C: Is photography what you’ve always wanted to do?
H: It wasn’t. I always was natural at it, but it started becoming real when I moved back from Nashville. I had been jumping around thinking, “I want to be a graphic designer, I want to be this, I want to do hair..” and then decided on hair and makeup. And when we were in Nash I applied for school, was going to go to school… and then we moved back here. So it kinda came back to, “Why am I only doing Deltalow on the side?” I’ve been doing it since 7th grade, I don’t think it’s going to go away. It’s just always stuck with me. And I enjoy it, I just didn’t know it was possible to do full time.
J: I started shooting around 2012 with some friends, did a few videos for the church-- but I always liked just art in general, was never really a master of anything, just liked to mimic. So it was guitar Tuesday, drums another day, video/photo another day… I just liked how everything worked together to give me some sort of sense of fulfillment and purpose.
C: Do you feel like, that kind of feeling of fulfillment comes with the idea that when we create, we are imitating the Creator?
J: 100%. I think, definitely when it comes down to the why for me, it always felt secondary, because she is SO talented at what she does, and she has her “one thing..” Like, I’ve never had my one thing. And the way the world kinda paints it is, “you have to have creativity OR be a business person.. you have to have creativity OR be a pastor. But just from being shaped since moving to Mobile and being inspired by the places and people I have encountered, I feel like it’s not creativity OR, it’s creativity IN business, or pastoring. I feel just as creative with what I do Monday-Thursday as I do Friday and Saturday shooting with Haley. Anything you love can be art, if you look at it like that.
H: I’ve been mentoring a girl in photography recently and we’ve just been going out on walks, finding inspiration anywhere.
C: It feels like you’ve gotten to be really steady really fast. Does most of that business come through people you already know here?
H: No. Most of the people we get contacted by, we’ve never heard of or met before. We don’t know necessarily what that’s due to, other than the natural growth of people telling other people about us, which is really great.
J: Yeah, it’s really how business grows. We were looking at people when we lived in Nash, some of the bigger names in photography and even music… and social media has a ton to do with it, but most of the time it’s not people searching for “I need a photographer.” Most of our booking doesn’t come through our website, but it’s still necessary. Friends telling friends about us, that’s what’s grown us.
C: When you lived in Nashville, did you feel like that was a more inspiring place for you, or did you find yourself shooting less?
H: Yeah.. It felt pretty intimidating just because there are so many well-established artists and photographers there. I think I booked one senior portrait shoot while we lived there, which happened to be probably my favorite senior session I’ve ever done... But other than that, I would find myself taking my camera around and taking pictures of flowers or trees just to keep my skills up.
C: A lot of times living in such a creative city can feel so inspiring, but ironically, completely stifling.
H: I think a lot of it was the people we knew there were very established, so it wasn’t like I was meeting people who were even close to where I was in life. The people were welcoming and encouraging, but everyone already had their photographer. I felt like, at least.
J: Places like Nashville are the reasons cities like Mobile find it tough to grow, especially creatively. Every talented person here who hasn’t been developed feels like their next step is to move to get out, and move to Nashville because that’s what “success” looks like. It’s established because people there have made it so, but it’s not a mecca like people think. Sure, you have a fun group of friends that dress like you… but the thing about Mobile is that you can be genuinely you, and find your niche. You find ways to be inspired, not mimic. Here, nothing has to look like Jeremy Cowart, you just be you, and do what you do well, and that’s enough to be successful.
Because it’s brand new!
C: Yeah! It’s an environment that’s open to creativity, but it’s not big enough yet that you can’t be the first person to do something.
H: I think we’ve surrounded ourselves with like-minded people-- people who aren’t just moving away, but are really investing here. Like Denver Hawsey, April Loyle, people who could be anywhere but choose to be here.
J: Yeah, the way I think is “The only way we change the culture is to change people.” Even in the small businesses we create, the only way we’re going to see change is in individuals, like leaders who are able to influence people in that way. Nashville is Nashville because it had the right leader at the right time. And for us, it’s going to be people with influence, motivating change. And that’s shifting to our generation, a generation that sees Mobile as more than just Mardi Gras and Ladd-Peeble. You know? But now the guard is changing, because people who are 24 are starting businesses and growing. And as we grow, we leverage our influence to grow our city.
C: I feel like there’s also a shift from being so competition-focused in business to finding community in business. Do you agree or disagree?
J: Yeah, I think that has a lot to do with our generation being so connected. Like, if you were to slam another business on social media, there’s a good chance one of your followers knows that person, which reflects poorly on you. And so people are becoming held more accountable to what they say about each other. Which is great, because it’s becoming more community than competition.
H: There’s always room for more growth, because everyone has their own things they like. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Even in photography, there are people with different tastes, and we don’t get our feelings hurt if our good friends use someone other than us, because it lets us know we’re doing something different. Which we want.
J: Sure, we could let that hurt our feelings and switch up our style from less moody or whatever you want to call it, or we could do what we really like, and what we know different people will like.
H: I think that’s been one of the hardest things,
because I do love that deep, dark style that we do, and that’s a little bit edgier for most people. It’s not southern and airy like people are used to here, but we like it, and even if we only exist for a select crowd, we want to be able to focus our creativity on serving those people.
