Jarrod Renaud. Husband, father of four, never bored // photographer & woodsman // living in colorado
Jarrod Renaud’s images haunt us. Their delicate color, texture, and emotion spur something inside of us. Based in Colorado, Jarrod is a man on a journey, focused on his growth as an artist, his family, and the beauty that surrounds him. Among our favorite photos are those documenting his four gorgeous children and lovely wife Tess.
This interview has been edited for clarity and content.
My alarm goes off at about 6 am, and I ignore it. A couple minutes later, one or two of the kids will end up crawling into bed with me and Tess. They end up pushing me out of bed.
That’s the start to my day. It’s honestly pretty perfect.
Breakfast, coffee and into work I go. I work for DPA Microphones doing sales and marketing. That takes up my basic 9 to 5 thing. After work, I come home to a beautiful family. We try to have friends over a couple times a week for dinner. Then kid’s will go to bed around 8 o’clock. That begins my creative time where I edit photos and write blog posts.
When Tess and I had Olive, my oldest daughter, I said to myself “Man, I need to get myself a camera to start taking some photos and document this little blessing.”
My whole life I’ve been an artist at the core. With photos, I wanted something more creative than a digital point and shoot. I knew I wanted some kind of nostalgia. My first camera was a Diana+ that I got at Urban Outfitters. That got my feet wet. I started shooting Olive and us as a family with it.
From there, I got a hold of a Polaroid SX-70. My feet got wetter. The Polaroid added some magic. I started to realize I could catch something more than just a flat photo. There was some nostalgia, a kind of history, an emotion that came across with film and polaroid.
Five years later, I have to thank Olive for being born and getting me into photography.
I grew up in Las Vegas. Throughout high school I was always the art nerd. I went to community college and then the Art Institute of Las Vegas.
I floated around from fine art to web design, motion graphics, visual effects, and finally to film production. I met Tess down there in Vegas. She was from Colorado. Once things got serious between us, I transferred to the Art Institute of Colorado to finish up with film production. There was kind of a lot of everything, and then no degree at the end of it.
For the most part, I have myself to blame for lack of graduating. Anything shiny draws my attention. I had such a hard time focusing until I found photography.
It’s like all the passion and creativity in me just got funneled into taking photos. I’m not a 100% sure why. It just caught me. The relational aspect of photography drives me, especially now having a family. We’ve got four little ones and I can’t imagine life without them.
I’ve come to realize that life is about relationships. Life is about people. Those relationships, that interaction has an eternal quality. Everything else… it’s just dust. It’s going to fade away.
It all leads to capturing something eternal and honest during a shoot. Being able to go through the process of taking photos, the interaction with that person, and developing a lasting relationship always brings me back in. Every single shoot, I see shots that have captured that spark whether it be a model, a friend, or my family.
Up until recently, I’ve felt kind of disconnected. In the time it takes to have a full time job and a family, I don’t have all the free time I want to pursue art and photography. I hadn’t met any local photographers, and I’ve been learning on my own at a slow pace.
But recently I started to branch out. I’ve met guys like Bradley Spitzer and Parker Fitzgerald plus local photographers in Denver. We talk life and photography, the good times, the struggles, and have a blast shooting together.
Honestly, I still feel like an amateur. Although I don’t even know what that word means. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I love it.
I’ve been noticing that most people don’t think they know what they’re doing either. They just do it. Realizing that is super encouraging and inspiring. I’m definitely looking to really work and collaborate with other photographers at this point.
Collaboration is great. The models I’ve worked with have been really inspiring too. They’re artists. I enjoy partnering and hearing their thoughts.
I recently picked up a book, Vivian Maier — Street Photographer. The images are just breath taking. She was completely unknown and shot by herself, for herself. It’s blowing my mind. It’s made me want to look back in history for inspiration. I think studying the artists of the past is very important.
We went down to Rio May, maybe April of 2011. That was a crazy trip. A local church that we attend, Vinelife, puts on a yearly conference called RESOUND. It’s a two to three day art/creative conference held in Boulder, Colorado. Artists and musicians from around the country fly in. We’ll have different break out sessions throughout the day consisting of everything from songwriting, visual arts, to dealing with the infamous struggles of an artist. Really, it’s all about encouraging the arts in the community and church.
The Resound Conference was invited down to Rio. I went along to take photos. I didn’t know what to expect. Going down there, the place just blew my mind. We were definitely not partying at the beach. We were in dangerous neighborhoods, the favelas. It’s the stuff you see on TV, but can’t understand until you’re seeing it with your own eyes. Extreme poverty. Extreme violence.
I took a photo journalistic approach. In some ways, I felt a little bit disappointed in my lack of vision. I felt like there were many shots and moments I captured which were very powerful, but I felt like I was just an outside observer rather than in it.
We went to a few different youth centers and orphanages. We worked with kids and local pastors in addition to holding the conference. In some ways, I feel I lost sight of being in the moments because I was so concerned with documenting everything.
I can’t wait to go back and really dig into the stories of individual people, spend time with these people that are making a positive difference in their community. I want to know them and tell their story. I want to tap into what they’ve experienced, why they do what they do, and capture some real portraits.
There’s an old woman who has prayer-walked every single day around the most dangerous neighborhood in Rio for 30 plus straight years. I think that is amazing. The unnerving trust in God’s love for people kept her going. Change did happen. Its now a beautiful and peaceful neighborhood. It’s so inspiring.
One of the most important things that struck me while I was there was that these people, especially children, just wanted to be seen. They wanted to be genuinely noticed and loved. The place is so void of it, love. The level of violence and human trafficking is heartbreaking. It is literally something like 100% of kids grow up without a father in these areas.
