Jon Lopez, Art Director

Jon Lopez, Art Director

We had the opportunity to catch up with our favorite photographer and art director. We discussed about his passion for education in and out of the classroom, his rise from the Lower East Side to the Olympics and how he never met a jump shot he didn't like. 

"I create images. I get satisfaction out of extracting uniqueness from the mundane, sharing my perspective on the already spectacular. I have been fortunate to have blended my passion for sports with my love for photography.  It is the challenge of photographing people, telling a whole story visually, that captivates me. 

My images have been published in Photo District News, Slam Magazine, Bounce Magazine, and Crossover Magazine among others. I shoot action, graphic, brand, and editorial images for corporate and editorial clients. 

When I am not on assignment, I coach youth basketball, actively seek creative inspiration, write, and find reasons to laugh. I enjoy being around sports whether I am shooting from the sidelines, coaching, or occasionally playing. In addition to my blog, some of my written work has been published in Slam Magazine, Bounce Magazine, and in annual reports, magazines, and other print collateral for various organizations. 

Each day I seek to create an image more powerful than the previous."

- Jon Lopez

Full Transcript

Jeff Henderson (0:00) 
Welcome, welcome welcome to another wonderful conversation we got some GEMS coming from our good friend Jon Lopez, photographer from New York City, Mr. Basketball, Mr. Everything. I want to bring him in and let him introduce himself. I will just say that I met Jon Lopez being a coach for a fancy school on the Upper East Side where I was kind of letting the kids run around. And I think he was making them run pro sprints when they like, hit the rim on a layup without using the glass. So Jon is very abusive to players. I'll say thatso I'm glad he got into the creative spirits. But, Jon, welcome to the conversation. How you doing today?

Jon Lopez (0:41
I'm doing fantastic, Jeff, thank you for having me. I believe the word you were looking for was meticulous and detail-oriented. Is better much how I like to you know, refer to my coaching style.

Jeff Henderson (0:53) 
I don't have that fancy liberal arts degree, so I can't speak like that.

Jon Lopez (0:59) 
Yes. My name is Jon Lopez. I am a New York City-based photographer and storyteller. I spend most of my time documenting basketball at all of these levels. I started on the playgrounds, and from there I navigated my way to the Rio Olympics and kind of everything in between.

Jeff Henderson (1:16) 
Now, Jon is often sort of like quick about that conversation unless you ask him to go into detail. What I do know is that Jon sort of taught himself to use a camera in some way after a couple classes and then went in, and then he commenced to tell me while we're coaching this basketball team, look, I just started shooting. And my goal is to shoot for the Olympics. And then I'm going to do NBA, and then I'm going to do X, Y, Z. And I didn't know anything about photography. And the reality is he did that all in like, I don't know, three months. Something like that? How did you pull it off, Jon?

Jon Lopez (1:47) 
It was definitely longer than three months, but you're right man, I think, you know, growing up, my greatest affinity was probably to the game of basketball. I was a late bloomer, so I was terrible. In terms of competing with my friends from the Boys Club in the neighborhood, but I really loved the game and I kind of grew into it. And you know, I spent all my free time in front of work on my jump shot so I can make a free throw and be the captain and not get picked last. And then notice I did say jump shot to work on my free throws. That's where I was at that point in my life. But yeah, I, I set a really big goal. You know, my life was all around basketball, basketball was the reason I took academic seriously, right. I saw a lot of super talented basketball players in my public school in New York City, fell off on the basketball team. And I knew from their example of what not to do that I wanted to make sure that if I was going to get cut, it wasn't going to be because of my grades. So I start taking my grades more seriously. But really, the carrot the whole time was the game of basketball. And then, you know, I learned to set really big goals over time and I knew that that was how I could kind of set some smaller milestones and let me know that I was reaching those goals and getting on my way to that. So I guess the short version of it is, after a few years after college, you know, before I met you, Jeff, I started writing for Bounce Magazine. And it's a great actual genesis story to that, so I'll take my first tangent of this conversation now.

