Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul peeks behind the lens of photography blogger (and fellow Texan) Jamie of FromMe-ToYou.tumblr.com
Howdy, and welcome to launch of this occasional series I’m calling “Peek-A- Blog.”
First, a little background. My Texas roots run deep, and I’ve learned you never know where they might surface under the Big Apple tree. Case in point: a little over a week ago, Chef sent me a link to a photography blog called From Me To You, excited that it featured pictures of some chili based made from a recipe he distributed at Whole Foods on the Upper West Side. Frankly, I wasn’t too enthusiastic—how great can some beans and beef look? But Chef seemed excited, so I thought I should try and be supportive.
When I clicked the link, I was blown away.
The beautifully saturated and styled photo shoot was not the work of a Julie Powell home cook wannabe. It was the highly artistic endeavor of a talented photographer.
As I tooled around the captivating site, I discovered it was the work of a fellow Texan, and that meant one thing—we simply had to meet.
A few days earlier at lunch, my friend Adrianna who writes the hilarious dating blog Techromance had encouraged me to reach out to fellow bloggers that I admire, interview them about their path and development. As a journalist, I liked the sound of that—a way to keep my interview skills fresh. But I didn’t know where to begin, until I tumblr-d upon FromMeToYou—a fellow ex-pat Texan is just what the blogger ordered. A few emails later and we were bonded like sorority sisters with a date to dish over margaritas at our favorite Lone Star spot in NYC—Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Enjoy the peek!
JPB: The weather was so gross today that I couldn’t risk ruining my cowboy boots. Jamie: That’s fine. Look at these! My mom got them for me. She called one day from Texas and said, “I’m in Dillard’s and these boots are 50% off with an extra 25% off. They are NEW. YORK. BOOTS!”
Macy’s just can’t compete with a good Dillard’s sale, right? Makes me kind of home sick. All right, I’m having the Chicken Fried Steak Fingers basket because that was my Grandma Tommie’s favorite thing to order at Dairy Queen. How about you? The Cornmeal Fried Catfish Fingers. And a frozen margarita, naturally.
How’d you wind up in New York? Were you like me and wanted to move here since you were a kid? I dreamed of working at Vogue. Honestly, I would lie in my bed just dreaming of working at Vogue—picture myself walking down the hallways. I don’t know why because my mother wouldn’t buy any Vogues. But I just saw myself working there. I was in love with fashion photography. The first time I was in New York was when I was 14, and I remember thinking, “I want my pictures up on those billboards!”
Were your parents supportive of your decision to live in Manhattan after studying photography at FIT? They wanted me to move home. They’d call and say things like, “Why don’t you come back and shoot weddings?” They didn’t get what I was doing. With the blog, though, they really are starting to understand.
Do you find that your blog has developed and changed over time? When I started it last May, I used to post just a single image. But then I decided I want to do longer postings. I wanted to wake up and do whatever I was into or obsessing about. And it just seemed like people really started connecting with my work. My best traffic is usually Tuesday through Thursday—I guess people are bored at work.
You get a lot of reader responses. Do you enjoy those? The comments are the best part! They are so motivating. Sometimes I get “your picture reminds me of childhood,” or “your photographs made me so nostalgic.” One of my favorite comments is “you’ve inspired me to try photography again.” I also answer tons of camera questions. What kind of film. What kind of exposure. I really try to respond to each one.
That’s a lot of work! It is. You know that blogging can take a lot of work. I spend about 30% of my day working on that day’s blog post. 50% emailing back and forth either comments or questions. And the rest of the time marketing my blog in different ways. I twitter a lot to specific markets. That’s how we connected. I twittered about my photos from a Whole Foods recipe, and then the company sent along the link to others. Before I go to bed, I obsess over Google analytics. New York and California are my biggest states, then Texas, I think because of my family. Right now, I want more readers in Paris! I’m obsessed with Paris.
Reading your blog, I realize that unlike me, you don’t expose much of your personal life. For a very good reason. I would like people to focus on my personal work, not my personal life. My work is up for discussion, not my life. But my work is very personal, it reveals a lot about my passion and obsessions and my life.
How do you come up with the categories on your blog? They all come out of my own life. “Dinner and a Movie” developed from what was really date night. I was trying to save money, and cook at home, and watch movies, and at the same time I was interested in photographing food. So I just decided to marry the two together. Based upon that, I started reaching out to food stylists and chefs and really working on food photography.
Any new additions coming up? Well, a new feature called “Flavor of the Month” comes out of my obsessions. Sometimes I get obsessed with something for a while—like grapefruits—and I crave them and eat them everyday. Then I wake up one day and it’s passed, and I’m on to the next thing. I thought documenting that would be a great ongoing feature. Because I only do original content, I was having a hard time finding a way to tell people about all the amazing blogs I am obsessed with. But if I have a regular feature about my obsessions—I can take those things, photograph them, and make them mine. That’s what I’m going to do with your book.
Will you promise to make me look as good as those grapefruits you shot? I’m going to surprise you with a real Texas twist.
Anything you miss about Texas? The Mexican food, of course. I will eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner when I’m home. And I really miss the thrift stores and antique stores. I’ve gotten some bargains that are so amazing that I won’t tell people where the stores are. I’m talking a full-length fur coat for $10!
You would fit right in at Vogue. Will you wear it to our next lunch? No, but maybe to your book launch party!