Vincent Van Gogh once said, “If you truly love nature, you’ll find beauty everywhere”, and Jeremy Janus is someone who does exactly this. His love for nature shows through in every single one of the pictures he takes, and he wants to inspire others to find this same passion for nature, and life in general. Through his website “Jeremy Janus Photography”, his class on SkillShare, his Instagram posts, and all of the other many places that you’ll find him, he’s doing just that.
I first found Jeremy on Instagram, and I loved that, not only does he post the beautiful photos he takes, he also shares the stories behind those photos. It was a lot of fun talking with him, and learning more about who he is and what he does.
(This interview was originally posted in July of 2020)
1) Was there one certain instance that caused you to really start enjoying photography? Or a time period that you went through that made you appreciate it more?
When I lived in San Diego, I was exposed to Instagram from a friend in 2014 for the first time. My first shot was of a beer in front of a fire at a brewery and I was instantly hooked. I noticed the layering and depth of field instantly and I was absolutely enamored with the ability to control lights, shadows, and colors through the use of filters. It reminded so much of painting from my art days but with instant gratification instead of the long tedious hours of creating an art piece.
2) How do you decide what you’re going to take a picture of? Is it planned, or do you shoot whatever catches your eye in the moment? Or both?
A lot of times it’s a bit of both. I do get excited when I see beautiful places and if I have the opportunity to visit I will. But I always want to do my best to shoot in a way that hasn’t been done before or maybe there is something near a popular spot that is more alluring to me. I am not a fan of taking the same shot I have seen as it’s been done before. Usually when I am shooting, I will get in the zone depending on what’s going on and I just start to space out. I flow in the moment, look for captivating and alluring subjects and just start shooting. I love the randomness of getting out in nature because you never know what will captivate you at that time.
3) I love that you tell the stories behind some of your photos. Like you said in one of your blog posts, “everyone sees the photo, but no one sees the 15-mile hike to get there, and getting up at 4 a.m. to catch a sunrise”. Knowing what goes into a picture can help us to appreciate them even more. What inspired you to start telling the stories behind your photos?
I grew up a very shy and introverted kid. I still consider myself an ambivert although most of my friends will tell you otherwise. Haha! When I started blogging a few years ago I really opened up to the idea of sharing more of my personal life and the struggles that I went through. It’s honestly only in the past few years that I was comfortable enough to do that. Partially because of the years I spent in therapy, I started to see an enormous link between the interconnectivity of life, the ability to connect stories to our struggles, and the amount of people that it helped along the way.
4) Do you like being in front of the camera? I ask because, the majority of photographers that I know, don’t.
I have actually never been comfortable in front of a camera, or the spotlight for that matter. My sister is only 16 months younger than I am and I was the middle child so I always tried to shy away from the spotlight from the time I was born. However, over the past few years I have realized how much power and strength my stories and photography have for others so I have tried to develop my vulnerability on that front. I am not great on camera (I am terrible at times), but I know what I want to accomplish in life and I know that the only way to do that is to push through the discomfort of being in front of the lens.
5) You’re very open about your struggles with anxiety and depression, I applaud you for not hiding it. It can be such a taboo thing, even now, to admit that you’ve dealt with these issues in your life. And I really love the advice that your mom gave you, “pity party today, up tomorrow giving back”. It’s important to take a little time and process, but it’s also very important not to get stuck in that place. Who else has been an inspiration in your life?
My mom has truly been my angel in life, had it not been for her I would not be here on this earth anymore. My entire family has been instrumental in my life. My brother, sister, and dad have all played their part in helping to make me into the best human being I can possibly be. My Uncle Mike was probably the biggest influence once I came to Colorado as he really introduced me to the wilderness, along with my dad, and he had an impact on me that was larger than life. My aunt, uncle, and cousin that I grew up with had an enormous impact on my life, as did so many friends along the way. My girlfriend Lindsey pushes me every day to chase my dreams and challenges me in new ways. I’ve had more help from more people than I can ever mention but the only reason I have been able to have as much success as I have is because of the people in my life.