Jeff Henderson (2:08) 

Jon Lopez (2:24) 
My first job at a college was working at the Boys Club of New York. It's always been important to me to give back to my community, and I felt like the best way I could do that was by returning to the organization that I've been a part of since I was six years young. So while I'm at the Boys Club, naturally I found any possible way to set up some basketball bonds and things like that. And a good friend of mine, Manny Maldonalo, he was also a colleague and also a fellow Lower East Side-bred brother. He started what he called the For the Love Run was a kind of like a golf in the neighborhood type of thing where we had industry guys come to the Boys Club on Thursday nights after they closed on the Lower Eastside and we would play basketball and just kind of networked and introduced these guys to the facility and meet some of the staff and kind of understand what our programs are about. And of course I took it upon myself to talk some trash. So on Friday mornings I would send an email out to everybody who's on In This Run and you know, In This Run like, guys remember, like the NRF the Nike recreation, I don't know what NRF stands for. There was a Nike, influencer lead basically that preceded Terminal 23. Anyway, those kind of people would come to the run so you had like Tim Petta Gittens coming in there are some good plays, good run, you know, whatever. So anyway, these execs were there, and I would write these emails talking trash on Friday mornings, and it became kind of popular, guys like hit me up like six in the morning like, Yo, man, don't forget you shot an airball too. You wanna talk about my airballsmake sure you mention how bad you played too.

Jeff Henderson (4:53) 
Now was it like your standard like long like 40,000 word emails that you send now?

Jon Lopez (5:01) 
Exactly and they loved them [Laughter]. 

Jeff Henderson (5:04) 
All trash talk, all trash talk.

Jon Lopez (5:06) 
So, taking a hint, so what that did was what I didn't know was about Bobbito Garcia, who was a regular attendee of the run. He was the editor in chief of Bounce Magazine at the time, and I had no idea. So he took a liking to my writing in those emails. And he asked me if I would be interested in writing for the magazine. So I graciously said yes, and accepted. And I started going to all the tournament's around the city. You know, from Rucker Park to Diekman to Hoops in the Sun to Gersh Park, Tri-State Classic, all them. West Fouth to anywhere where there were referees and a hoop, I was over there trying to document what was going on in the playgrounds, for the world to see. And so what I started to notice, this was probably, you know, 2007 you know, maybe even 2006, during that time. What I started to notice was that a lot of these courts, you know, these tournaments featured really great players. And it was hundreds of fans at some of the games, sometimes over 1000 fans in some of these parts, you know, on the playgrounds, but there were not a lot of photographers and not a lot of cameras there. So I'm writing my taking my notes and turn it over to the players after the game and see what's going on. And I realized when I was writing my blog for the magazine that I didn't really have a lot of photos to go with it. So I started bringing my camera with me, just so I could have some more content to go along with my writing. And then from there, you know, I guess we could go in as much detail as you want from there. But from there, I kind of spent, you know, countless hours you know Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers said it takes 10,000 hours to be truly great at anything and I almost certainly spent at least 10,000 hours on the playground, sharpening my skills and taking you know, hundreds if not thousands of terrible photos as I learned how to you know, really work a digital camera and understanding you know, the technical aspects of it, the exposure triangle and freeze in action, understanding lighting and all those kinds of things.

Jeff Henderson (6:58) 
Were you this way about basketball the way you are about photography?

Jon Lopez (7:05) 
In terms of my drive and my work ethic, yes, I was, I was always the first person in the gym and the last to leave. I used to put up shots before I went to school in the morning. And part of that was because I was so far behind all my friends, like, the gap between you know, the talent and minds was huge, because I didn't start playing till I was about 13 or 14. So that already put me like six years behind all my boys. So it's pretty embarrassing. And that was a, you know, a motivating factor for me to try to, you know, beat all of them first of all, and just, you know, achieve a certain level of progress. Anyway, that led to me joining the Boy's Club Academic All-Star team, which led to me going away to a prep school, which helped me kind of take academics even more seriously when I realized that, you know, I was not nearly as strong of a student as I thought I was

Jeff Henderson (7:54) 

Jon Lopez (7:54) 
going into that and then you know, from there, I was able to matriculate into, you know, a top liberal arts college at Colgate University. And again, I learned how to learn there. And I think ended up playing a really big role you know, in practicing deliberately, and, you know, intentionally making all my decisions. So that reminds me going back to my original point to answer the original question.

