Valley man develops passion for photography
AUSTINTOWN — Everyone at some point in their lives wishes they could be a superhero.
For Austintown resident Julian Jacoby Ford, 31, it was Spider-Man alter ego Peter Parker that he wanted to emulate by taking pictures. He saw the 2002 movie starring Tobey Maguire when he was 12 or 13 and realized photography could be his profession.
“I liked Parker’s entrepreneurism,” Ford said, noting he also was inspired by the animated TV show “Rocket Power.”
However, after watching the movies and pouring over countless “Spider-Man” comic books, those in his life didn’t see photography as an actual job he could pursue. So, Ford put it all aside. But not for too long.
Ford’s first camera, a Nikon Cool Pix, was a gift from his parents, Joann and Al, in the late 1990s. Later, he moved from taking photos just for fun to an 8 mm video camcorder. Ford said he always was filming friends and family, as well as family vacations.
He said he works to capture the spirit and grit of the people he photographs, and he wants his photographs to reflect integrity, empathy and honesty. Photography is a delicate balance of light and dark along with subject matter, Ford said. Through his own personal studies and practice, he said he became better.
Around 2016, Ford and a close friend who was a photographer began shooting side by side UrbanX photography, which is the art of finding old and abandoned buildings, exploring them and taking pictures as they go. At this point, Ford began to realize after shooting some photos of his friend while they were exploring that he was really good at photographing people.
Ford purchased his first professional camera at age 26 with the idea to use it for possible YouTube videos and photographing his peers. It was at a cousin’s wedding where he began taking candid photos of the wedding party, for which he received positive feedback.
He is a 2016 Youngstown State University graduate. He studied to be a history teacher, but after graduating, Ford said he “didn’t want to be in the school situation the rest of his life.”
“I wish I had never listened to the person that discredited photography as a profession. I know I can’t be happy if I’m not my own boss,” Ford said.
While Ford was in college and even after graduation, he was working morning shifts at Pizza Hut and as a pizza delivery driver.
“I took the money from my paychecks and headed to Barnes and Noble each week to buy more books on photography. The first book I picked up was, ‘Read This Book if You Want to Take Good Pictures of People,’ by Henry Carroll,” he said.
Studying people and their mannerisms led him not only to excel in erotic urban photography, but also concert photography at West Side Bowl in Youngstown. Regarding his personal studies in EU photography, Ford said, “Some people are in it for the wrong reasons as hobbyist, or they took time during the pandemic to try photography for the sole purpose of adding followers to their social media pages, not because they truly love it. They’re posting photos just for likes.”
A muse was found in his friend, “Ray.” He began with studio sessions and found in her a light of being.
“She was brilliant. So comfortable in her own skin and had a lack of apprehension about being photographed nude that it helped me find comfort behind the camera and see the beauty of human form and shape,” Ford said.
What sets Ford apart from other photographers is not only his eagerness to constantly educate himself, but practicing the knowledge. It’s also the relationship he builds with his models during portraits.
“I have learned to talk with the models and find out what they like and don’t like in previous photos taken by others of themselves or what might be going on with them while I’m shooting them. One model told me that she does a particular movement with her face, which means she’s stuck in her head about how she might look. When she does that, I let her know and she eases the tension, leading to a better photo. It’s not just about what I want and what I see, it’s what the model feels, too — that reflects in the photos.”
Currently, Ford is working at YM Camera and continuing to learn while on the job along with being recognized more by strangers through his photography on social media.
His photos of Nate and Jami Offerdahl, owners of West Side Bowl, can be seen on the business’s social media pages, along with incredibly profound shots of friend Clarence Gordon Jr. Simply put, Ford has that “something” that makes someone take note and stop scrolling — to really look and notice them as art.
Ford offered the following advice:
∫ If you want to do something and you feel strongly about it, don’t let anyone sway you otherwise.
∫ Don’t be afraid to be different or weird. The best things come from originality.
∫ You don’t need super fancy equipment; you just need the drive to do it.
To see Ford’s work, check out his Instagram and Facebook pages.
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