6) How has photography helped you to keep things in perspective when you go through rough patches in life?
Photography has helped me in a multitude of ways (really artistic endeavors in general). Most of my photographic adventures take place in the wilderness, which is my place to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life and connect back to nature. Nature has been my place to manage my stress and anxiety over the years and now that is interlinked with the purpose of bringing back the stories and photos of my adventures. Photography is a great place for me to zone out and think creatively and critically. The places I have to go to take my photos is usually tied into the deeper perspectives of photography and the healing qualities of it for me.
7) Are there people who have specifically helped you along your journey in photography?
I have been blessed with some of the greatest people in my life. My buddy Mike that originally got me into photography has been a God send. He’s been a brother to me since I was in junior high and he was the person that picked up the phone and told me to buy a camera. I tell him all the time that I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for him pushing me to pick up a camera. Mike is one of the most creative and best photographers I know and he is still my mentor in life and creativity. My other buddy Adam has also been a huge influence on positive and inspirational talks we’ve had surrounding life and photography. And my friend Terry that I met solely through Instagram has had a tremendous impact on my life and photography- his photos captivate me beyond words and he always challenges me to think outside the box when I am shooting. We are the sum of our experiences and I have been so fortunate to have the guidance and mentorship of some amazing photographers.
8) What spurs your desire to learn more and more about photography?
The desire to be the greatest at everything I do and make an impact in the world. I have loved learning and improving for as long as I can remember and I always have a fire burning to get better. Photography helps conceptualize the world in new ways for me so the harder I push myself the more I learn about the world and my role in it.
9) You talk a lot about giving back. Why do you think it’s so important for people to find ways to help others?
I have been extremely blessed in my life with struggles, opportunities, and friendships that I never knew were possible. I wouldn’t be where I am without the love of family, friends, and strangers. None of us get to where we are without some help along the way and I feel it’s the right thing to do when you’re striving. Other people struggle just the same as you did when you were on your way up and to give someone help when they need it only allows them to do the same when they are in a place to do the same for someone else. Helping others takes you out of your own world and shows you that you are part of a bigger picture. You are allowing others to pay it forward as well and there is no greater gift. I love people and I want the best for humans, so if there is a way to help others that’s what I try to do. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be, but in a lot of ways the sharing of my struggles with depression and anxiety are my ways to try to help someone every day, even if that’s just with a beautiful picture to remind them that things are going to be okay. There is nothing more gratifying than helping others.
10) In one of your posts you said, “Don’t live with analysis paralysis. Do it, get a baseline, and grow from there.” How do you keep yourself from getting stuck in the planning phase of things?
Well the funny thing is, people see others that are great at something and think they’ll never get there or it’s too intimidating to start. We all are terrible at new things, but the only way you get great is through hours upon hours of practice. I wish more people realized how much work is takes to truly get great at anything. One of the ways I push past this is I commit to things (probably too much at times) that will hold me accountable. I know it’s going to be painful and I will not be good at first but that’s okay, I commit anyway. If I’m scared of something then I’ll usually head toward it because at the very least I am going to learn what I am or am not good at and I will learn more about myself along the way.
11) Your photos have been in so many different places, that a lot of people wouldn’t think to put their artwork: tourism books, on real estate folders, and even on vodka bottles. I like that you think outside the box on where your photos can be used and seen. Were these opportunities that you searched for, contests that you entered, or how did you end up in these places?
The opportunities come from a plethora of places. I started selling professionally through Shutterstock within 3 months of picking up a camera. Stock photography has a polarizing reputation due to the royalty structure in the industry but I would say that it has been instrumental in my photography career. There are very stringent technical aspects that your photos must meet in order to sell through companies and most of these surround proper exposure, framing, and technical defects such as blown out highlights and dust spots. Had I not been exposed to this early on I don’t know that I would have developed technically as fast in photography.