Jeff Henderson (8:18) 

Jon Lopez (8:18) 
I set these really big goals, right. And so you know, I've since become a nerd, I was very much a jock all throughout my high school years, but then I made a switch to become a nerd, as I read him when I read Jim Collins book, Good to Great. And that really left an impact on me. And one of the things, one of the many gems that were listed in there was that you have to set a big, hairy, audacious goal, to push yourself to get toward. Just thinking about that, that's how I came up with the idea that if I was going to, you know, take on photography, I want to take it seriously. I didn't want to just like be some guy with a camera who just took snapshots I wanted to actually, you know, be as good as the guys in the NBA. And part of my motivation for that was also to provide that level of professionalism and exposure to my communities. You know, it was bad enough that I didn't see, you know, some of the legendary photographers on the go to roaming the sidelines of Gersh Park in East New York, right or up in Dykeman, you know, near the projects and all that I can go on. So I wanted to bring that level of professionalism and quality to the playgrounds and to my communities, you know Black and brown people whose game was, you know, fantastic. In fact, most of those guys ended up going pro somewhere. So, anyway, I set this big goal, and I said, alright well, I want to be the greatest basketball photographer in the world. And I started thinking, Well, what the hell is that? Like? How's that even defined? You know, obviously, it's not really a thing. But the point was, I wanted to set this big goal that I would never achieve. Because I wanted to actively pursue learning, you know, for as long as I could. And so I thought, Okay, well, let me break down the resume of what that would be, in my opinion. So I thought, Okay, well, that person needs to shoot the Olympics that they will be invited to the embassy because of their skills behind the lens.

I was like, alright well, I got zero contacts to get me there. So, okay, the next level will probably be the NBA, right? Some of the best photographers are shooting the best athletes, the best athletes are in the NBA. So it would be great if I could get tere. Got no contacts to get into the league. So, all right, what else can I do? Can I break it down? I go all the way down. I got NCAA, elite level high school, and I had no contacts to get me to enter those places. So what I did have was access to the playground. I grew up playing on these playgrounds, I know a lot of my friends continue to play it, you know, Rucker Park and all this. So that was what I had access to. And I wanted to just, you know, use that as an opportunity to learn and all the commissioners, you know, the mayor from Kenny Stevens, to Massi Corella to the Cruz brothers. They all showed me a ton of love and gave me you know, unprecedented access to the parks into their leaves where I was able to really sharpen my skills.

Jeff Henderson (10:54) 
For those people who don't know Jon Lopez the way I know Jon Lopez, he's incredibly humble about Oh, I just kind of picked up some things like, I'm curious as to, when you say bring that level of like professionalism and quality to like the playgrounds, parks in New York City, playground basketball, you learned some incredibly detailed scientific super nerd photography s—t, like, without question. Where did you get that information was it just floating around the internet and you put it together or what pulled you into that? What brought it all together?

