Jay Cagney became a ChopCult contributor at mid-season of 2014. I instantly fell in love with his Instagram feed, as his life always seems to be an awesome adventure. On any given day, you’ll witness Jay and his lovely girlfriend, Virginia, wrenching on their bikes or riding side by side. Jay offered to help us cover Strange Days 4 and shoot their giveaway bike. He delivered stellar imagery in a timely fashion and we’ve been working together ever since. Take a few minutes to meet Jay Cagney.
Location: North western New Jersey, the part where Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York meet. Also known as… the really pretty part that isn’t shitty.
Company Name: It’s kind of self titled at this point, so “Jay Cagney Photography & Video.” It may not be the most exciting, but I think it gets the point across!
How long have you been a photographer? I’ve considered myself a photographer since 2005. Nothing on a professional level until 2007 I think, so somewhere between 8-10 years which is twice as long as I would of guessed. Anyway, after high school I went to college at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and got a BFA in Photography. I know it’s one of those risky majors, but it ended up working out pretty damn well. I met the owners of Original Skateboards while surfing and since then, I’ve been working professionally shooting video for them. It has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of video, and see a lot of amazing places around the world. It’s also allowed my photography to be more of a freelance thing and less of a job, which means I can shoot what I want to shoot.
How did you start photographing motorcycles? Like a lot of people in the chopper world, I came from BMX, skating, dirt bikes… all those adrenaline sports. I’ve always just photographed the stuff that I do, and the people that are into it. Then my friend Marc got me into motorcycles. I started riding them, buying them, fixing them, and started learning to build them the last few years. I started going to events, meeting really rad people and embracing the “scene”. Then in 2013, I brought my full camera setup to both Strange Days and Gypsy Run, but I didn’t take one photo. Sure, I snapped some on my phone, but I was pretty caught up in being there and being a part of it, instead of trying to photograph it. When 2014 came around, I went from taking photos of my girlfriend on the road with my cell phone, to bringing my serious camera on every motorcycle ride and shooting local rips with my friends. It just kind of snowballed.
What was your first camera? My first camera was my dad’s old Canon A1 that I found in the closet. It was a super simple 35mm film camera that was all black. It really helped me understand all the ways in which a camera works in relation to light and motion. It took longer to learn my mistakes since I had to finish the roll and get it processed, and couldn’t just look down at my LCD to see what I did. But hey, that’s technology! From there, I was really stuck on the idea of film, so I got better cameras, and eventually went to only shooting medium format 6x6 black and white film. That was an awesome phase, and I fell in love with dark rooms. I actually like to think it was a mutual relationship. Now, I pretty much only shoot on my Canon 5dmkii, my digital workhorse. I really can’t ask for much more in a camera.
Favorite location to photograph? I would rather say I just like to shoot “on location.” I’m an observer, and I like to shoot the people and things around me. I’ve taken lighting and studio classes, but what really feels best is capturing the moments and people I’m surrounded by. Planning a portrait shoot or studio shot is rad, but it’s just not my favorite thing. But okay, if I had to choose a single location, it would probably be sunset on the West Coast. There’s just something surreal about it.
Best time of day for you to shoot? Golden hour. It may be the obvious choice but I think it’s that way for a reason. When the shadows get long and the light gets soft and warm, it just turns into this magical thing where the colors are just right, for both video and photo. I got up early to shoot The Race of Gentleman at sunrise this year, which was a great experience. Sunrise is one of those love/hate things. I hate waking up early, but I love being awake early. It’s always been worth it.
What has been your inspiration in the world of photography? My inspiration started when I began to recognize the feeling I got from viewing other people's photography. The idea that I could make an image, and have other people feel the same thing I’m feeling seemed really appealing. Photography and video has brought me a lot of places, and inspired a lot of relationships that otherwise would not have happened. There’s plenty of people to this day that I am good friends with as a result of getting out there with my camera. When I put a photograph out into the world that I’m excited about, and people respond to it, connect with it, whatever, it’s a great feeling. Maybe even inspirational.
What does it mean to when people purchase your prints? Funny that you should ask! I pretty much just started having them available for purchase when 2015 hit. I haven’t actually sold any yet, so I’ll have to get back to you on how it actually feels, but I’m hoping it’ll be all warm and fuzzy like I anticipate. My goal for selling prints is to be able to invest back into my photography. So far, I’ve made a grand total of $0 from motorcycles. But that’s not why I’m doing it, it’s a personal hobby that brings me a heck of a lot of satisfaction. All selling prints means is I’ll be able to get to more events, shoot more photos, and pursue this lifestyle I want to be a part of.
Anyone you would like to thank? Well first off, thank you, Lisa, for giving me this opportunity to be featured on ChopCult! The support you showed me early on really pushed me to get myself out there, and make meaningful images. Thanks to my girlfriend Virginia, who’s always supporting me, pushing me, making me grow, and is my partner in crime at most of these events. Without her I would of definitely never gotten my website started, or finished it for that matter. Thanks to Marc for getting me on a bike in the first place.
Thanks to Bill and Mike at Biltwell, who like Chopcult, have given my photos more exposure than I could ever hope for on my own. Thanks to Kenny, Cal, Ben, Matty, Chris and everyone who's a part of Strange days who let me get involved shooting the event and got me excited about photography again. I have to thank my parents and lastly, thanks to everyone whom I’ve met on the road, who’s been stoked about what I’m doing, and supported me in anyway big or small. Thanks!
Click the photos to see more of Jay's work.
Check out Jay's website, www.jaycagney.com, and give him a follow on Instagram.