Your Instagram handle has quite the backstory, let’s start there!
Haha yeah, so my career background is in working as a Christian pastor (no bartending or professional photography experience whatsoever). I went to a biblical university/seminary & everything! I worked at a church for a little over 3 years before quitting to pursue “creative stuff” full-time, even though I wasn’t totally sure what that meant when I first made the jump. I started @highproofpreacher about 2 years into my pastor job but was a little more “secretive” about it than I am now. My boss at the time was supportive of me doing it, but he did warn me that (obviously) some people in Christian circles would take issue with it. Overall, I've received an incredibly positive response and it has opened up a lot of opportunities for me in an industry that I had no previously experience in.
I didn’t know “High-Proof Preacher” would become a new career direction for me, but now that it has, I like the name even more. When I first named it I just thought it was a funny juxtaposition, but I like that it connects me to my roots as a pastor. It’s a great conversation starter & kind of a fun story of going from preacher to a “cocktail photographer” or whatever I am now.
When you decided to take the leap into focusing on freelance work and your Instagram page, who were your top mentors?
On the IG side, Elliott Clarke from Apartment Bartender has been a huge encouragement throughout. When I started, he really was the first to recognize my potential & introduced me to some heavy-hitters in the space. Now we’re good buddies & have gotten to work together on a few projects. Tara Fougner from @thirsty & Emily Arden Wells of @gastronomista_ have also been two of my strongest allies, & I’m incredibly grateful for both of their guidance over the last few years.
More on the industry side, Ryan Magarian (bar consultant & co-founder of Aviation Gin back in the day) has been a great sounding board for me and has offered a lot of wise insight into planning ahead and growing my personal brand. Also, Jim Meehan was kind enough to sit down with me and offer his insight into what I do & helping me think through my role within the industry. I’m definitely thankful for the help of a lot of great people!
How long have you been interested in photography? Did you have previous experience before embarking on your journey through Instagram? Do you have any tips for bartenders looking to get into photography to help their personal brand grow?
I’ve always had a pretty major creative bent. I didn’t enjoy playing sports much growing up and always preferred music & art. I got hooked on photography when I got a cheap DSLR as a teenager, but it was nothing more than a hobby until I started this HPP thing. I started pursuing more graphic / web design & thought that would be my career direction eventually. As HPP grew, I found that I was better at and enjoyed photography a lot more than design (and luckily in my case, it paid better too!)
For bartenders; get a decent camera and start messing around and seeing what you can create. It doesn’t have to be the nicest gear out there; you can do a lot with an inexpensive Canon Rebel & 35mm lens. When it comes down to it, the gear isn’t that important. There are plenty of people out there with hella expensive set-ups that produce really uninspiring work. The photographer is the one who takes the photos; the camera is just a tool.
When it comes to building your personal brand, you want people to identify with your work & with you as a person. So think about what stories you want to tell through your photography or what emotions you want people to feel when they view it. Learning how you communicate visually takes time & you kinda find your own “voice” as you go. So just keep going & never stop creating & putting yourself out there.
How do we beat the algorithm!?
We can’t. That thing is always changing and it’s impossible to keep up with all the latest “hacks.” It’s easier said than done, but try not to stress out about it that much and just enjoy. Yeah it sucks when not a lot of people see something you created, but just keep making epic content and sharing it. And make sure you interact with the people who do see your content. I do my best to respond to every *genuine* comment on every post. People stick around and interact with your content more when they can actually interact with you as well. Plus, social media becomes a way more meaningful experience when you actually spend time investing in others. You end up getting to know people & they get to know you, and you end up supporting each other’s content in the process.
You work with a ton of unique spirits on your page, do you tend to gravitate towards one particular spirit? Have there been any sleeper spirits that you had absolutely no interest in but ended up totally changing your mindset?
Like a lot of people these days, I’m absolutely fascinated with all things mezcal. So I’d say I definitely prefer agave spirits above all else. A spirit I wasn’t at all interested in at first was rum, but now, largely thanks to Instagram, I’m a pretty big rum fan (especially those really funky pot-still Jamaican rums). Both mezcal & rum are just so incredibly diverse… there is always something new to try in those two categories alone.
What’s on repeat on your Spotify right now?
Bon Iver is a constant– I just never get tired of his stuff. I really dig Sylvan Esso, Geographer, Yumi Zouma & Hazel English. Also The Japanese House is amazing to listen to while editing photos.
Want to hear Jordan’s current Top 10? Check the playlist on Spotify here!
1. So Low – Geographer
2. Die Young – Sylvan Esso
3. Depth, Pt. 1 – Yumi Zouma
4. Upper – Heavenly Beat
5. Million Bucks – Smallpools
6. Never Going Home – Hazel English
7. Back Again – Flor
8. Cities in Dust – Siouxsie & the Banshees
9. Ready to Let Go – Cage the Elephant
10. Hey, Ma – Bon Iver
What camera body are you shooting with? You can only take two lenses to a shoot, what are you grabbing?