Jon Lopez (11:34) 
So, again, I was, you know, I grew up with very humble means a single parent household, you know, my family was on welfare and my mom made $600 a month. You know, I have two younger siblings who were probably bigger than me, it was basically three fat kids, you know, on a $600 a month salary. So, I was always kind of crafty and thinking about what I had access to and what I didn't have access to and I was always aware of my financial situation. So, having access to things that were right in front of me was the most important thing. So that includes the internet, free Youtube videos, seeing articles online, magazines, I was devouring any information I could find about photography and I was thinking, Okay, well how do I want this thing to live? I would look at an image in Slam Magazine, or Sports Illustrated and say, man, I want to, how can I make you know, Rucker Park look like this, I can make Gauchos look like this? And so I started just looking up who those photographers are and trying to like do some reverse engineering to figure out like, I do they learn, and most of them were traditionally trained, and went to like, you know, art schools where they studied photography. And obviously I was past that point, I already had my degree and, you know, to go back to school would have cost a lot of money and would've been a bit of a challenge for me. So I just take everything that was free and then from there, I moved on. So I'm noticing that a lot of the camera stores actually hosted free educational workshops and seminars and speakers. So I was going to, you know, first of all, obviously, again, I'm based in New York City, my opinion the greatest city in the world and so we have access to these kind of things. So I'm going to Adorama whenever they have, you know, a photographer, speaking about lighting, and whatever, they have, you know skills they're sharing, I want a photo cam I'm going to B&H Photo. I'm going to their websites to watch the recordings of the speakers I had already missed before I learned about these opportunities. And then I learned about the Photo Plus Expo and you know, back in the day again, like money was tight. So the Photo Plus Expo you have to pay to get in, I forget what it was, but for me, whatever that number was, it was too much. So I used to sneak in just just to learn and I was looking back I'm like, man, like I was such a jock when I was a kid. Like, I wanted no parts of classes and school. And here I was trying to sneak in and to learn some stuff. So you know, there's plenty of resources out there.

Jeff Henderson (14:01) 
I think the craziest part is like all of us at some points send Jon, all of his friends send Jon Lopez a photo like, oh, what do you think of this, and Jon lists off 30 things we could have done better and how we can improve our photo of random shot of dude crossing the street, like, Jon has like so much information, you have no idea what to do with it. So the fact that you get all of the, I would get that, on the fundamental side of taking photos, everything from I'm just gonna make up some stuff. You can yell at me later from your F stop to your lens aperture and blah, blah, blah, and all the things you tell me to fix in post, all those things that kind of are on the internet. One of the things that you can't really get on the internet is creativity. You don't lacking creativity either. How do you go about adding that to your skill set?

Jon Lopez (14:52) 
Man, I think, you know, people say that the difference between pros and amateurs is that pros do the work on the days they don't want to while an amateur might only do it on the weekends or whenever it suits their schedule. So even when you're feeling a lack of creativity, you feel like you have some type of creative block, it's really important to try to push through that and create something anyway, even if it's terrible. And believe me, I'm one of the best at creating terrible things. So I've never really like, I stopped feeling bad and caring about what other people thought about my work. And obviously, I'm only showing, you know, the best photo I was coming up with after spending four days at the same park. But, you know, it takes that time that industriousness and that work ethic to really sharpen those skills and really understand and break down like,okay, this thing isn't coming out the way I want, but why not? You know, what can I do better? How can I improve this? How can I think about these things differently and to push myself? What I would do is after a while, you know, again, I spent well over $10,000 on playgrounds, just photographing all these games, so how many great dunks can I get, you know, from the same position and how many, you know, great moments on the court can I catch as I started giving myself little tasks. And I would say, tonight, I want to try to get a really definitive defensive photo, or tonight I want to try to get people diving on the floor on the ground for a loose ball, I want to kind of capture the intensity of the game. So armed with, you know, a simple challenge for myself there, I would go out there and that's the kind of thing that I would just focus on for the entire night, obviously other things too, but I would really hone in on this one particular skill or really a moment of the game that I was trying to get. And I think that really helped boost my creativity and it helped me to see the game differently. You know, photography is all about my vision, and seeing things and so like I see the game, even when I, since the playground you know, I have been fortunate that I've been able to shoot you know NCAA games and you know, I've done documented the New York Knicks for a season. I shot many international competitions World Cups in Spain and China, the Olympics in Rio. I still see the game a certain way. You know, I'm always looking at the game like man, how could I make the photos of like my friends playing at two o'clock in the morning at PS134 on the Lower East Side and make them look great, you know? So I think just kind of having that attitude and mindset always looking for something different different angles, breaking down other people's photos, trying to figure out how I can get better. It's kind of like an athlete watching film. And really breaking down and reverse engineering how they could have done better and how they will do better the next time.

Jeff Henderson (17:39) 
That sounds really good Jon Lopez, but can you tell me about when you would test out the first, what are those things called...drones? How'd that go for you?

