Jay Mantri is a designer / photographer / entrepreneur based in Santa Monica California. Current projects include an open source photography diary & The League of Print. We had some burning questions for him and he kindly took the time to answer.
Can you tell us a bit about your background – how did you first get into photography?
It is a bit of a serendipitous story. My roommate Mike Dewey got me this vintage Minolta film camera for my birthday about 2 years ago and as soon as I held it in my hand I was hooked. There was something about the analog process that made me fall in love with capturing a moment. Ever since then I have had some sort of camera slung around my shoulder whenever I step out the door in the morning.
How would you describe your process?
As someone who is self-taught, I find the best form of education is to take every shot you would regret not taking. It is pretty simple but so far it has not steered me wrong. When I get stuck or am not sure what to do, the best way for me to break through is take a bunch of bad photos and figure out how they could be improved. Once I have done my selects I typically pull the image first into Lightroom for things like color correction and then onto Photoshop for detailed adjustments.
Film photography or digital?
I enjoy aspects of both but I have switched to digital for the most part for logistical reasons. I will never stop shooting film though. Every picture has this extra splash of color that adds to a shot’s character.
We love that you give away outstanding images for free every week, but why do you do it?
This project all stemmed from the idea that if I started to become a shutter junkie, pictures would just waste away on a hard drive. I felt that was unfair to the energy I put into each one. I am in awe day in and day out by people’s creativity and, through my web design career, owe a lot of my value to others who have taken the time to explain their process for the sake of contributing to a wonderful community. This is my response to their selflessness.
You have traveled the globe and captured some stunning images. Where would you return to?
That is a loaded question because I would probably go back everywhere if I had the opportunity. My favorite country recently was Iceland because of the culture and the out of this world landscapes.
What photographers do you find most inspiring?
I have the pleasure of being friends with some insane natural talent who continually set a really high bar. I look up to Bret Lemke and Taylor McCutchan for composition and color. Mike Dewey has a masterful eye for color, which I am perpetually jealous of, and look to everything he does as a challenge to catch up. I have also amassed quite a collection of inspiration on Instagram from people like Noah Sahady, Alex Strohl, Matt Bauer, Humza Deas, Jimmy Marble, Daniel Zvereff and Porter Counts, to name a few that I am constantly humbled by.
Tell us a bit about your day job.
By day I design websites for Thrive Consulting Group. I spend a lot of time in Illustrator trying to figure out how to make a user experience tell a story and a brand. The beauty of my job is no two things I create are solved the same way. Always being challenged in some fashion keeps things fresh and exciting.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
Do not get discouraged by details or complexity when you first start out. At the end of the day taking the shot whether it be good or bad is progress. You can learn equally as much if not more from a photo that is not your best by looking at how you did it and thinking through how you will do it differently the next time around. Trying to figure out all the variables can stifle action. Go shoot! Something you get will be great and it only gets easier over time.
See Jay’s growing collection of freely downloadable images here.
Want to read more Q&As with creatives? Find them here.