After the past month I think the Haack family may just pull a restraining order on me. However, all texts from the delivery room aside, it's been incredible to dig into the lives of both Jesi and Ryan Haack and truly understand how they got where they are. I can tell you if you ever get the chance to be the third wheel in lamaze class with these two. Do it.
This Ryan Haack guy: well... he's one of those that you can sit with for days, crack multiple beers and just keep learning something new. I swear he's pushing 90 years old with all his life experience. He's like freakin' Yoda stuck in Adam Levine's body. Bottom-line: his photos clearly speaks for themselves. Yet, there's a depth to him personally (a life truly lived) that shows up in his work, his relationships and hopefully this interview, that make his work even more unique and powerful.
Oh yeah, when you're the curator of a secret table tennis society, you know there's some substance to you.
SET THE SCENE
Wolfcamp Studios, Costa Mesa, CA: 9:05 AM on a Wednesday or Thursday in early May.
Cue Ryan “Sorry I'm a little late, I spent the last 5 hours at the hospital with Jesi. Labor false alarm. We also had a crazy neighborhood fiasco, so I haven't really slept. Can I make you some coffee?”
Cue my brain “This guy, who does he think he is coming in late: it's like he has 3 young kids to deal with, a pregnant wife at the hospital, a business to run and a photo shoot in a few hours. Now he's trying to apologize with some slow roasted, hand pressed, sustainably sourced coffee. Man that looks good”.
Cue my mouth “That would be amazing. That 45 minute drive up the coast was a killer.”
Cue Ryan's Brain “This guy is a $%*!ing Jackass. ….#$%*!.... did he hear what I said? (sorry this interview is not appropriate for certain audiences).
<<<< INSERT AWKWARD SILENCE >>>>
Okay, so I gotta ask. This Pink photo? (see header if you missed it)
Hah. Well my partner Aaron and I (Foxes and Wolves) used it to shoot a model (Jesi made the backdrop), but then I noticed I had a pink shirt on and jumped in for a photo as a Valentines photo for Jesi. I had it printed on a cookie with a “Hey Girl” quote hahah. I'll let them read Jesi's interview on why Olive Garden.
Well I appreciate that, but I have to say, you just made Ryan Gosling proud and you literally put every other guy in the doghouse with this kind of stunt :) Kidding… That's incredible. No wonder you have 4 kids. You keep that kinda crap up and you'll end up with 10 (all with birthdays in November).
Where was your first job?
K.F.C. Next question.
You got it colonel.
How about we slow things down a bit?
That's what she said.
Man, I tee'd that one up for you.
How do you take your coffee?
Morning person or night person?
After last night… Both, Clearly
Favorite “food” film or show?
Mind of a chef - Anthony Bourdain - my jam. The third season is out of control.
Favorite Alcoholic Bev?
Old Fashioned but it depends on the time. Prime Rib = Glass of Wine
Favorite guilty pleasure?
McConnell's Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Gotta give Sweet Lucie's some love too.
Least favorite part of your job?
You and me both
Favorite Restaurant in Orange County?
Side Door - It has this pub feel - but there is a crazy eclectic crowd T-shirts to yacht owners.
Besides home, where do you feel most at home?
And one instagram you love:
Did you submit this for the cover shot?
Hah. Well. Maaaybe
If your friends were a little tipsy, how would they describe you?
I put it to the test for you. This is what they actually said.
And what got you into photography?
Surf trips really got me into photography. But it really didn't start to happen until we got Jesi's business going. As things started to get more photo-journalistic - I really, really loved it.
What's the feeling you want people to have when looking at your work?
I want them to be moved. See emotion in the photograph. It's a lot harder to do when you're shooting Taco Bell or other brands, but with families, kids and people I really try and go for something timeless.
Tell us about this Trix shoot.
So the Trix photoshoot was a shoot with our good friend Sean Woolsey. He's an awesome artist and craftsman who made this table called The Haack Table for Jesi and I. We collaborated with him on the design. It started out as a trade for me shooting his wedding and Jesi Designing it, and next thing you know he's in full production with them. Pretty rad.
So after he made the first one we knew we needed to do a shoot with it, so we came up with the concept of what a typical morning at the Haack house is like. So the 2 kids are our kids Maverick and River. It was super fun.
I'm surprised you don't have every mom in Orange County paying you to replicate this with their kids. BTW - This photo is going to get Maverick a lot of second dates when he gets older.
If you weren't taking photos for a living, what would you want to be doing and why?
(The more you visualize this the better). I would travel the world cooking and eating/apprenticing under the best chefs and restaurants, and frequent surf yacht charters in the French Polynesia areas.