Jon Lopez (17:51) 
[Laughter] It went poorly. I smashed I was so eager to learn how to use this thing. I did. skipped all the warnings that said, apply for your warrenties...

Jeff Henderson (18:05) 
This is the education, this is the education. {Laughter]

Jon Lopez (18:08) 
Listen man, I pride myself on maintaining my 12 year old imagination and sometimes my maturity also stays there so

Jeff Henderson (18:16) 
Where did that get you?

Jon Lopez (18:17) 
Yeah, exactly. I really wanted, I was so eager to use my drone and like the first thing I did, I was in Spain. It was like fresh out the box and I'm like, Man, I'm not gonna follow any of these rules, this thing could hover, it's smart. I'm gonna just fly it right here on this balcony of my hotel. And then I thought I was going forward, but I was going backwards. Smashed it right into a walll. And it taught me patience. Reading the instruction manual. But you know, I mean, that's just one of again, like, I have no shame in my game. Like I have so many failures, and I've been able to learn from every single one. So that's a great point.

Jeff Henderson (18:55) 
No, I think that's a most people get like the professional super polished Jon Lopez and then we get the random text of "look what I broke and I don't know how to put it together from Spain. Thank you very much." But it's also legendary for one of your friends who told you I'm going to shoot at the Olympics. And then you're watching the game of Brazil and there's one person on the baseline, taking pictures, why were you the only person on the baseline taking pictures?

Jon Lopez (19:21) 
Well, again, same thing that kind of goes from my, my basketball playing days, I'm the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. So I'm always trying to find different angles too, right. So I'm trying to find if all the photographers are on one side, I want to try to get a different angle. And actually, that reminds me in the 2014 Basketball World Cup in Spain. The championship game was held in Madrid, and it was Team USA versus Serbia. And I remember at that time, Bobby Shmurda's music was poppin. And then USA wins the game and I see like there's a pool of photographers and they're all like practically armwrestling for positions for incentives to get that team photo with the trophy and you know all the confetti behind them and I saw them all moving there and I said you know what, there's going to be you know 10,000 photos from that position let me just stay right here where I was on the corner of the baseline one of my favorite seats on any baseline and I just stood up and I'm watching and then they started busting out doing the Shmoney dance. So I'm taking photos from that angle and I was the only camera there. Another example is just last year in China for the 2019 Basketball World Cup. Argentina had won this incredible game and everybody counted them out and they're led by Luis Scola, who is you know, he probably could have had one of his sons playing on some of these teams he's getting so old at this point but you know, his love and joy for the game is so beautiful and after the game you know, Manu Ginóbili was kind of sitting courtside at some island. Next to the late great Kobe Bryant at the time. I must say R.I.P. to him. But, so a lot of the Argentinian players are coming over to great Manu, which was great. And then I noticed that Louis Scola went a completely different direction. So I follow him with my eye and followed where he was going, he was going towards the stands where the fans were. And I'm just watching him on his way to see you know what's about to happen. And sure enough, his two sons and his wife emerge, and he gives her a big kiss and all embracing and you know, all the photographers are focused on you know, Manu Ginóbili and you know, whatever's going on postgame. So, another beautiful moment, and it's really that kind of thing is really about paying attention, being alert, and you know, not removing yourself from that moment. I like also another book I recommend in my nerdiness is the Mindful Athlete by George Mumford. It's an amazing book and it talks about really being present in the moment. And I think that photography is all about that. Once you put your camera down is when like that great moment is live when it happens.

Jeff Henderson (22:08) 
I think what's amazing about what you bring to your craft is that there's always these conversations about whether someone's like they have the skills to pull something off. And then there's the well, you know, I played so I know more than you. I think the idea that you're both, you took the time to study the specific craft of photography to the point, you can argue with like the big heads of creativity and how you put together your artwork. I think that takes you to a level that people who just show up to the park and point and shoot, don't have, but you also play and can feel the conversations around what's important in the gym, and sometimes it's not the celebrity in the gym. Sometimes it's not the head coach, sometimes it's not the most important player, sometimes it's something that is meaningful to the culture of basketball. And I think your use of I mean, you talk about starting with Bobbito. But that's kind of a conversation that you never left. You still work with what he's doing to this day. And I think that speaks volumes around that you care about the culture. But I think it's also the reason they choose you is because your skill set is sort of pretty phenomenal. So I won't say too much more about that, because I will have to like play basketball with you at some point in time. And I don't want you to take that I'm not laughing at your jump shot when you pull up with 30 feet and called bottom when it's an air ball, so we'll keep it reality.

