Hey, it’s me, Mike! I’m your second crew feature, and while you’re here, I wanted to tell you a little bit about myself and how I became the Lead Photographer at KNOT JUST ANY DAY.
One day, just about 5 years ago, I showed up at the KJADstudio, sat down, started doing some work, and I’ve been here ever since. Okay, okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that simple, but it’s close.
I graduated from Wilkes University in 2012 with a degree in Integrated Media. My path with Steve didn’t cross there being he didn’t start teaching at Wilkes until 2013. Still, a good friend of mine, Eric, was a student of Steve’s and transitioned into videography for KJAD after he graduated in 2013.
I definitely credit KJAD for jumpstarting my creative career, but art has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I was really into video games and anime, which made me want to learn how to draw. There was no YouTube then, so before taking art classes, I got my start by learning from drawing books from Walden Books. Drawing and gaming evolved into an interest in motion graphics, and that’s when I began working with Adobe products like Photoshop and After Effects, and found my interest in graphic design and photography. I watched tutorials and made graphics for friends, and by doing enough of those you learn the basics of it. Photography came into play when I needed some sort of footage to test my graphics over. Then, when I got to school, I learned that it was a part of the Integrated Media program, and it all started working together.
Prior to KJAD, I worked in advertising for about 2 years, which oddly enough was right next door to the KJADstudio. During that time, my friend Eric then gauged my interest in coming to work for KJAD. I said I was down, so here we are. Even though I am a photographer now, my role there began as a video editor.
At KJAD, my first jobs were file management, video editing, and designing flyers, invitations, and all of that fun stuff. Within a few months, I was at weddings as a 2nd shooter for video. Ever so slowly from there, I started training more in photography, saved up some money, and bought all my gear. Getting a camera after all those years of messing around and teaching myself was like a “game on” moment. I knew this was something I wanted to do and that I was comfortable with it. So, in my second year, I started as a 2nd photographer to learn even more and grow my skill set. After that and once I got even more comfortable, I started shooting lead. Now, years later, that’s my role today!
I think the cool thing is, being a photographer and videographer has gotten me out into the world more than I expected. I’ve gone to places I otherwise wouldn’t have gone and met great people that I would not have met. KJAD definitely kickstarted my creative career, which I’ve continued to build on since I’ve started, but the experience has also impacted me, as I’ve matured as an artist and a person through KJAD.
Nowadays, you can find me splitting my time as an artist between my full-time job at Benco Dental as a designer, photographer, and videographer, and as a Lead photographer on weekends with the KJAD crew.
That’s all there is to know about me and my time here! I’m looking forward to becoming part of your wedding. Can’t wait to meet everyone! Thanks for reading and taking a few minutes to learn more about me. In the meantime, follow me here (@mjgentle) and listen to my playlist below.
Hi everyone! It’s me, Steve. I thought I would take a few minutes to introduce myself to those of you I have yet to meet and give the rest of you who know me a little more, a bit more backstory on me.
Owner, Photographer, Videographer, Stationery Designer, Wedding Planner, @thekjadbaby’s dad
I have a BFA in photography from Kutztown University. Began playing guitar and singing in bands, professionally, towards the end of college and continued that well into my 30s. I owned an art gallery in Jim Thorpe for a few years after college. Worked as an artist’s assistant, taught 30-50 guitar lessons a week, and began photographing everything I possibly could. I photographed my first wedding in 2003 with one of my film cameras and never looked back. I did freelance photo and graphic design from that point forward. The graphic design work landed me a killer seat working for the coolest arts and entertainment paper called The Weekender. During my time there I went from The Weekender’s graphic designer to the parent company’s, the Times Leader, creative director. This change of focus from just creating non-stop to being more involved with the development side of the business really pushed me to continue to further my own entrepreneurial endeavors. Towards the end of my time at The Weekender, as I tried to push forward my side work, I began teaching as an adjunct instructor at Wilkes University.
My first love is teaching. I teach no matter what I am doing. And over my time at Wilkes, I have learned what it’s like to make a difference in someone’s life. Teaching is a gift unlike any other thing, but it goes both ways. My students have always left a mark on me. They have always pushed me in ways to better problem solve, better communicate, and to be more patient. I’m the kind of person that can wait for anything from someone else, but can NOT wait the time it takes to watch my coffee reheat… so, I teach with a room temp cup of coffee.
Continuing on, after leaving the Weekender and Times Leader, I made my way over to Metz Culinary Management. I continued in the creative marketing world during my time at Metz. And all the time all of this was going on over the past decade and a half, I kept playing shows with my two bands, Lessen One and OurAfter, played acoustic shows by myself, photographed weddings, bands, concerts, models, food, architecture, events, headshots, family/kid/senior portraits, designed logos and ads for local and regional businesses, AND officially started KNOT JUST ANY DAY in early 2008. (deep breath)
KJAD was created to give me a more formal business entity to take photos, create memories, and to find myself making art that lasted for generations to come. Ever since my first wedding in 2003, I found myself valuing the importance and beauty of weddings and relationships. Once I let the concept of weddings more into my world of photography, I realized that I couldn’t take another photo that was just for the sake of the photo. I needed to create for people who truly and genuinely loved every bit of what I was creating. Not to knock fine art photography, but if I had to try and sell another long exposure waterfall print for $35, I would have hung up my camera and called it a day. Weddings found me and I found my purpose as a photographer in weddings. Some people LOVE wedding photography, and others… not so much. I, on the other hand, love what I can timelessly create at a wedding for my couples, friends, and families. It’s an honor to be a wedding photographer if you want it to be. These images will last for generations to come and will carry in them, the most important people in my clients’ lives. Every wedding I accept the challenge to archive this day – to be present, predictive, artistic, tender and kind, and to allow my personality and technique to lead the way.
Now, I’m speaking very much in the “I”, when really the point of KJAD is “we”. I started this business knowing that I work better with others around me. I thrive on sharing the excitement and positive outcomes with my crew and at the same time work towards better outcomes through challenging times.
The concept of “we” really is what drove me to open the KJAD studio in 2015. The studio is a place where we meet prospective clients, have important meetings about weddings and events, edit photos and videos, create customized stationery, work as a team, and even share our work with you. If you haven’t been to the studio, please stop by… once, of course, we can all be in the same space as each other. Despite all of the hurdles we face with this ever-present disease that we are faced with, I know that if we take precautions, be aware of our actions and support one another, we will all be back up and running before we know it. This year will mark the five year anniversary of our downtown Wilkes-Barre studio’s opening. I am eager and so excited to, hopefully, in the near future, open our doors and have you all over for a celebration of what we have achieved and what we soon will begin, all thanks to your support and love of what we do.
The last item on my list of things to share with you is my family. I have a wonderfully supportive family that’s always on the ready to help me stay flexible with my time and efforts with KJAD. My wife, Bridget, always has had my back and my biggest cheerleader, Henry, our son, (@thekjadbaby on IG) is itching to get in and help out… well I mean he’s three, but he really likes keyboards and all of the buttons on my cameras, so that’s a start.
Thanks for reading this. Thanks for your continued support. Thanks for trusting us with such an important role in your lives. And thank you for trusting me.
And just for fun, I’ve decided to share with you a playlist of tunes I am listening to right now. On each on of these crew feature blogs, I will include a Spotify playlist that each crew member creates. Here are some of my recent musical finds and songs I have on repeat. Enjoy!
And lastly, here is the full video of a new feature we are doing with everyone in the company. And for your official max overload of me – enjoy 49 slightly random questions with me.