written by Jeremy Craig | photography by Jeremiah Cowan | April 6, 2017
Jeremiah Cowan never thought he’d become a photographer.
Music is his family’s artistic tradition. His mother and grandmother sang for enjoyment, and studied music theory. Cowan is a drummer, and playing with one of his bands that turned his head toward photography.
While on a band photoshoot, he was fascinated by how the photographer pursued his craft.
Setting up the shot. Making sure lighting was right. Finding the correct exposure. Getting the band members in the right poses.
“I was really inspired when I saw the photos afterwards,” said Cowan, a student in Georgia State’s studio art program. “I asked if I could go take photos with (the photographer) again sometime, and he said, ‘sure.'”
He didn’t have a camera, so Cowan began taking photos with his iPhone. He turned to Instagram to share what became his informal portfolio.
“I noticed other people at the time were using Instagram in that way,” he said. “I was intrigued by that, and I fell into that community.”
He used Instagram to show different, lesser-known parts of Atlanta — streetscapes, alleys, rooftops and more.
At the time, not as many Atlantans used Instagram in the same way, compared to users in New York and Los Angeles, showing off their cities with pride and each locale’s uniqueness.
His work stood out.
Gap contacted Cowan during his freshman year to help start an Instagram advertising campaign for its fall clothing line.
“That was my very first big break,” he said. “And then a few months later, I got an email out of the blue from Apple.”
The company wanted to use two of his photos in a project called “The Shot on iPhone 6” campaign. He was one of 76 people chosen globally, and his shots (one of his feet and one in front of a waterfall) appeared all over the world, from New York to Hong Kong, and on the Apple website.
A 70-feet-wide shot of his even appeared on the side of a Mexico City skyscraper.
“Apple sent us a book in a set of two archival photography books of our photos ‘out in the wild,’ so to speak,” Cowan said. “I wish I could have seen it in real life.”
Working with Gap and Apple was the spark that pushed him toward photography as a career.
“I felt confident in my photography,” he said, “and I said to myself, ‘Maybe I can do this professionally.’”
While a 21-year-old college student, he’s been able to snag other commercial clients, such as Ford, Lexus, Starwood Preferred Guest Hotels and Levi’s.
Cowan said he realizes how fortunate he’s been to build a successful business in a tough creative field where it’s difficult to get established, and often, to make money.
“At first, I just had these things come to me, and I thought that’s how it worked, thinking, ‘Oh cool, I get paid lots of money and don’t have to do anything, really,’” he said. “I quickly realized that’s not how it works.”
He reaches out to at least five prospective clients each week, sometimes without success, while trying to juggle other commercial projects plus his school work.
“There’s a business side of the art world that many people like to forget about,” Cowan said. “I told myself that working hard on that side is what needs to happen if I want to make this a career.”
Visit Cowan’s professional website at http://www.jeremiahcowan.com/.