Jon Lopez (23:37) 

Jeff Henderson (23:37) 
Now, though, I want to make sure we ask like, for the young folks who may be listening about what you've done in your journey, I think you talked a lot about like the nerd of you: what you're questioning, what you're reading, what you're doing. What else can young folks who have like the opportunity out there now want to do what you do or anything creative, what should they be focused on at this moment?

Jon Lopez (24:02) 
That's a fantastic question and before I answer I just want to say I have pulled up with confidence with some of the most beautiful 25 footers you've ever seen from 30 feet away.

Jeff Henderson (24:12) 

Jon Lopez (24:13) 
And I don't regret any of them, I never seen a shot I didn't like.

Jeff Henderson (24:17) 
It looked good leaving your hand, it looked god leaving your hand.

Jon Lopez (24:19) 
Exactly, exactly and you know about my same passion enthusiasm from creating my shots on the court exists off the court and that's how that's how we're having this conversation right now. So I appreciate you bringing up my air balls and I am not ashamed and have plenty more of them so thank you.

Jeff Henderson (24:35) 
It's all part of the game, it's all part of the game. Next! Next! [Laughter]

Jon Lopez (24:38) 
So for the young people today pursuing a career in photography, I mean there's so many ways to go. First of all, just because I'm personally not traditionally trained, I do recommend that if you know they're that young, you know, do take courses in school. I did take one introductory Black and White Film photography course when I was in high school, and while I was absolutely awful at photography specifically at that time, it kind of gave me the love for photography and you know, being in a dark room and understanding, you know, the meticulousness in a detail oriented nature I needed to develop, to literally development photos without ruining you know, the amount of time sitting in this chemical and when you're taking out putting the next chemical, all of those technical aspects really reminded me of the sanctuary for me that has always been the basketball court. So I definitely strongly recommend if it's a possibility for you to go ahead and be traditionally trained and you know, try to learn from the pros and however you can. Speaking of that, another thing is, you know, find mentors. Not every mentor needs to know they're your mentor on the one hand, you know, I like to—

Jeff Henderson (24:45) 
Oo that's big.

Jon Lopez (25:55) 
I like to say that I'm pretty good at responding to my DMs and everything. And I do try to engage in every conversation that comes my way. But the reality is, I can't keep up with every single one. And you know, I have many mentors who have no idea that they mentored me, I'm just kind of studying their movements, trying to understand the big moves they made as well as the subtle ones, trying to study their work. And again, reverse engineer some of the work that I admire the most and see how I might add my own twist to that or how I might recreate it first and then add my own twist to it. So you know, mentorship is important. The industriousness that I mentioned before was really important. There's so much free information out there. Not everything that's free means that is good. Just because it's available doesn't mean it's going to work for you. But the truth is, there's plenty of information out there. So if you want to learn how to set up a remote camera, there's information out there for that. If you want to learn how to do a one light setup or to get light off of your camera, focus on off camera flash, there's there's tutorials out there that can get you close. Maybe it doesn't get you to 100% of your unique idea. But maybe you can apply that and that's going to get you you know, 60, 70 80% of the way there and the last 20% that's where your creativity comes into play. Now it's like, how can I tinker around with this idea? Maybe move this light or change this setting in order to get a unique result that I'm proud of. So you know, similar to me, as I said, like, all the camera stores across the country. You know, Sammy's, they're based across the country, I think particularly in the Midwest. I think Robert Photo Lab like all these photography stores, camera stores across the country and around the world, most of them will host speakers and a lot of times will record those speakers if you can't physically be there. Check out their archives and see what's available from there because you're going to get some real gems from really accomplished photographers and storytellers, videographers and cinematographers and directors, you know, whatever lane you want to go with your storytelling. That information is out there. And then it's about applying it. So now, you know, there comes this time where you have to strike a balance between learning and doing. And I think it's really important to, to find that right balance. I think in the early times if you're a young person figuring this out maybe that ratio is like, you know, four parts learning one part doing and then you can start to get a little bit better and learn more things, and becomes maybe a three-part learning, two-part doing and then eventually you start doing more than you're learning.

