Jack Thompson got his start in photography moving to New York City around the age of 23 where he split his time assisting and shooting, after his graduation from SCAD Savannah. He eventually moved down to Houston, Texas, and has stayed ever since. He began by shooting tons of editorial work, considering this was during the time where print dominated everything, and he shot everything from architecture, to interiors, to portraits. His editorial client list is extremely impressive, ranging from Rolling Stone, to Spin, EPSN The Magazine, and Vibe.
Along the way he began shooting a lot of rappers and getting involved in their community down South, and from there his business boomed. Once he gained recognition for one thing, the ball just kept rolling. Now the key to his success wasn’t just word of mouth, but also hustling to get his name out there. He had an agent early in his career for about 10 years who helped him immensely to get his name and work out to the world in the beginning. Though over the years magazines started to fade away, people still recognized his name as he’d reach out to designers and agencies in Houston, where he fell into doing more corporate work. In his corporate world he is given the opportunity to bring a little bit of an edge, or a fresh look, to the portraiture.
Having shot so much editorial in his early career, Jack was able to attribute skills gained then into the bigger and better assignments he was getting involved with. Because he photographed so many interiors for Dwell, El Decor, and Metropolitan Home Magazine, he began getting opportunities to shoot for facilities such as oil and gas, and pipelines. He had never thought about those places as somewhere he could get work, but people started hiring him for what he is able to bring to the table.
His early work with rappers in Houston also informed his career later on. The portraits he took of them were brought into group shows in New York City, where the host gallery ended up holding onto the series. Eventually the works moved onto being incorporated in the new Smithsonian Black History Museum, where the whole series is now housed. He became adopted to the community of rappers such as The Ghetto Boys and Scarface, who passed his name around their world.
Living in Texas assists Jack’s career immensely. He is centrally located in the state, only a 45 minute drive from a major hub of an airport, in the middle of everything. Another great thing about his location is in Texas, if people see you working hard and that you’re passionate about what you’re doing, they will give you a chance.
Many of his editorial clients opened him up to bigger and better jobs, which is why he rarely will turn down a job that he believes in due to a tiny budget— you never know what good may come from taking a job. This is a part of his blue collar aesthetic— head down, keep moving forward. Being able to partner up with great people and pull off something amazing they didn’t see possible with their tiny budget is one thing Jack loves about this industry.
Within the last year, Jack has had the opportunity to go more into the world of motion by directing some television commercials, and work on some documentaries. A few years ago, he shot and co-directed a doc that won a Gold Addy Award. Jack recognized that many clients want as much content as possible, and not just in still form. Combing still and motion shoots at the same time can be quite complicated, though, considering they are two different ways of thinking. Even though it is visual and you’re creating imagery, you need to solve two problems at the same time. He took this challenge and found a solution in his new collaboration venture with a close friend, where he provides the still component for the assignment, and his partner the motion element. This way, they can present clients with the capability to shoot their television commercial and still campaign at the same time. The two of them worked together last summer with Popular Science on an assignment for the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas.
This methodology streamlines the entire process, allowing for the client’s fears to drift away. Jack firmly believes that sometimes taking the photo is the easiest part of it all; the tough stuff is what comes before, and how we get to the final moment of pressing the shutter.