What I Do (and Why) by Jeff Falls

“All photos are accurate. None of them are the truth.”

Richard Avedon

A photograph can be many things; intellectually stimulating, beautiful, erotic, informative, horrifying. But truth? That’s a different matter. I might modify Avedon’s statement and say it’s one possible truth in a multiverse of truths. It’s certainly my truth. But is it yours?

My photos are a show, written and produced by me and starring you. They are my interpretation of you. I went to film school and before I went to film school I was a theater student; my aesthetic is very firmly rooted in a performative tradition. Avedon goes on to make a very insightful observation about performances:

“We all perform. It’s what we do for each other all the time, deliberately or unintentionally. It’s a way of telling about ourselves in the hope of being recognized as what we’d like to be. I trust performances. Stripping them away doesn’t necessarily get you closer to anything.”

I am a commercial photographer which means I do this for money. To be more precise, I make and manipulate images for money. You can, for example, hire me to shoot a bowl of noodles and I will do a great job.

You can hire me to shoot a wedding. Not my favorite thing (because working weddings is very emotionally exhausting and completely reactive for an artist) so I charge a lot, but I will do it.

Need the perfect headshot? Yes, I absolutely do that..

You can hire me to do fashion and I do a LOT of that. I love making people look beautiful and glamorous. Here’s a shot from Phoenix Fashion Week.

You can hire me to shoot your concert. I do a lot of that too.

You can hire me to shoot your party or event. I do society events all over North America. This one is from a fabulous birthday party in San Francisco.

You can hire me to shoot your car.

Or your bike.

And you can certainly hire me to shoot your album cover. I do a lot of these and I really enjoy the assignment.

And of course, video. Whether it’s a music video, a commercial or a show reel like this one of mine from 2018.

I do all of these things above. They are my bread and butter. But they’re not what I really like to do. So what is it that I really like to do? Come with me and I’ll show you.

The Perfect Portrait

The perfect portrait is about much more than simply taking your picture. It’s about knowing you and understanding you well enough to take a picture of you that takes your breath away. A picture that captures the real you so well that five years from now it’s still your profile picture on Facebook.

A picture that when people ask “Who are you?”, you take out of your pocket and show them and say “This is who I am.” My pictures are a collaboration between me (the photographer) and you (the subject).

They are an interpretation of this moment in time, all true and all untrue. They are real. They are sexy. They are painful. They are honest. They are you.

My Favorite Photos

The following photos are part of a collection I call “We know what we are but not what we may become.” That’s a line from Hamlet, spoken by Ophelia in reference to her late father but also stating the entire human condition in one line.

I am this now, but what will I be tomorrow? Is it really just sex and consumption and vanity and then nothingness?

What does it all mean? I don’t know the answer but I’m very interested in people’s response to the question.

“Put yourself into life and never lose your openness, your childish enthusiasm throughout the journey that is life, and things will come your way.”

Federico Fellini

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.”

Virginia Woolf

“I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.”


“When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I’d like to know them. Anyone I know I photograph.”

Annie Leibovitz

“The still photo must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it wishes to be told.”

Cindy Sherman

“I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before.”

Robert Mapplethorpe

” We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be…”

Patrick Rothfuss

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”

Ansel Adams

“I want to photograph the considerable ceremonies of our present. I want to gather them, like somebody’s grandmother putting up preserves, because they will have been so beautiful.”

Diane Arbus

“In order to be irreplaceable,one must be different.”

Coco Chanel

“There must be a certain look of availability in the women I photograph. I think the woman who gives the appearance of being available is sexually much more exciting than a woman who’s completely distant. This sense of availability I find erotic.”

Helmut Newton

“Girls like her were born in a storm. They have lightning in their souls, thunder in their hearts and chaos in their bones.”

Nikita Gill

“Beauty and the devil are the same thing.”

Robert Mapplethorpe

“I hate good taste. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a creative person.”

Helmut Newton

“Art attracts us only by what it reveals about our most secret nature.”

Jean-Luc Godard

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.

Marilyn Monroe

“The eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.”

Walker Evans

“Better to live one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep.”

Tipu Sahib, the sultan of Mysore

Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth”

Pablo Picasso

“It’s not what you are that counts, it’s what they think you are.”

Andy Warhol

“The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.”

Anton Chekhov

And that’s the end of this exhibition. What will we become? I don’t know. What does it mean? I don’t know that either. But I do find the ambiguity fascinating and I like trying to capture that existential angst and passion in an image.

And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love,

William Blake

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