Jeremy Deputat Captures the Raw, the Real, the Rad
02.20 / MISSBISH Photography Workshop
They say that good things come to those who wait – but only things left by those who hustle. Jeremy Deputat hustles.
Deputat, who splits his time between Detroit and LA, started out working as an art director for a small local newspaper, but working with tight budgets meant that he and his team couldn’t hire great photographers. Fed up with trying to spin subpar images into gold, he took matters into his own hands.
“I went to Best Buy and bought the dopest point and shoot camera I could afford at the time and started shooting. I figured I could shoot at least as good as what I was already getting,” he says. As it turns out, Deputat was a natural. “Soon, I realized I enjoyed shooting more than being chained to my desk designing, and I was ready for a career change.”
He cut his teeth shooting his friends, many of who were musicians. After quitting his job in 2009, Deputat went to LA where his friend Dennis Dennehy – who runs publicity at Interscope Records and handles all of their A-list talent – gave him a shot.
Today, Deputat shoots for some of the biggest names in music, including Detroit’s most notable musical imports like Eminem, Big Sean and Kid Rock. Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre have also found themselves in front of his lens - which is pretty f*cking amazing, considering he didn’t take the more conventional route most aspiring photographers do, like learning the craft of lighting, working on set, assisting, etc.
Instead, Deputat just threw himself into the fire.
“I had to learn things the hard way, strictly from trial and error and learning from my mistakes,” says Deputat, adding, “People ask me all the time about going to art school, and while you can get some great experience there, I think it’s a waste of money. My advice is to go to business school, and shoot photos every minute of free time you have. The amount of time I’m actually shooting is so low compared to the amount of time I spend doing everything involved with running a business.”
“Every time I’m on set with someone who’s super successful, I try to learn something from them... If the energy is off, it shows. You need the subject to trust you and become vulnerable."
Not to mention the importance he places on the key element in his line of work – the human element – which ultimately allows him to capture refreshingly candid and natural portraits of his subjects.
“Every time I’m on set with someone who’s super successful, I try to learn something from them. Before we shoot, I try to get to know the person, but that doesn’t always happen, especially when shooting celebrities since their time is so limited,” he explains. “If the energy is off, it shows. You need the subject to trust you and become vulnerable.”
Humility, respect and a genuine interest in his subjects has taken Deputat far, both in his career and around the world, as he regularly tours with some of hip hop’s heavyweights.
“Whenever I find myself in a new city with downtime, I hit the streets and try to absorb the culture,” says Deputat. “I’ve spent so many days wandering around solo, just me and my camera.”
Deputat shared with us an unpublished set from two killer shoots featuring Bella Oelmann and Isabella Derrick from LA models. He shot Isabella in a vibrant art compound in Boyle Heights – “I loved the texture and colors,” he tells me – and when shooting Bella, he took a more spontaneous approach; the pair drove around LA and pulled over to shoot “whenever a specific scene or texture or color caught my eye.”
On the more technical side of things, Deputat says he mostly shoots medium format these days, which requires him to shoot tethered so he can better see that the focus is locked, and that the exposure is dialed in. “The display on medium format backs are nothing like DSLRs, and you really need to see what you’re capturing. My typical on-location setup consists of a Phase One camera system tethered to a MacBook Pro, and either Profoto B1’s, or Profoto B4 packs, depending on how much power I need,” he explains. “I usually start with one head and a beauty dish with grid for the key, and a 5’ octobank for fill, then U add more lighting as needed, depending on the look I’m going for and whether I need to light an entire scene or just the talent. That's my starting point and I build it from there.”
His shoots with the two LA beauties perfectly capture what gives Deputat’s photography an edge that people can’t seem to get enough of – his ability to playfully capture the realness of his subjects, with an added layer of rawness and grit that is distinctly Detroit.
“Detroit is a work in progress. People think that opening restaurants, building stadiums and shopping districts, is making Detroit a better place, and it might be helping, but the underlying issues of poverty, violence, poor education, and the fact that this city is still supported by the auto industry needs to change as well,” Deputat says of his hometown. “I love this city and want to see it really change for the better, and there is a lot happening right now and that makes it an exciting time to be here. I definitely took my style from Detroit.”