And now you're really just tinkering with different ideas and concepts and failing and know that you'll be forever learning. I think, perhaps my favorite thing about being a photographer is that I'll never know all of the tricks, tips and secrets of photography and understanding cameras. And that's even if cameras weren't evolving every single year, you know, the technology itself is evolving with us all. But even if it wasn't, I still have a ton to learn about film photography from its inception. So, you know, that really excites me and it keeps me going and so that's why I set a big hairy audacious goal, like being the greatest basketball photographer in the world because I know I'll never be that person. And that inspires me to constantly work toward that goal. So obviously, take advantage of everything you have access to, find a mentor, you know, if that mentor doesn't have time for you, they can still be your mentor, they just don't have to know it. You just pick up from them wherever you can, based on the things that they put on their blogs and other podcasts, interviews, things like that like, there's ways to kind of get the information from the people you admire. And if you know if it's an option for you go the traditional route and go to school.

Jeff Henderson (29:31) 
Yeah, I think that's sort of like a big thing you brought up of a combination of finding mentors, but also go find everything they've written, everything they've done, and then try it yourself. Because I think there's a certain point, I mean, you just talked about it like I don't catch every DM, I don't catch every email. I don't catch every conversation or question someone asks even in person. And I think some of it becomes like if you're really going to only catch 20 minutes with somebody or three seconds with somebody who you really want information from show up having already learned everything they've already put out, because then it raises the level of your question as opposing, as opposed to asking something that they may already have said in the podcast that you could have listened to before you got there. Don't assume that all your questions and interests are original. Somebody's probably had that question before. And if someone can answer it in the podcast, and then you walk up with real questions, those mentors are like, yo, like, you've already absorbed everything that I think I've taught now you got new questions, like, let's have a conversation because I know you've already stepped up to those things. And I think the idea about doing I think that's probably a big deal because a lot of people ask questions, but actually getting their hands dirty and making mistakes and destroying drones in their fancy hotel room in Spain. I mean, somebody's got to do it right? You're on the clock while you were doing that, so that's cool. Way to blow that, way to shoot that brick, way to shoot that brick, Jon Lopez.

Jon Lopez (31:01) 
[Laughter] I graduated, [inaudible] I'm obviously getting a step closer to my greatness, you're proving my point there. You bring up a great point, man, I think, you know, it's kind of like if I get to sit in a room with Gordon Parks, you know, again, the late great legendary photographer for Time and you know the original writer of Shaft and all this, like if I had, you know, 15 minutes to chop it up with Gordon Parks, I don't want to ask him the kind of question and I could just as easily Google in five seconds.

Jeff Henderson (31:33) 

Jon Lopez (31:33) 
I want to dig a little bit deeper and really try to maximize my time with this with this person whose work, I truly admire, so that's a really great point there Jeff.

Jeff Henderson (31:42) 
No doubt. So given that you told us how your amazing career has been going and that you told the youth out there how they should focus. What would you go back and tell a younger Jon Lopez, at any point in his career that was sort of like give him that boost, that energy that he needs to get to where he wants to. What would you go back and like, push to young Jon?

Jon Lopez (32:07) 
Man that's deep I think that—

Jeff Henderson (32:09) 
We ask deep questions here, Jon.

Jon Lopez (32:12) 
[Laughter] I see that.

Jeff Henderson (32:13) 
From 30 feet from 30 feet. [Laughter]

Jon Lopez (32:19) 
I'll try my best not to shoot a 25 footer from longer than 30 feet man. I think you know, one of the things I would tell my young self is avoid GAS, and GAS is an acronym for gear acquisition syndrome. I think that a lot of times in these technological kind of fields, we tend to get caught up in thinking that it's the gear and not the person using the gear. So many people for example, one of those questions you could Google instead of using my time to ask me is what camera should you use?

