The photography scene in Pittsburgh has grown enormously over the years and names of local photographers fly around just as much as the words “yinz,” “Yuengling,” and “the Pens.” As a photographer in this city, I’ve branched out my inspirations to those located in other cities, but I was very excited to find that a big inspiration for me was somebody who is originally from less than an hour away from where I grew up.
Jace Lumley is a 29-year-old Point Park University graduate who was born and raised in Butler, PA. After studying Photography and Photojournalism, Jace moved to New York City. "I studied photography in school and knew that moving to New York would be a natural progression as an artist. I love everything about New York: the sounds, the people, the colors, the buildings… The city has such a unique heartbeat that is unlike any other."
Jace, however, no longer calls the big apple his home, as he has recently planted himself in Los Angeles, and has been jumping back and forth between the two cities for work for years. Currently working as a freelance photographer, Jace was previously working with the international men’s magazine GQ, photographing major names during his career such as Trevante Rhodes, Charles Melton, Big Sean, and Travis Scott. A lot of photographers dreaming of working for such a large publication might wonder how someone so young landed the full time position of overseeing the photo direction for GQ.com.
"Being found by GQ was really unconventional. I was hired by Tumblr to photograph New York Fashion Week for a blog I used to run (back when Tumblr was a lot more community driven). I had a conversation with an editor outside of an event who asked me why he hasn’t seen me around much before. It turned out that editor was Michael Hainey, the then-Deputy Editor of GQ."
Some of my favorite photos that Jace has created have been some that he has done for GQ. It's hard to imagine working for such a large employer at such a young age. When I asked Jace what he learned, he had to narrow down so much knowledge and experiences he gained while working there. He gave me two valuable insights: learn to understand and work with multiple personalities, and more importantly, continue and work on the passion. “Although I was working with photographers and editors, it was easy to burn out if I wasn’t taking time to enjoy the craft of photography personally,” Jace explained. For anybody working in a creative field, separating the craft as work from pleasure is the one thing to keep it from feeling like work.
With such success, I was curious what kind of advice Jace would have for aspiring photographers who want to follow in his footsteps: “Pay attention to photo and video editing classes before graduating. Skills like those can make you invaluable to a team looking for someone in house for a magazine, or any creative company.” He followed with making the point that once you’re in, you have to work to make yourself a worthy contributing member of a team.
While photography is his main source of income and work, Jace has also recently come out with a different project: vintage license plate necklaces. The necklaces are made out of small keychains people received in exchange for a donation to the Disabled American Veterans Association. “They would ensure postage of your keys back to your house if you happen to lose them. The actual key chains span anywhere from the early 1940’s to mid 1970’s, when they discontinued the program.”
Coming in plates from PA, CA, NY, OH, among many other states, they’re a unique idea that look really good as an eclectic and vintage addition to an outfit. Jace says that the necklaces came about as a passion project out of a need to create a physical product. "The idea comes from a hundred different little places that I see and collect mentally. The driving factor initially is being from Pennsylvania and living in other cities. I always love having a piece of my hometown and state with me, and the PA necklaces specifically are a way for me to do that," he explained.
The necklaces are a brand new endeavor for Jace, and are a way to have fun and help where possible. This past month, he was donating his proceeds to a very good cause. Dillon Weston, a close friend of Jace’s, is a wrestling coach and retired comedian who used to perform in NYC, and just recently lost his father to cancer. “Dillon is one of the nicest guys I know… He’s got such a good mentality and heart.” A Gofundme was set up by Dillon for his father and surpassed its goal by over $2,000. Donating proceeds to Dillon was one of the first opportunities for Jace to use his products to help others.
Jace isn't stopping with just photography and unique merchandise. When asked about any future endeavors, I was told to keep an eye out for an online interview series he has been working on the last couple of months. Following the fashion of his personal website, jacelumley.co, the interview series will be found at east4th.co. “I’ve been really fortunate to interview and photograph some amazing people, so stay tuned for them to start dropping,” he said.
As artists, we all like to jump around and see how far we can stretch our passions. Piling project after project onto his plate, it seems as though Jace is just going to keep rolling with wherever his endeavors take him, constantly working to improve on the things he loves. “You’re only as good as your last project in this industry and the future, to me, is currently trying to handle it one project at a time. Hopefully I can look back and realize how it’s gotten better and better over time.” Here’s to rooting for the home team, Jace.
You can find Jace's work on his Instagram @jacelumley, as well as his two websites, jacelumley.co for his studio where his license plate tags can be found, and jacelumley.com for his photography work. All photos by Jace Lumley.