get your pictures out there; there are magazines, and clients that want new people, and new things. Go out there and just do it. Just shine and believe in yourself!
We hope you enjoyed reading this. Keep an eye out in following weeks for part 2 on Jim Jordon and the celebrities who reached fame their him.