Jeff Henderson (32:49) 
Wait a minute. Are you saying that because I just asked you that?

Jon Lopez (32:51) 
[Laughter] No, no, I am not bringing that up.

Jeff Henderson (32:56) 
That text is fresh in my phone so I feel like—

Jon Lopez (33:03) 
I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm always happy. I'm a nerd and I'm happy to talk about technology. And there's always new cameras coming out that are exciting and worth talking about. But, you know, hopefully, you know, you understand that it's not the camera that makes the image, right, whether it's a movie or have a still image or music video or promotional video. It's never the camera like people get so caught up and in like oh, man, did you see that new $60,000 camera that came out? Yeah, no question that camera can do some things that the $200 camera probably can't do. But if the vision is terrible, then you know, there's no difference and maybe you could do just as well with the, with the cameras in your pocket all the time, you know, even if it's a flip phone, you know, like so, I would say to my younger self, like don't get so caught up in the gear, just do the best you can with what you have. Because the fact is you probably have the tools necessary to create something that's truly unique and that sends a message and, you know, to be fair, in sports photography, you know, that's almost hypocritical like sports photography is a certain level, you know, of equipment that is necessary right like you, you probably need a telephoto lens you might need more than one camera body you might want a fast camera that's capable of focusing fast and autofocus. You know, some of those things are definitely helpful. But I don't want to discourage anyone who you know might have, you know, financial hurdles to overcome and think that because they can't afford the seven or $10,000 camera and suddenly that means they can't be a great creative artists and you know its really the concepts that are important and the ideas that are important and then after that then creating it is just like the icing on the cake.

Jeff Henderson (34:40) 
And for all you non-photographic videography, professionals out there who need someone like Jon Lopez, find you the young version of Jon Lopez and give him opportunities to practice. Give her the opportunity to do work for you when they don't know what they're doing because they practice on your stuff and it's fire and they're like, "Ah, it's not good." But then after a while, they get really good. And then they're like, "here's my invoice" and "you're like, nah, we're good. Nah, no thank you." But Jon definitely earned his way to that level. So you know, I can't be mad that now I have to go shoot my own like graduation pictures and whatnot. But always always love the work that Jon puts forward. So thank you, Jon, for blessing us with these conversation gems as always. We'll talk more about the Knicks once they become relevant. Oh, I'm sorry.

Jon Lopez (35:31) 
Ouch, ouch.

Jeff Henderson (35:34) 
That'll be the next podcast there's a whole nother conversation.

Jon Lopez (35:37) 
Well let's let the NBA season get back before you start throwing slander towards any franchises please.

Jeff Henderson (35:41) 
Eh, I think we decided to trash even though the games haven't started. I think we're okay. [Laughter] We can pre-trash talk. There doesn't even need to be a schedule out. We can still talk trash.

Jon Lopez (35:54) 
It's so hard to defend my beloved team.

Jeff Henderson (35:58) 
Well, you know, you know before from Ohio, I got Cleveland. So we got a chip. So we gone ride that for a while now until we can birth another great top five athlete of the planet.

Jon Lopez (36:09)
I'll tell you what, we got two of them over here in New York. So, don't worry about it. 


Jeff Henderson (36:13)
Oh, [Inaudible] the original orange?

Jon Lopez (36:17)
Seventies count, 70s was a great era.

Jeff Henderson (36:22)
One is in my building so we're good. [Laughter] On that note, appreciate you Jon—

Jon Lopez (36:29) 
I just want to say thank you for having me. Anyone who's interested in following me you could see my work on Instagram @JonLopez13. You can visit my website—

Jeff Henderson (36:40) 
Savvy veteran people, that's a savvy veteran. Say it again.

Jon Lopez (36:43) 
You can follow me on Instagram @JonLopez13. And you can visit my website at

Jeff Henderson (36:55) 
Good stuff, good stuff. Appreciate you, Jon.

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