Today we’d like to introduce you to Jorge Parra.
Jorge, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Hello and thanks for the opportunity to tell my story! I have been a Commercial, Fashion and Fine Art Photographer for most of my adult life. I started shooting editorials and covering fashion shows while in college for small magazines and that eventually led to commercial projects. In time, I became one of the top Advertising Photographers in Venezuela and hard work and good luck made me enjoy a very successful life.
In 2003 we went through a massive, general strike that lasted almost four months and after the terrible economic impact it had on all Venezuelans, I decided it was time to move on and find a new life in the US. After trying unsuccessfully, to thrive in a country in chaos, I relocated to Miami. Fl in 2005. We never had any idea about emigrating to other places. It just never crossed our minds! We just had a great life there and I was one of those who had the opportunity to enjoy it to the maximum, all while it lasted…
Now I am a US citizen based in Miami, FL, living with my family, working in what I love the most, my visual work, which you may be able to enjoy in the links listed below.
Great, 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?
I don’t think it is a smooth road to any immigrant in general, no matter how well prepared they think they are for the changes and challenges ahead! Living a new country, a new society, new culture, new rules, new social and business skills are required and also, you need to find the way to “blend in” and eventually get a sense of belonging to at least some group within the new society and community where you are living. On many occasions, that aspect is the hardest one to resolve.
When I look back, I can tell that it was a huge challenge to re-start my business from zero. In brief, I had to reinvent myself, build an entirely new portfolio, something that takes time, and then work on developing a new set of clients in a market that did not know about me at all. The visual works from Venezuela were seen as proof that I have done top quality work before, but people want to see work done here. So the first steps were much slower than I had expected. What helped me back then really well was my personal work, as I was able to start exhibiting my images very soon and having my name mentioned in the media and in the art scene, running both group and solo shows during Art Basel Miami. That is why I keep telling every commercial photographer to never ever stop shooting personal projects! They can save or re-launch your career!
I feel I was lucky with the unintended consequences some of the strategies that I set up before moving to the USA that helped me a lot. For example, while I was still in Venezuela, I joined the Photographer’s trade organizations here in the USA, and back then I joined as an International Member. That allowed me to establish contact with many professionals in Miami, New York, San Francisco, etc, many years before thinking about moving here. Later on, when I relocated to Miami, I was upgraded into a regular US member and met many local Miami shooters in person. Those guys were VERY helpful when I finally arrived, giving me a good amount of support, and I found myself surrounded by good vibes and assistance in many aspects of both the personal and professional challenges I had to deal with.
I am humbly and deeply thankful for those fellows who gave me such a good, helping hand back then. They have now become my good friends, and our relationship goes far beyond the profession we share. They really helped me get that essential sense of belonging I mentioned earlier.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
I have been working as a freelance photographer, and here in the USA I quickly understood the benefits of setting up a business structure in order to work with other businesses, so my company Jorge Parra Photography was created as soon as I started operations.
This structure allows me to offer many services to go along with the photography and/or video projects that I am hired for. Most of these are Production Services that allows my clients to get rid of the headache that implies hiring multiple teams and have everything working well. That is now my company’s responsibility and thanks to that, I coordinate all the services that might be required for a project or campaign, from talent casting, to location scouting and permits, catering, video services, etc etc. The list could be annoyingly long (see it on my website) but the idea is to offer the capability to build Production and Creative Teams as small or large as necessary, depending on each specific project.
As a photographer, I have been most of my life a people photographer. I have been shooting Portraits, Beauty, Fashion and Fine Art Nudes since my early days, and that has, of course, expanded to lifestyle and corporate, and the large majority of my clients are in the Luxury, Travel/Leisure Markets. I also shoot editorial work for selected magazines and one of the most challenging situations I have experienced here in Miami happened when some Creative Directors engaged me into shooting Architecture and Interior Design Photography, and thanks to those challenges, I now have an extensive portfolio in those fields, which of course, bounces back as a cool added value for my Luxury and Travel/Leisure clients.
My ability to handle people with the experience accumulated over time is by far, one of my main assets, especially when I have to deal with difficult personalities, celebrities, sports divas, TV and/or Movie Stars, etc, all the more so, since I manage to make people look FANTASTIC in my images! Many praise my lighting for this, I feel it is all a mix of talent, lighting and communication with my subjects! Working in Advertising also requires a special level of patience, understanding and a high level of effective communication, to make things work seamlessly.
I am also committed to giving back to the community that is giving me so much, so I dedicate my talent and resources to help Non-profit Organizations dealing with critical subjects. I have worked for years with foster agencies, doing portraits for kids waiting for their adoption, I have done campaigns for the University of Miami’s Organ Donor Program, images for the Breast Cancer Association, Fighting HIV, Photographing kids in terminal stages of cancer (this has been the hardest), and I keep pushing any social agenda where my work may contribute, no matter the size of the impact. Every two cents will always help!!
I also give back to the community through education, and I run workshops for Advanced Photography and Lighting, for individuals, (mentoring), basic training for groups and corporations, plus in-depth training in college-level institutions like the Miami Ad School and the Miami Institute of Photography. I strongly believe in the words of the Dalai Lama when he said: “Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality”. You may find more information about education and mentorship on my website.
I Have been Board member Vice-President and eventually, President of the local South Florida Chapter of ASMP, one of the main photographers trade organizations for over 8 years. I am currently an active member of the Miami Creative Mornings, an amazing group putting together the most interesting local creative people in Miami.
Also, in a few days, I am to be appointed as a member of the Advisory Board of Education of the PPA, the Professional Photographers of America, by far, the largest photographers organization in the USA, to further expand the outreach of our educational resources and professional knowledge on behalf of other photographers.
As an artist, my work has been showcased in different galleries in Miami and collected by serious art lovers and collectors. For several consecutive years, I have run at least one exhibition per year, some years doing 2-3 shows, and I keep working on my personal photo projects as a way to explore new creative venues and keep pushing myself outside my comfort zones. My personal/creative work is taking me to new business ventures, one of which is meant to appear in the market this very year.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
In the very end, the bottom line, I feel the human touch is the most relevant element in almost every exchange between humans. I feel there is not one single quality that may lead anyone to success, it is always a mix of qualities that range from the human touch to the technical know-how to the ability to communicate effectively, but eventually, the human touch, combined with discipline and perseverance, all personality traits, may become the decisive key!
Usually, when a client or potential client contacts you, they are assuming the obvious: that you are qualified for the project at hand, but, just like you, there may be 10 -20 photographers who -technically speaking- qualify for the job just the same, so I think they are also looking for other, subjective values that you can provide to the mix, from the creative side of things to the overall understanding and “chemistry” between client and photographer. It’s a human thing!
There is an old saying that claims that you only do business with the people you like, therefore, it follows that there are more subjective elements involved in those decisions than just what is tangible. Again, the human touch is king. That is why staying true to yourself is essential!
All photos ©Jorge Parra