Jack Belli’s portfolio of imagery is vast. What started as a surf hobby, has since turned into an art form featuring some of the world’s most beautiful girls. We tracked Jack down to find out how that evolution occurred. And if he knows how we can make it happen for us.
WHAT YOUTH: Where did you grow up? JACK BELLI: I grew up in Newport Beach. I was your typical surf kid: surfing and skateboarding everyday. It was all I thought about at the time so growing up in this area was pretty rad. I lived in Newport until I was about 21 and then moved to Costa Mesa. All my friends and family are here so I don’t have any plans to leave any time soon.
How old were you when you were introduced to photography? It was around 16 or 17 years old. My friends and I always had cameras with us while we were skating, so I guess that was my first introduction to something creative. Aside from skating I was surfing a lot too at the time and was able to travel. I wanted to have a good camera to just take photos while I was on trips so I bought my first dslr. I started noticing that I would rather shoot surfing than actually surf so it was a weird transition.
Do you remember when you realized that it had gone from a hobby to something that had a style of it’s own and you could do something with photography? I do have a pretty specific direction. I style and shoot girls now. Prior to shooting fashion though, I didn’t really give it much thought. I just shot photos that I liked. Having people say they can recognize it’s your photo before knowing though is a huge compliment.
Any other interests outside photography? Music for sure. I grew up playing the drums but haven’t for a while. I’m thinking its time to dust them off and give it a try again.
Who’s work inspires you? I think the first inspiration I had when I was younger was more documentary photos. Nowadays I draw inspiration from so many different places. Thats the fun about shooting fashion stuff now. I kind of take what I have learned in the past and apply that to new inspiration I find to hopefully create something unique.
When did photography become an art for you, or a career path? I never really gave it much thought when I was getting into shooting… I just knew I liked it. It was probably around the time I was introduced to David [Stoddard] and everyone at Brixton and started doing a lot of work for them. I was doing little jobs here and there but David really took me in and put a lot of trust into such a young kid to create content for his brand. I would say this was when I started thinking, OK this could be something I do for the rest of my life and began investing all my time into becoming better. David and everyone at Brixton are so rad and I am really thankful I was able to develop such a good relationship with them at a young age.
Did you go to school or have a mentor? I took a black and white photo class at OCC [Orange Coast College], but aside from that I don’t have any formal training. I just shot every single day. You start to notice things you like in a photo and things you hate. I am pretty hard on myself when I take photos which I think is important for any creative person. If you think your photos are perfect there wont be any progression or push to become better.
When you first started what did you shoot? When I started out, I was only shooting surfing and my friends hanging at the beach because that’s what my life was surrounded by at the time. When I was about 22 years old I started to think about where I saw my future as a photographer. I didn’t really want to shoot surfing for the rest of my life so I kind of took a step back from it and started focusing on developing a look in fashion that I wanted to go for, which was really hard.
Where did you work before photography became a job? Worked really shitty jobs. [laughs] I worked at a flower nursery helping customers carry things to their cars for a while. After that I worked at a coffee shop for a year or so. I went on a trip to Australia to shoot while I was working there. When I got home I remember my boss calling me and asking, “Are you coming back to work?” I sat there for a second and thought about it and just said nope. I haven’t worked another job like that since.