Spotlight on: Photographer Jimmy Steinfeldt

Focus: 
Life Behind the Camera 
Photographer Jimmy Steinfeldt
Gaya Lynn
 
 
The start of photographer Jimmy Steinfeldt’s illustrious career began in a rather  inconspicuous way, at a McDonalds in Minnesota.  Straight out of college, Jimmy was hired to take photos for a hair magazine. Hearing that a group of punk-rock kids hung out at the golden arches, Jimmy took his $100 Minolta camera and snapped some black and white photos.  Without any training except for a keen eye, Jimmy sent his photos to the magazine and they were soon published. 
 
It was the first time Jimmy saw his name in print and he was thrilled. A modest and somewhat ordinary start (Mohawks are always cool though) by any means. There were no major rock stars, no top-notch, digital camera or glamorous backdrop. Instead, it began with a young man on an assignment. Of course, little did he know that one assignment would lead to many more until one day, he would end up photographing some of the biggest names in the music industry. 
 
From that haircut magazine to the creme della creme-Rolling Stone Magazine, Jimmy eventually became one of the foremost photographers in the world. His rise to the top seemed almost a straight shoot, without any of the drama and ups and downs that often plague artists’ and musicians’ lives. Instead, his life journey was a graceful voyage, filled with opportune moments Jimmy grabbed with both hands. In fact, a great deal of his life can be summed up in three words: “Then one day.” Then one day, I got a chance to photograph Stevie Nicks, then one day, I ended up in Rolling Stone Magazine, then one day…..” The Then…signifying those pivotal moments in his life. 
 
How did he become so successful? 
 
In the case of Steinfeldt, it seemed to have been a mixture of natural inborn talent, professionalism and being at the right place at the right time. But if you think it was all luck, then you are wrong. It took years of hard work, a sharp eye, and business skills. And then there was the undying persistence- Jimmy’s ability to ask, ask and then ask again definitely made a difference. Instead of letting the winds blow what may, he was proactive and learned just as a seasoned salesperson to always ask whether it be for an autograph or taking Prince’s photo. 
 
His fabulous career began not with a bang but with a whisper. Right out college, he wanted to record his travels and use his 100 dollar Minolta. But what began as a way to take some pics on a trip has turned out into an amazing career with a clientele that reads like a whos who in rock history: Madonna, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Sting, Johnny Cash…..The list goes on and on. 
 
While many of us have the ability to whip out our IPHONES and snap a photo, the results are however, quite different. Jimmy Steinfeldt’s photos are like no other. It is as if he intuitively understands the soul of the musician. Musicians are, I believe, a different breed. They are passionate, creative beings and his ability to capture their essence is what makes his photos so unique. 
 
They are just not just images; instead they are moments captured on print when the photographer and the artist connect.. His photographs seem to be in motion. If you look closely, you can hear the music, you feel the beat. 
 
Today, Jimmy continues to work as a photographer, and remains highly in-demand. He also recently published a book called, “Rock-N-Roll Lens.”  which chronicles Jimmy’s career. Not only does he include the photographs of musicians but he also accompanies each photo with a charming backstory. The stories are as unique and special as the photos. 
 
Prince by Jimmy Steinfeldt 

Along with his own career, Jimmy has dedicated much of his time to helping others. He works with the “Make-A-Wish” charity, and photographs the children and their families who are granted their wish. Further, a portion of the sales from the book goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 

 
I was at home when I received Jimmy Steinfeldt’s call. I had left him a message and a few hours later, my cell rang, and a man with a kind voice said, “Hi. It’s Jimmy Steinfeldt.” I smiled and rushed up to my desk in order to start the interview. He turned out to be as nice as his voice, taking time to respond to each question carefully;  his demeanor, calm, his answers articulate. For almost an hour, he reminisced about his early days as a photographer, how he is working on his next book while talking about his persistence, his focus- which, of course, in the end paid off. Big time. 
 