And If I was really just dreaming. Then I'd come back and open a little B&B somewhere on the beach (say San Clemente), with a rad little cafe off the side serving poached eggs and toast. Keep it simple. (this is actually my retirement plan)
Just let me know when you need a sou chef.
And, if you could have your own cooking show, what would it be called and what would you do?
I would do something similar to “Mind of a Chef” - interviewing chefs and sourcing their ingredients.
What is your favorite aspect of cooking?
My favorite part of cooking is the creation of the dish you are making: starting with one ingredient and just building on that until you make a dish, and then serving it to someone and watching them eat it. I love presentation of food as well, and so from there I started to slowly shoot more of it as we got more clients. I don't really keep recipes, I just wing it, little of this, little of that.
My Favorite though is grilling tri-tip. On charcoal of course.
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
And your favorite ingredient to mix with when making cocktails?
If you could shoot for one brand, who would it be and why?
Let me describe the idea: Spear-fishing in Argentina and watching a famous chef cook it right on the boat or on the shore over a small fire. Or, shooting a chef in Nepal cook a goat in old school fashion.
I love traveling, adventure and food. So…
Man I'm getting hungry.
At this stage in your career, what is the best piece of advice you have received as an artist?
"What you do today better be good, because you are giving up a day of your life for it."
What about advice in running your own business?
“No Risk, No Art. No Art, No Reward” - Seth Godin
Do you have a pre-shoot routine?
Double check and triple check gear.
What do you do when you're stressed?
If I have time I will go surf, get in the water. Lately I've been running, and that's been pretty awesome.
Who has been one of the most influential people in your career?
My wife, @jesihaackdesigns. For so many reasons.
Where did you take Jesi on your first date?
Roman Cucina in Seal Beach
If you could take her on another first date, where would it be and what would you order/make?
Olive Garden and she would order Fettuccini Alfredo
Jesi wanted me to ask you: “Why he took so long to make a move on me”.
I was 19 when I met Jesi. I knew she was the one and that once I made my move, she wouldn't be able to resist this.
Hmmm, she seems to think it had something to do with your Baywatch crew.
There was a short stint. We'll leave it at that.
I can onnnnnly imagine.
So, what are these “rumors” about you running an underground Table Tennis ring.
Ha. Well the first rule of Fight Club is:
Yeah, yeah, yeah - you don't talk about fight club. Don't make me sick my readers on you. Plus that tattoo of a ping pong paddle on your leg is kinda of a give-away.
Ok, ok. I have always had fun playing Table Tennis :) Then my friend Darren gave me a table to put in my garage/barn. So naturally a small group formed called the BBBPOTTS - Back Bay Barn Preservation of Table Tennis Society
Riiiiiight, a smallllll group. Basically the Illuminati of Table Tennis.
Hah, or the Rotary Club.
Or Anonymous :)
So, being one to always take things a bit too far, I had a friend do a Stick and Poke Ping Pong paddle on my leg. So, I guess we have now formed a gang. haha, we just like to play.
So you're telling me you set up the “SOCIETY” because you got the tattoo. Not the other way around? Suspect. But I sure love the composite I found laying around :)
Is there a secret handshake? How do I join?
On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your ping pong skills (oops Table Tennis skills?)
6 maybe 7 if 10 is pro. ha!
Is it true you might have played professionally overseas at some point (or is that supposed to be under-wraps as well)?
I have travelled to Japan.
Hmmmm, I think you're being a little modest.
I hear the underground table tennis circuit over there is ruthless.
*Due to the fact that this was going to print, we could not get Ryan's response in time.
I'm collecting book recs. I'd love a suggestion and why?
Where the Sidewalk Ends. Oh the Places You'll Go. An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton - All kids books but can be enjoyed by all.
Remember this is the Popcorn game, so what creative should we interview next?
Hugh Forte: Such a great human and an amazing photographer. His wife runs the Sprouted Kitchen (he does all of the food stuff).
Talmadge Lowe: Pharmacie: Any time you spend with him you will definitely walk away wiser and thinking different about the situation.
I think I might have a man crush. Enough said :)
What were you 3 favorite events/shoots from the past year (I'll want to upload them to lennd)? Describe why they were your favorite in one or two sentences for each.
- Figueroa Mountain Wedding in Solvang, beautiful backdrop, great light, and a rad couple.
- Santa Barbara Mission wedding- Really cool old Catholic church and some great vendors.
- Holly & Ethan Big Sur wedding. Great couple, Jesi Haack designed it, and it was in Big Sur.