I’m currently using two Fujifilm X-H1’s. I could never go back to a DSLR. Mirrorless is the way of the future & it keeps getting better & better.
Two lenses? Depends on the shoot (location, lighting, what I’m shooting, etc.) but I’d probably bring a good mid-range zoom (like a 24mm-70mm that goes down to at least f/2.8). Then I’d grab a fast 50mm or 85mm prime.
Any golden rules of photography or words of wisdom for those getting into the game?
Yeah, stop shooting everything at the lowest aperture possible. Everyone likes that “portrait mode” look where your subject is in-focus and your background is all soft & blurry. That’s nice & all and has its place, but it’s literally the easiest look to achieve; hell you can do that with your phone now! Push yourself & do something different. You can’t get too comfortable when it comes to photography; everyone has a decent camera now, and/or is willing to shoot for free or cheaper than you. You HAVE to be creative. You HAVE to keep learning & growing if you want to set yourself apart & be successful. Do not stay in your comfort zone or you'll become irrelevant.
I always know what I have to start learning next by identifying what scares me (example: Are you afraid of using flash? Then go out and master flash photography)
You can hang out with one deceased musician at your favorite dive, who are you sharing a beer with and where?
Honestly, I think it would be fun to hang with Bing Crosby. I’d probably want to take him somewhere cool vs. a dive but we’d have a good time at the Sandy Hut.
Give us one of Portland’s Hidden Gems!
Normandie (@normandiepdx). Calvados-centric cocktail menu. Incredible Modern-French fare that is equally photogenic as it is delicious. It feels sophisticated enough for a fancy night out, but also really friendly & casual for a laid back happy hour with friends. I rave about this place to nearly everyone I meat. It’s just so good.
You have one last day in Portland to go out, what spots are you hitting?
Oh man, that’s tough & what I’m going to layout is pretty unrealistic but I’d at least *try* to hit all of these in one day. I’d probably start with brunch at Proud Mary, then head to Pip’s Original for the best fresh made donuts Portland has to offer, then coffee at Coava. Then I’d probably hit up Breakside Brewery or Tilt for lunch. You can’t eat & drink all day, so I’d probably go for a hike in Forest Park (one of the largest urban forests in the US) or go stand-up paddle boarding on the Willamette river if it’s a nice day. Then I’d hit as many of my favorite cocktail spots as I could: Clyde Common, Multnomah Whiskey Library, Palomar, Rum Club, Bar Casa Vale, Angel Face… ahhh I honestly don’t how to chose though, there are so many!
Favorite Portland specific cocktail? Favorite guilty pleasure cocktail?
Favorite guilty pleasure cocktail is probably a Piña Colada… or a frozen Strawberry Daiquiri… or both. Nothing combats the Portland winter blues quite like a good Miami Vice! haha
What do you see trending locally in your bar scene? What do you see trending in the future for our bar community?
Locally: Portland’s bar scene is insane. We have so many quality cocktail bars for a relatively small city; I don’t know how we can sustain them all. I’d echo my buddy Ryan Magarian who I mentioned earlier, who says that new bars need a narrow focus to survive here. You can’t just be “a bar” anymore, rather you need a clear brand identity that people can understand & identify with. Take Palomar for example: they’re vintage Havana vibes. Light & bright with tropical drinks & Cuban comfort food. Who doesn’t want that?! Another new spot that has this nailed is Scotch Lodge. Scotch-centric cocktails & an incredible whiskey selection, in a cozy subterranean hideaway. Yes Lord!
Bar community at large: I’m really happy about the shift towards being more health-minded on both sides of the bar. Obviously, there isn’t anything healthy about putting alcohol into your body, but there’s been a greater focus around being more mindful around what you drink & how much, & taking better care of yourself mentally & physically. All of this recent emphasis on low-proof & no-proof cocktails is really cool too, & shows that less people care about drinking for the effect, it’s more for the social & culinary experience. I think that’s a really positive shift away from how previous generations thought about alcohol.
Let’s play a little game… Our version of Fuck, Marry, Kill except it’s Sip, Mind Erase (Chug) or Dump (Bitter Edition) - Negroni, Paperplane, Junglebird
I’d sip a Negroni, Mind Erase (chug) a Junglebird & dump the Paperplane
Pineapple on pizza? There’s only one correct answer here…
I absolutely love both pizza & pineapple... but not at the same time. They just shouldn’t live together, ya know?
We’re huge @pip_from_portland fans (go check out Jordan’s adorable corgi right now!), anyone else you want to shamelessly plug?!
Well there’s definitely my wife Ellie @selflessly_styled. She’s starting to come with me more to various industry events & brand trips, & I’m afraid people are starting to like her more than me ;) I’d like to think that I’m at least a somewhat cool guy, but once people meet Ellie, it automatically takes me up a few notches. I’m not just saying this because it sounds sweet, but the term “my better half” has never been more true.