Jed Wells is a freelance filmmaker and photographer with an amazing series entitled Me. He graduated from the photography program at BYU. He was profiled previously on The Krakens for his series Peru. Wells lives in Utah.
Tell us about your creative career. Like a proper history, or an impression of what my career is? Because in many ways, it’s a total mess. When people ask me what I am or what I do, I’m not sure from week to week how to answer. I usually settle on “Photographer” as the 1st level, asked and answered, put a label on it response. If anyone asks beyond that, it gets fuzzy pretty quick. I graduated from BYU with a BFA in photography. The kind of photography where the images don’t move. I was interested in motion picture, not just in the cinematography, but in direction and storytelling in general. I had acted through high school (had an agent, walked away from a college theater scholarship after my mission) and the notion of marrying those worlds– of seeing my pictures move, of developing and framing a story, using music and props and wardrobe– was totally enchanting to me. So I got involved in that stuff my junior year at BYU. Shot some shorts, did a crash course in independent film studies of my own invention, and wound up shooting and directing a feature film the spring after my senior year. That project kept me in Provo that last year instead of venturing out to New York or LA to do a traditional photo internship.
I had determined early on that I wasn’t a weddings and families photographer. Just isn’t my nature and I’m not sure I’m very good at it. So living in Provo with a wife and kids, wishing I was making movies, not taking weddings… the only thing left for me to do was become a graphic designer. I got a couple of in-house jobs, designed a lot of web banners and album covers, and slowly worked my way into the local music scene shooting bands and making music videos. The advent of DSLR video, specifically the Canon 5D MkII, was my ticket to ride. One tool that could get me two jobs. I started doing that and bit by bit, good word of mouth, loyal clients and the right connections got me on my feet (did I mention I got fired from my design job in 2009, effectively knocking me off my feet?) and I’ve been juggling a career ever since that lives somewhere between, and often, combines still and motion picture in a variety of assignments around the world. It most ways it’s a dream come true. Sometimes, especially when someone asks, “So what do you do for a living?” I’d love to be able to say, “I’m a photographer. I do this one thing, and that’s it.” But it’s not exactly true.
Talk about your series Me. The Me series is a compilation of self-portraits taken over a couple of years when I was involved in a beard and moustache-growing community. It was pre-Instagram, pre-most of social media landscape that exists now. We were a fraternity of like-minded creatives across the country who liked cultivating our facial hair, taking pictures of it on a daily basis, and getting feedback from our fraternity of like-minded creatives across the country. I took the task pretty seriously and got more elaborate with my portraits than my wife thought was prudent at the time. I was between jobs (polite way of saying I had just been fired) and had a lot of spare time, so I used the time to exercise my camera, explore storytelling, and admire my own visage for hours every day. To my wife’s credit, she rolled her eyes when I was setting up and shooting these images, but she never stopped me from doing them, and the resulting series has landed me more work that almost anything else in my portfolio.