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Photos to Inspire Last Updated: Dec 15th, 2012 - 23:02:00

Photos to Inspire: Jesse Diamond
By James Stanton
Oct 8, 2011

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© Jeff Diamond

Although he was formally trained as a musician at Cal Arts in Valencia, California, it was a trip to Africa in 1995 that made Jesse Diamond decide to become a photographer. "I never really made the leap into music," he says. "I was always training for something, but I just didn't know whether I wanted to be a commercial musician or in a rock band. I've played in bands most of my life, but it just wasn't who I was."

He bought a second-hand Nikon N80 35mm SLR in Nairobi, and began shooting pictures. "Before long, I wasn't going anywhere without my camera," Diamond notes. "There was a feeling about it that was so much more gratifying than being a musician. It was like the missing link--taking photographs gave me what I was missing in music. Before long, it just took over my whole life." It took a few years for him to turn his photography into a career, but he got a lot of informal training by traveling often and taking his camera with him. "It was set on full automatic, but I took what I was shooting very seriously. You can learn most of the technical aspects in about a 2 weeks; it's the rest that has to come from the inside." Today, he shoots both digitally and with film, and carries these cameras with him constantly.

Diamond began his professional career working for the A&R department of Sony Music, where he photographed new groups who showcased their talent at clubs and needed publicity photos. Then a rep got him a job taking pictures for a new Harpers-Collins publication, A Day in the Life of the U.S. Armed Forces, part of the highly successful "Day in the Life" series of books. "They wound up sending me to a remote Coast Guard station in the Allusion Island chain, and featured part of it on NBC's 'Dateline'," he says. From there, his career progressed quickly, and he soon had his first solo photography exhibition.

When asked how to describe his style, Diamond says that it depends on the mood of whatever he's shooting. "Film and digital wind up becoming two completely different things. I'd like to think of it as 'soul' photography; I
consider myself a documentary photographer," he says. "99% of the images I capture are real moments. Rarely are they set up." Although he shoots both black-and-white and color, he describes the beautiful allure of black-and-white photography. "It subtracts all preconceived notions about a literal subject. For example, when you shoot a black-and-white crowd scene, you're not looking at the colors of someone's shirt. You're looking at the skeleton of a situation, if you will."

His first book-- part of the "One Picture" books from Nazraeli Press--will be available in November 2007. It features Diamond's images of a drum circle, which takes place every Sunday in Venice, California. "Basically a bunch of people sit on the beach and start getting a groove together," he explains. "I concentrated on the people who stand in the middle of this circle and dance to the music. It's all shot into the sun so it's all figures and silhouettes." He's also working on getting his images seen more widely via exhibitions and books, which includes a pet project entitled "Photographs of Things that Actually Happened." As Diamond describes it, "It's a random collection of real-life moments; there's no central theme. There's a bit of twisted humor and irony in there, and to me, some of the moments are almost too good to be true." He hopes to compile these images into a book in the future. "There's always something in the works," he says.

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