Jordan Hall is a photographer and director/DP based in Brooklyn, NY. Known for his observational and stylized photo and video work, Jordan has created content with notable brands and talents including Aime Leon Dore, Puma, LeBron James, and A$AP Ferg.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you first get into photography? What has the journey been like from the time you first picked up a camera until now?
I grew up in a small city outside of Boston and was always outside with friends playing sports, skateboarding, trespassing... typical suburban things. I think photography and filming started as a way to capture what we were doing so that we could watch it and laugh later. We used to watch a lot of skate videos. My favorite was 'Chomp on This' because of all the skits. The skating to me would get kind of boring after the third or fourth person in a typical video. My friends and I would film our own shitty skate tricks and then sometimes make prank videos or film 'Jackass'-like stunts. I didnt take it seriously until I took a video class in high school. I learned how to deconstruct movies for the first time, and for every class project, I tried to have the best project. I could hardly stay awake in my other classes. When it came time to pick a college to go to during my senior year, I couldn't imagine doing anything boring. I didn’t know much, but I knew life was long, and I wouldn't last doing something I already hated. So, I chose something fun. Looking back, a lot of teachers shook their heads at me when they heard about it. They thought I was throwing my life away. No one went to college for stuff like that.
How do you think living in NYC has impacted the way you create?
NYC can destroy you. I've seen it happen to people and it almost got me. But, I think what comes from that is a resiliency and hustler mentality that is unanimous with the city. Everybody is trying to make it here, and there is a lot of talent. You're pretty much forced outside of your comfort zone everyday, and I think that’s the space in which you need to be in to thrive.
Aside from your still photography work, you create video content as well. How do you think your approach to photography and cinematography affect one another?
In approach, they are very similar. I never want to force anyone to do anything or make them feel uncomfortable. I'll suggest things for people to do, but ultimately, it’s their image and it’s up to them. I have a general idea of what I want to get out of the shoot, so you have to bob and weave and get the person into what you want without being too blunt or killing the flow of the day.
We love your ‘Aime Leon Dore 18’ video project. How did the concept come about and what was it like shooting the promo?
This video came through my good friend Thuan Tran and his company On Lunch Break. Thuan has been friends with Teddy, the owner of ALD, for a few years and we've both shot videos for him in the past. The great thing about Teddy is that he has a very clear vision for his videos. They're simple, straight, locked frames. The restrictions make the videos all feel cohesive and allow you to focus on whats in frame and getting it right. The video is a great example of not needing all the tricks and editing effects in the world to make a good video.
You’ve had the opportunity to shoot for large brands and notable names such as Lebron James, A$AP Ferg, and Gucci Mane. What’s your dream project to shoot?
I really just want to make something that is honest and resonates with people for a long time. I don't care if it’s with a celebrity or not. My dream would be to make something that resonates for years and people keep going back to watch. I think thats the ultimate test of if something was good or not is how long it lasts.
What’s been the craziest on-set experience in your career thus far?
Probably the Lebron James shoot. That day, I was supposed to fly from NYC to LA. I worked all day, went into my apartment around 6pm to pack, and when I came back outside to get in the Uber to go to the airport, it was absolutely pouring. There was lightning going off and the street was a river. My flight was delayed from 9pm to 4am, and I was supposed to be on set at 8am the next morning. I got to my hotel late that morning, checked in, and headed straight to the studio. Right when I got there, a grip hit a fire sprinkler and black water started shooting across the room and down the wall. The fire alarm went off and the studio started flooding. Firemen showed up, and in a couple hours we were back to business. The next day, we showed up and I was in and out of meetings with the people from Nike. Then, about two hours before Lebron came to set, we were practicing switching the film mags as fast as possible because we knew we wouldn’t have Lebron for very long. We did it once or twice and figured we were good and put the camera down. Then, one of the AC's went to switch back to roll 1 and we noticed a screw fell out of the lock mechanism and the mag was basically locked onto the camera. I went to the producer and we ordered a new camera. Ten minutes before Lebron showed up, I built the new camera and we were ready to roll on time.
What does your creative process look like?
I try not to consume too much content. I'm a believer that whatever you watch is going to make itself present in whatever you are making whether you mean to or not. I usually have an idea for something, and I know exactly where it comes from. I try to stay away from the urge of going directly to it and try to piece together what I liked about it from memory. Then, I'll start looking up photos and images that are similar and put together a treatment for myself. I usually like to edit the videos because thats another step where the video can fully change. Some stuff really doesn’t look like how you planned and other things end up being way better. I like to have that freedom.
What’s one piece advice you’d give to your younger self when first starting to create content?
Don't listen to people telling you that you cant do it or you're not good enough. Work hard. You got it.
How do you hope to see your work evolve over the next 5 years?
I like the world that I'm operating in now. I like the people I work with. I like the brands. I just want to make it bigger: have bigger budgets, working on less things, but being able to work really hard on the things I care about would be a dream.