C: We had a conversation a while back about how moving to Mobile was a bit of a culture shock in terms of cultural and racial divides, even moving from Houston. What keeps you invested here?
J: I feel like the obvious answer is people, but I feel like that’s really the answer. I feel like it has to be the obvious answer, because if it wasn’t, what would it be? If I still lived in Nashville, it would theoretically be 20k times better than living here because there’s more fun stuff to do or better food or more like-minded people. Everything points to that. But the only answer I can give is people, because culture is people. It’s establishing beliefs, customs-- all of these things make culture. And those things are what make a place a home. Not cool stuff to do, or things like that. It’s not home because we love Dauphin St, it’s that we love the people.
C: When you say “people,” do you mean the people who make up your immediate community?
J: No, I feel like it has to be broader than that. For us, even with the way we do ministry or live our life period, it’s... especially being an interracial couple, I feel like it’s a constant state of opening people’s eyes, and showing them something brand new. Not something that’s an exception. Because that’s what people think: “Well y’all are just different”. It’s like, no… We’re not the exception, we’re the expectation. You should expect to see something brand new and totally different. That means your culture is growing. Everything doesn’t have to be southern in the way you think it should be.
J: I think if we can encourage people that being creative doesn’t mean these crazy rules like “we like coffee, wear skinny jeans, and wear glasses but only on Tuesday”, that being creative isn’t imitating art but it’s creating art, it doesn’t have to look like an Instagram story. Just do what you love, and be excellent at it.
C: Going back to when you (Jared) moved to Mobile in 2010… Can you point to a time where something made you realize, “This is a different environment”? Was it a complete, hard line culture shock, or would you say it’s more been there all along?
J: I mean, it’s always been a tension, but in different ways. My dad planted a multicultural church, with the purpose of uniting races together, that was part of the vision of the church. So from my childhood I’ve been exposed to all kinds of churches- an all white church, to a multicultural church, to an all-black church, to a 3,000 member church where we were the only black family, to my dad’s multicultural church. So… I’ve always been taught it was a tension to be managed rather than a problem to be solved. But I think when you move to a big city like Houston, you can find pockets that don’t have as much resistance, and that’s what I did. All my friends were creative and different races, and it was cool. School wasn’t that way, but I found a group of friends that were that way. Racism was there, but I found it easier to escape.
Then, moving to Mobile, there is no escape. It’s everywhere. There aren’t black people hanging out with white people; it just doesn’t happen very often. And it’s a kind of undercurrent-type thing.
It’s not so blatant, it’s just an attitude of “we accept you, but only to a certain extent.” Like, I heard a lot of, “well, you’re just different,” or “you’re the exception,” moving here. “You’re not REALLY black.” And that’s a way we cope with something that messes with our worldview. “Yeah, I see that, but I’m denying that’s really how things are.” “I’m not really friends with like a ‘black guy,’ I’m hanging out with Jared who’s… more like us.” And I got a lot of that on a regular basis, even in the church. All my friends back home who were black happened to play guitar or do other stuff. It’s not the exception, and part of our mission is to change people’s minds.
C: Was there a first “un-acceptance” experience that you remember after getting married?
J: There wasn’t really a jarring one, but a memorable one was that one of the students I pastored told me that their parents, who were very involved at the church and have had me over for dinner, taught them that interracial marriage is against the Bible, and that until they met me that’s what they believed.
I just went back and showed him why that’s wrong.. The Bible didn’t teach them that, culture taught them that. We just blame it on religion a lot because it’s easy.
H: We do occasionally see subtle things come up, even in business. Like, if we don’t introduce ourselves together, people assume we’re not husband and wife because we’re not the same race. I’ll say “Yeah, I shoot with my husband,” and “My husband is here with me,” and people will see a guy with a camera and not infer that it’s obviously my husband. I’ve been asked, “Oh, I saw one guy with a camera.. So where’s your husband?” and had to answer, “That is my husband…”
J: We’re probably the ones who think about it the most honestly, because we’ve thought through things like, “Well, maybe we should just put Haley’s picture on the site, because people would much rather work with a cute little white girl than the interracial couple who’s going to be pushing the boundaries.” Eventually we got comfortable with it, but that’s just how it is.
C: I wanted to ask you about those types of things, the subtle racism in the day-to-day, like people assuming you’re not husband and wife. Can you communicate to people how that’s still damaging? For example, I have family members who.. Let’s say, don’t know they’re racist. They don’t mean to be, and aren’t being hateful per se, but it’s still a big problem. And they have difficulty seeing that.
H: I mean, I see it from both sides. But like, as a prime example, we recently submitted some wedding photos to a local wedding magazine, and didn’t even think about the fact it was a black wedding.. But flipped through the magazine when I got it back and realized it was the only black couple in the entire magazine. Pages and pages and pages of white people, even the advertisements.
J: I feel like to put it simply, a lot of the South has kept the mentality of segregation that was supposed to be destroyed by Martin Luther King, which was “Separate But Equal.” I feel like anyone who’s “lovingly racist” believes that. “They keep to theirs, and theirs is good, and we keep to ours, and ours is just as good.” But the truth of the Gospel, and just the truth of humankind in general, if you look at the greatest cultures in the world, separate is not equal. Separate is worse. Together is equal, and together is better.