Internationally Known: What compelled you to pick up a camera instead of let’s say a baseball bat when you were younger? 
 
Jim Steinfeldt: I picked up a camera to record my travels. My hundred dollar Minolta, that camera ended up going to concerts. With that camera and that lens, my photos ended up in “Rolling Stone magazine.”
 
IK: Why did you choose to photograph rock stars? Were you a fan?
JS: It happened partly by accident. I took the camera early on to concerts, I really liked concerts and I brought the camera…Then one day, I took that camera to a Stevie Nick’s concert. By that time, Kodak had come out with a type of film that allowed you to shoot pictures with low lights. I had never used that film before. With low lighting, you could still get a great picture. 
 
I had never photographed indoors before. Before I always photographed outdoor concerts in natural lighting. I tried this new film and the pictured turned out fantastic. This was really exciting. 
 
I’m going to concerts, the pictures are really good and so I did that for a while…It kept growing-it didn’t hurt to be able to see the concerts for free. Eventually, I got published in a lot of magazines and it’s exciting to see my name published somewhere… 
 
Although it didn’t pay hardly anything, it was fun. I got my name out there and eventually I learned how to make a living.
 
IK:The internet has affected the world of art in many ways. Book and music stores are closing left and right, most of what we read is no longer in print but online. How has the digital age affected the world of photography? 
 
JS: The digital age has affected photography significantly. On the good side, it’s allowed you to get your photography in a lot of places and seen by a lot of people who would not have seen your photographs otherwise. 
 
On the downside…in the whole digital age, everybody has a camera in their pocket with their phones. A lot of people who may have hired a photographer in the past…may say “I’d take it myself” as long as if it’s not  a multi-million dollar campaign. Also professional cameras have become more sophisticated and easier for amateurs to use, so there’s a lot of competition…
IK: What advice would you give to a novice starting out?
Steinfeldt at the Andaz Hotel,
Los Angeles. Ca

JS: There’s a couple of different ways, there’s a handful of outstanding universities such as Brooks and other fine schools of photography….They don’t teach just how to take a photo but also the business end of things. When you graduated, you should be ready to start your photography business…If they don’t have the money to spend a couple of years to spend on college, there are community colleges. Also, if you sign up with Apple. Then you can try the old fashioned way and just photograph what you love.  Just go out there, photograph what you love, knock on doors. Try to get work. 

 
IK: You were so persistent whether it was to get an autograph or pursue a photograph. Tell me about that persistence. 
JS: Yep that’s true. In the early days, my first very assignment, I wanted photograph a rock-n-roll group and I found out I had to get an assignment first. I found a magazine and I called them and it was hair style magazine. I called them and said I wanted to photograph this rock-n-roll band. They said they would give me an assignment, but first they have to know if I can take any pictures. So I go down to McDonald’s cause that’s where they all hung out with their Mohawk haircuts…So I went to McDonald’s and I think there was a lot of concrete there and they did a lot of their skateboarding there… Anyway, the magazine published my black-and-white photos and there was my name….
 
And they said you did fine and go ahead and photograph that Rock-N-Roll concert….
 
IK: At a certain point you went to business school. 
 
JS: I went to college and in college I chose to study business, I got my undergrad degree and got my bachelor…When I graduated, I said I would like to see the United States and that’s when I bought that first camera so I would have visual memories….Photography came after college…Destiny stepped in after college…then you heard the rest of the story. 
 
I went to San Diego State University, and I have now been mentoring students in San Diego State University. I’m also involved with Make-A-Wish Foundation. I go and photograph of the family of the children who are granted their wish. Also, a portion of my sales from the book goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 
IK: Jimmy, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. You know to be the top at anything…it’s so wonderful. I like how you remain modest and humble.
JS: Well…I’m just a kid from Minnesota. 

Today, Jimmy is currently working on a second book of his photography. 
 
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