Martin Jerge was born and raised in Northwestern Pennsylvania, growing up near Lake Erie. As a child and adolescent, he was academically inclined, which allowed him to acquire various scholarships. He attended college in Indiana to study engineering, on the advice of his parents.
After taking a course in photography, Martin Jerge found a new passion. He decided to study professional photography instead and took many freelance contracts as a photographer. His first contract was filling in as a photographer for a friend’s wedding.
After graduating from college, Martin Jerge decided to move to Los Angeles, California. He currently lives there with his family and runs his own freelance photography company. In addition to taking photos of special occasions for families like weddings, engagements, and family portraits, his work features various subjects doing everyday activities like visiting coffee shops, reading, and doing other hobbies. He also enjoys traveling around the U.S. and taking photos of its various landscapes and historical landmarks.
What does an average day for you look like?
One of my favorite things about being a photographer is that there really is no such thing as an average day. I could be anywhere, taking photos of anything. First thing in the morning I will usually edit a few photos and then depending on the weather, as it gets lighter outside, I will go out with my camera to get some daytime shots. If I have any client photoshoots upcoming, I will call them and discuss finer details around timing and locations. A lot of my photos have to do with subjects doing actions like riding a bike, reading in the park, or jumping. Those are more of my abstract pieces but a lot of models and creative individuals like those types of photos for their own portfolios. Sometimes logistic details need to be worked out. In the evenings, after dinner with my family, I’ll sometimes go out for another walk with my camera. Because I live in Los Angeles, you never know when you might see a celebrity. I have seen my fair share.
What do you think it takes to be a successful photographer?
In addition to proper training on framing and composition, I think you just need a good eye. You can take photos of virtually anything, but it takes someone that has a good eye and proper training to take a photo that is good enough that people would enjoy looking at and would purchase. For example, Richard Kalvar is a very obscure photographer in the sense that his photos, which were mostly taken in the 1970s, have an aesthetic that some would consider odd and even in some cases disturbing, yet his work is continuously praised and remembered today. He was able to take the obscure and turn it into something unique so that it is more than a photo. I think that’s what being a photographer is about.
What keeps you motivated?
My family keeps me motivated. I do what I do for them. My children always love looking at my newest photos and I love seeing them enjoy my work.
If you could change one thing you did in the beginning of your career what would it be?
Maybe it would be to realize what I wanted earlier on. It was a shock to my family when I made a drastic shift from engineering to photography. The truth is, when I was leaving high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted at the time. I was being practical. Maybe if I would have taken a year off or if I would have taken an undeclared major and took a bunch of classes to decide, it wouldn’t have been such a surprise to my parents.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My first photography instructor in college. I decided to take an elective in photography while studying engineering on a whim during my first year and my instructor encouraged me to focus more on my talent. She helped me apply to the official photography program at the end of the school year and from that point on my future was set. I owe a lot to her.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Purchasing my first house with my wife in Los Angeles was a big accomplishment. It is very expensive to live in Los Angeles, especially for a photographer. But I learned to save a portion of all my photography jobs and worked through my high school years. Based on my academics previously, I picked out lucrative investment opportunities in the stock market that ended up panning out and saved those funds as well. My wife is a teacher, and with our contributions together, we were able to purchase our home.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
I would say it was at the beginning of my career in photography when I was unsure if I had made the right choice. I hadn’t built up a portfolio yet, so I wasn’t getting a lot of jobs at first, and there was a lot of self-doubts. But I just had to trust in the process and realize that building a portfolio of work and a reputation takes time for everyone.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
When I was in my first year of school in engineering, I was focused on other people a lot. What will my parents think? What will my friends think? But then I really thought about what I wanted. My photography instructor told me that while the people around me could play a factor in my decisions, they couldn’t live my life for me. That really stuck from me, and from then on, I focused on living my life for me and not for other people.
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
Based on everything, the biggest life lesson I have learned is to always follow your passion. While people might question you, the most important thing is to do what makes you happy.