There’s this girl Natasha that I shot with. It was one of those shoots where I had a very specific concept. I found a specific location, time, and concept. Natasha was onboard, and I was excited to shoot.
Then the unexpected happened. The Colorado weather was completely opposite of what I wanted, even flooding the location.
My expectations just completely flopped for the original concept. My wife was with me, Natasha was there, and I just made the decision to go with it and make the best of what we had. All the planning went out the window. The shoot came out totally different than what we imagined. It was still pretty cool, but definitely different. We ended up having this awesome time. By the end of the shoot, we became great friends.
A couple months later, I was out of town for work. My wife Tess and all three kids got sick. Tess posted something on Facebook like “Jarrod’s out of town. I’m sick and the kids are sick. Ugh.”
The first comment on there was from Natasha saying “If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know and I’ll be down there in a second to help you out.”
I saw that from Nashville and it clicked.
It brought me back to the importance of this relational aspect of shooting. If you’re so worried about the final image, you’re not going to get it. If you’re in the moment, for the sake of being in the moment, you’re going to get the image you really want. I feel there will be that honesty, that vulnerability.
I think that was my ah-ha moment. I’m not going to let worrying about the final image get in the way of making friends and having a meaningful time. I don’t want the superficial. Let’s get something real, something honest.
Life is about people… Everything else, it’s just dust. It’s going to fade away.
I feel like I could have a shoot and love the shots when I get those scans back. But a week later I just look at them and want to do something better, something different.
Self-doubt in general is hard. It likes to hang around. You feel so vulnerable putting something artistic out there, especially with work that’s personal. I think that artists in general have those ups and downs. I’m never completely satisfied, but I strive to be content.
I think for this I definitely have to stick with some family stuff. Everybody who happens upon my work will notice photos of my kids… I absolutely love capturing their lively spirits although most of the time as soon as I bust out the camera they throw down their serious looks. So donr&squo;t be swayed into thinking I have quiet somber children, they are a rambunctious crew! I recently started a personal blog where I want to document our life as a family. Something we can look back on as we grow older.
Tess really wants nothing more than to allow me to pursue what I’m passionate about. The feeling is entirely mutual from me to her also. She’s always just as excited to see the photos. Community wise, we’ve been really blessed with family and friends who are just so encouraging. I feel like if I fall then someone is going to pick me up. And if they fall we’re going to pick them up. That encouragement is so crucial.
There are so many photographers out there right now that I definitely look up to. So many different styles that I appreciate and draw inspiration from.
I always feel like admiring too much can be bit dangerous. Early last year, I had my google reader just full of blogs and Tumblrs. You can get so easily just sucked into being a fan of photography, rather than actually taking photos yourself.
There’s been a couple of times where I can’t post a photo because it vividly reminds me of another photographer’s work. What’s funny is that with these photographers I’m meeting lately, the ones I’ve looked up to as the littlefanboy, I realize we all have those same feelings towards other photographers. You just got to do your thing, and keep doing it. Forget comparing! Just shoot and shoot and shoot.
You don’t know the thousands of hours that a given photographer has put into their work. The thousands of shots they took to get to those handful of amazing photos in their portfolio. We can so easily be like “oh man they do it so easily.” That kind of thinking can stop us from our own creativity.
Yeah, over the course of the last year or so I’ve developed some online relationships for sure. It’s awesome to have those connections spill over to real life. Its funny, I can get a bit nervous when it comes to meeting those that I look up to. Maybe its coming from my own insecurities but it always ends up being an awesome time.
It’s easy to think “Who’s this super-hero?” when you see all the amazing work that someone consistently posts. Then you realize you shouldn’t project a personality or value system onto someone based off their online presence or work.
I feel like I’ve made some life long friends through the online photography community. It’s amazing and encouraging. All of us artisans need to stick together and lift each other up.
Humanity? Yeah. And our Spirit. One photo can communicate so many different things to so many people. I think that’s the awesome thing. I’m always taken aback by that. I’ll post a photo and someone will say that photo made me feel like this. I’ll have a completely different opinion. I think the all-encompassing factor is I’m trying to capture humanity and spirituality in some small way.
Yes, this was a HUGE decision. At the time of this interview posting I’ll be a week out from my official departure. It has been a long time coming.
I’ve always struggled with that line between making a living and following a passion. This was especially true once me and Tess started having kids. I very quickly took the mentality of manning-up. I’d lace up my boots and do my duty no matter what bullshit I had to go through. All the while though, and most importantly, knowing that the valleys are just as important as the mountain tops.
As far as my day-job is concerned it was heavy on the valleys. What I have learned and experienced has been priceless and was essential. With the support of Tess, my family, countless friends and I must admit… a Thomas-like yet growing faith in God’s hand, I’m stepping off the ledge.
In my heart of hearts I truly believe this path has already been laid in front of me and the time is now. Explaining is impossible. It’s a you know when you know type of thing. We are very excited about it! I feel very fortunate and blessed to have many friends that are willing to encourage and lift each other up in the creative industry.
I’m constantly trying to refine my work and vision while not losing sight of creative integrity. At the core I am a portrait photographer. But I have been really enjoying more lifestyle shoots, specifically for clothing designers. I see myself tending in that direction professionally for 2013. I also have some collaborative business opportunities popping up that will revolve around both photography and my graphic design skill-set.
On the flip side, I’ve shot a good handful of weddings. In particular, a few where I’ve been able to shoot film and polaroid without boundaries. I loved it so much. I’ll be launching my wedding photography portfolio very soon and plan to pursue a limited number of weddings for 2013.