A lot of the books have come from the stock photography, the real estate folder came from a relationship I developed through the stock photography, and the vodka bottles for Meridiem Spirits came from the relationship I had with my lab partner Alex from food science at CSU. I am constantly looking for new opportunities and new ways to show my art to the world. If I see a picture or art in any form I always imagine and dream of my shot being there. This is also the way I started getting into galleries last year as well. The Denver International Airport gallery came about because I was walking through the airport, saw the photos, and looked up their website to find a place to submit a proposal. I submitted a proposal at the end of 2018, got approved in 2019, and it will be up at some point in 2020.
12) Something very unique that you do with some of your photos is called “Digital Oil Painting”. I’ve never seen this technique before. How did you get started doing it?
I have a constant battle between the photography and painting world I live in. I honestly haven’t painted or drawn much the past few years due to my focus on photography. My friends that have known me the longest still push me to draw and paint because they loved it. I was messing around on photoshop one day and I found a way to stylistically adjust your photos. I played around with a few and shared them, which everyone loved. I have been developing some shirts with the photos and hope to have those out at some point this year.
13) You mentioned being a drone pilot in one of your posts…was it hard to get your license? I wasn’t even aware that this was necessary.
It was honestly a harder test than I thought it would be. It’s a great piece of knowledge for anyone flying a drone to have though. It can be very dangerous to fly with so many moving parts and it is a great foundation for even recreational flyers to have. It took about a week of studying but was well worth it. My license just expired and I’m still not sure whether or not I’m going to renew it just because my focus on my mirrorless has gone to new lengths.
14) And something non-photography related, but I’m curious…you grind coffee beans and make your own blends? How did you get started with doing this?
I was born into the beer industry, so I spent a lot of time in breweries as well as worked at Anheuser-Busch when I turned 21. I was so obsessed with the science side of production that I switched my major from Nutrition to Food Science when I realized how similar the metabolism of humans and yeast cells were. We had a great brewing program at Colorado State, and I went on to do my post grad in Brewing Science and Technology at UC Davis.
Back in February my girlfriend Lindsey and I went to New Zealand for two weeks and as I always do when I travel, I searched for great coffee. The majority of the coffee in New Zealand was either instant or “long black” – which was their version of a small amount of coffee that had been diluted with water and was so hot it burned your mouth most of the time. We had many a morning where I had coffee I was not enjoying before our hikes. I mentioned numerous times how I would love to roast so that I never had to vacation with coffee I don’t love again. When we made it to Wellington on the North Island during the second week, I finally had a cup of palatable coffee at a Cuban restaurant we really enjoyed. I decided to search the city for another good cup and found a place that implemented science behind their brewing. I had the first cup of siphon brewed coffee in my life, which made me see the link between coffee and science in an instant.
Truth be told I wanted to roast coffee for years. I always wanted to own a coffee roaster down the road because other than my love for beer, coffee is my favorite beverage. I didn’t think much more about it until we got home, and COVID-19 hit the U.S. hard. In a matter of a week, the gallery for the Denver International Airport (that I had just printed the large-scale photos for), all the festivals I just signed up for, and a couple other art projects all went on permanent hiatus or were cancelled entirely. I was depressed there for a while and didn’t feel normal for at least a couple of weeks.
Eventually I felt that need to create and produce again and my coworker and I started talking coffee. We ironically both got into it at the same time and it got me rejuvenated in another way. I started reading, researching, and looking into what it would take to roast at home. I bought my first roaster at the end of March, got my food safety certification for Colorado in April, and now I can sell to residents of Colorado via the Cottage Food act thanks to that certification.
To see more of Jeremy’s work, and hear the stories behind it, go to his website, www.jeremyjanusphotography.com, and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.
To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Jeremy, for taking the time to answer all of my questions, even the crazy ones, and for inspiring us all to be ourselves, to find what we love to do, and to help others along the way as much as we can!