Jeff Mindell’s work perfectly mirrors his infectiously positive personality.
Take a peek at his impressive portfolio or wildly beautiful Instagram and you’ll find yourself smiling unconsciously and ready to admit that you like hot pink way more than you ever thought you did. We love Jeff’s photos so much that we included them in our latest Art Quarterly and then reached out to learn more about his family, his process and his ~very relatable~ love for Dunkin’ Donuts.
Everything you do seems so joyful and I’m sure you get this question a lot, but how do you stay so positive in your professional and personal life?
This is very much a conscious decision. I realized a while back that I hated working with people who didn’t have a good attitude. Life is just too short and there are too many people that I come into contact with every day to be negative. First impressions are everything when you work for yourself so when all I have is my skill set and reputation, why not just be nice? Obviously there are many other facets to my life that aren’t shared on social media. I just choose not to share everything, all the time. There’s a lot of negativity on the news and in the world so if I’m able to publish content that makes people smile or laugh or feel hopeful, that’s what I’m here to do.
There’s also something to be said for not burning bridges. In this crazy world of social media marketing that I live and breathe everyday, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed paths with people I’ve known peripherally or have worked with in another capacity. My very first job in LA was an unpaid internship at a small creative agency that five years later, hired me to shoot a huge project for them. I literally went from being the person that would coordinate the schedule for someone in my position to actually being in that position. My point being: be nice to people and treat them with respect because you never know where you’ll end up!
When did you first start getting interested in photography? How did that interest develop into a career?
Before I went to live abroad in London during college, my parents bought me my first camera, a little point-and-shoot. I had always been a very visual and creative kid growing up, but this was really my first opportunity to see all these amazing new countries through the lens of my very own camera. It was the first time I experimented with framing and composition and various editing styles as well. That hobby grew into a passion, which I took with me when we moved out to LA after graduation. Photography was a way for me to capture my new life on the west coast for friends and family back home, posting my day-to-day images on Facebook. My first real (paying) job was at a huge PR agency on their digital entertainment and technology team and my entire day was basically keeping up with platforms like Mashable and Wired. One day I remember reading about this new app called Instagram so I downloaded it on my lunch break and the rest is kind-of history!
“The moment that I truly stopped caring about what other people were doing and started posting what made me happy, everything changed.”
What/who are your favorite subjects to shoot?
First and foremost, I love capturing my family. I’ve really had to stop myself from posting our personal photos exclusively on my public platforms, but I’m now that dad who thinks everything my kid does is the greatest thing ever and that everyone will care. That’s 100% not the case so I’ve really had to reel it in haha. I also love shooting beautiful interiors (I really love architecture) and anything in the desert. I’m a sucker for that incredible golden California light!
You and your wife are both (for lack of a better term) influencers—how has this affected your creative career and what, for you, are the major pros and cons?
I feel like we live the weirdest life. It’s a life that when I take a step back and look at it from outside the bubble, I truly can’t believe it. Our own parents still ask us on a daily basis what we do, how we make money or how that huge brand knew to reach out to us. My career as a photographer and content creator has been incredible in the few short years I’ve been doing it professionally and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that our online following didn’t help me grow exponentially. However, with both of us being more in the public eye than your average person, there are definite pros and cons in regards to how it’s affected me and my career.
For one, I have been awarded opportunities that I otherwise probably did not deserve simply because someone at some company knew my name. I’ve gotten emails from huge international brands I could only dream about as a kid telling me that they are fans of my work. That type of thing doesn’t just happen—it’s a direct result of random business decisions, blind forks in the road and social strategy that snowballed into my life in the present day where an engaged (amazing!) community of people all over the globe take time out of their lives to keep up with mine.
On the flip side, I don’t think I ever thought about what it felt like to be at the mall or walking down the street with my family having a constant heightened sense of awareness for other people who I don’t know, but who know us. I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out who those people are before they even walk up to say hi (and am usually able to tip off my wife in time so we can be prepared!). Our audience is honestly the kindest, most supportive people ever and typically are able to relate to us on such a personal level that it’s really not anything to worry about, but you never know. My son’s safety is my top priority so it’s something I’m constantly thinking about.
For every room in my home that gets sponsored by a brand or national ad campaign featuring me alongside John Legend and our kids, there is not a day goes by that I don’t realize the incredible privilege that our family is all too familiar with. It’s very important to my wife and I that our son and future children grow up knowing that not everyone may be as fortunate as they are and the power and importance of giving back. If we’re able to set good examples for them while they’re young and they see us doing things like holding a back-to-school drive for low-income kids or preparing hot meals at soup kitchens for families during the holidays, the hope is that they might grow up to be that much more humble, responsible and aware.
How would you advise young artists to utilize social media for their career without getting bogged down in the distractions and drama of it all?
Just don’t take it too seriously. Plain and simple. The moment that I truly stopped caring about what other people were doing and started posting what made me happy, everything changed. I always say you can use your social platforms as living, breathing portfolios to showcase your work or highlight life behind-the-scenes, but the minute you start to compare yourself to the curated, polished versions of people that you follow, where they may only be sharing the best 10% of their day, that’s where it can become problematic. Keep things the realest of real and you’ll be golden. Transparency and authenticity go a very, very long way in my book.
How has fatherhood changed your outlook on photography and art in general?
I think it just really helped me focus and prioritize. When the most important thing in the world is now my family, each and every inquiry, job offer or brand partnership is considered way more than ever before. Now, for every new thing that I say yes to, that’s time away from my family. I’m just more strict in general when it comes to how I’m dividing up my time because every hour of the day is so precious now. The photos that I might be paid to take for a job have to be ones that are worth my time and/or push me creatively. On the other hand, this new chapter has also helped me realize the beauty in imperfection, in capturing messy moments and moments where things aren’t perfectly curated or styled. I’ve changed the way that I take my photos and how I share my content as well.
Kids can be so endlessly present and creative, what are some of the ways that your son’s point of view has challenged/inspired you?
It’s so true! I feel like my eyes are just open to so much more now. My son is fascinated by everything from cars driving by and planes in the air to animals at the zoo and the sunglasses on my face. There’s a genuine curiosity about life that he carries with him and it’s been amazing to experience secondhand.
What are some of your favorite collabs/projects that you’ve been able to work on thus far?
The relationships I have with the brands I work with is something I don’t take lightly. On the “influencer” side of things, it’s no secret that my ongoing partnership with Dunkin’ Brands runs deep and is easily the most authentic for me. They are incredible to work with and really let me do my own thing creatively, which is wonderful. Kelly and I also have an awesome relationship with West Elm and I LOVE working with them. They are great friends at this point and we’ve done everything from home makeover projects to hosting in-store events and workshops over the past couple years. When it comes to my photography, nothing will ever beat the time I was asked to shoot the Sinatra Estate for Palm Springs Style magazine. Katy, the editor of the publication, took a chance on me when I was just starting out and it ended up being a huge multi-page spread in the magazine. Since then, I’ve shot a lot more for them, but I will always remember that first shoot and how nervous I was, wanting to do a great job for her. The issue is now on my coffee table at home.