Jeff Corwin

Photography was made exciting to me by my hobbyist father who gave me his Argus C3 rangefinder when I was 15.  He built me my first darkroom in our house’s only bathroom (much to the chagrin of my mother) when I was 17.  That lasted about a month until my mom couldn’t take any more and relegated the darkroom and me to the garage.

When I was 18, I met a professional photographer and began to assist him for the next several years, exposing me to the world of corporate photography, location lighting, dealing with clients and maybe most importantly, the business of photography.  I started my own career in 1979 pounding on doors and showing what had to be the world's worst portfolio.  Despite that, I began getting small assignments shooting for corporate internal publications.

In late 1980, I had a miracle meeting with the Vice President of Communications for the Northrop Corporation, Les Daly.  (A whole story unto itself.)  At the time, Northrop produced the most respected and artistic annual report in the world.  At that sweaty and nerve-wracking meeting, Les offered me the chance to photograph what he deemed to be the backbone of the company, the Northrop engineers, during a three-day assignment.  My life and certainly my career was never the same after that day. 

Since then I have shot for Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Rockwell, Microsoft, Nintendo, Aflac, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Apple Computer, AT&T Wireless, Charles Schwab, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Dell Computer, IBM, Mastercard, Rolls-Royce, Netflix, Rand Foundation, FedEx, Lockheed Martin, Potlatch Paper, Weyerhaeuser Paper, Unocal, Seattle Symphony, Starbucks Coffee, Times Mirror Company, University of Washington, USC, Kenyon College, Bowdoin College, ADM, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, United Technologies and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.  And many others.

In my 39 years I’ve been privileged to work with some of the country's top graphic designers such as Kit Hinrichs, Michael Bierut, Lowell Williams, John Van Dyke, Audra Brown, Kerry Leimer, Bill Cahan, Doug Oliver, James Cross, Jef Heidekat, Scott Lambert, Michael Weymouth, SVP Partners, Pentagram Design,  and Robert Louey.

I have traveled to and shot in 41 countries on 5 continents.  The most dangerous places I’ve been are Moscow, (did I really need two retired KGB agents with AK-47’s to stand next to me the entire time??  Apparently, yes, I did!) and Belfast, Northern Ireland in the late 80’s. 

Hottest photo shoot was in Abu Dhabi at 114 degrees (and yes, I was shooting outside.) Coldest photo shoot was in Flin Flon, Manitoba at -40 degrees (and yes, I was shooting outside.)  My favorite place is, without a doubt, just about anywhere in Japan.

During the mid and late ‘80’s, I was a “stringer” for Time, Fortune and Forbes Magazines, photographing profiles on Ray Bradbury, Gloria Allred, Daryl Gates, Cesar Chavez and others.  I worked on stories about heroin addiction in the upper class, education advancement in East LA and many profiles of corporate CEO’s.

Famous faces.  As mentioned above, Cesar Chavez, authors Ivan Doig, Ray Bradbury, Tom Robbins,  Nancy Pearl and Timothy Egan. Bill Gates (4 times), Michael Dell, John Sculley (Apple CEO), Louis Chénevert (United Technologies CEO, 7 times), Gloria Allred, Daryl Gates (infamous chief of police, LAPD), Lou Gerstner (IBM CEO), Roberto Goizueta (Coca-Cola CEO 4 times), Vanna White (yes, thee Vanna White!!), Steve Ballmer.  And architects Michael Graves, Richard Meier, Antoine Predock, Eric Owen Moss, Jim Olson, Harry Weese, Thom Mayne and Stanley Tigerman.  And, during my last days as an assistant in the late '70's, I briefly met and photographed Groucho Marx.

I’ve had many exciting assignments over the years.  Hanging out of a helicopter over the Thames River in London, shooting in the jungles of Borneo for Unocal, doing overnights on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and being able to direct US Air Force pilots as to where to fly their Apache helicopters.  But the one that really stands out was spending three days on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi, photographing Harrier Jet missions for Rolls-Royce.  


Article - Transitions to the Art World