Behind The Lens: Jacob Maher, Cleveland’s Proficient Photographer

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Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Jacob Maher is amongst the few creatives documenting the unforgettable moments coming out of his hometown. The 17-year-old lensman got into photography at a young age, being gifted a camera on his 14th birthday. Jacob Maher is responsible for shooting with artists like Doe Boy, Machine Gun Kelly, and YSN Flow amongst various other fast-rising acts coming out of Ohio.

In our exclusive Q&A, we chatted with Jacob Maher about shooting with the fast-rising acts coming out of his hometown, artistic exploration, and more.

What was it like growing up in Cleveland, OH?

It is fun, it is my favorite city, but I am biased because I’m from it. I remember growing up near the Shaker Heights area until about first grade and then I moved out to Chagrin falls. I always looked up to public figures from Cleveland such as MGK, Kid Cudi, and people from Ohio in general like Lebron. There was always something fun going on in the downtown area and a lot of things to do downtown like the art museum, rock hall, or catch an Indians game as a young kid. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the area of Chagrin Falls and never had to worry about not having food on my plate.

How did you get your start in photography?

I started by taking photos on my iPod touch and my Dad’s iPhone on family vacations. I always tried to create artistic photos even in a little iPod than just taking a snapshot. Eventually, I started researching into actual DSLR cameras on YouTube and bought my first DSLR on my birthday three or four years ago. I met a friend named Christian at my local church and we started going on shoots to abandoned buildings and shooting photos all around the Cleveland area.

How important is building rapport with artists and other photographers?

Extremely important, my work is personal and up close. I don’t want to be paparazzi or up in anyone’s face, I simply want to photograph public figures, celebrities, and even friends and family in a personal relatable way instead of what you see on social media with all the cars and bling. I want to create personal relationships or even just have a conversation with them for a while instead of just pushing a camera in their face because as people become more comfortable with you, that creates better genuine photos.

If you can recall, what was one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had?

Back in 2018, my friend and I that shoots photos got to shoot our first arena show at the Wolstein Center in downtown Cleveland. It was for Machine gun Kelly’s Xmas Christmas show. It did not come smoothly, that night we arrived and thought we had access through some artists or someone I can’t remember but when we got there of course we were not on the list. We did everything in our power to shoot the show we had to get in that show that night.

Eventually, we ended up getting in to shoot, and as I walked into the arena the thousands of people in the crowd was quite insane. I never have shot or been at a show that huge in my life and to be shooting it was insane to me. That whole night I connected and got to meet people I always wanted to like Jake and Logan Paul, MGK, and his team of course.

Outside of shooting with a plethora of rappers, do you see yourself taking your artistic abilities anywhere else like sports or fashion?

Yes, I do a lot of commercial and personal work for senior portraits, companies. Headshots, and I am interested in travel nature and lifestyle photography as well. I travel to Arizona, Colorado, and many cities all the time so urban and nature photography appeals to me. I just haven’t posted it as much as my portraits. I’m open to shooting absolutely anything.

In all your trips and experiences, do you ever encounter situations that make you feel uncomfortable or out of your element?

All the time, sometimes I’m shooting in an environment or asked to photograph different types of photos or subjects I’m not interested in. Other times I’m asked to edit photos differently, and what I thought was hard and made me nervous actually allowed me to expand and try new forms of photography and editing that I know use on the daily.

Sometimes I’ll be looking through Instagram and see other photographers’ work that I believe is much better than mine but at the end of the day in the end everyone that does the same thing I do motivates me to work harder and inspires me!

In terms of longevity, where do you want to go in the forthcoming years of your career?

I want to travel everywhere, I am a senior in high school this year so I want to go to college in a city like LA where I can expand my business and my connection. I see myself as an entrepreneur, not only with photography but I am also interested in real estate, stocks, and so on. I also want to go in my first tour after the pandemic.

I want to grow my photography work bigger as a company and name but also display and share my work at galleries and on posters to inspire and spread my art to motivate others! My short term goal is to travel to LA a lot once I’m 18 and go on a big tour with an artist for sure!

Elsewhere in photography, we chatted with multidisciplinary artist Luis Vela about his work with Teyana Taylor, DaniLeigh, and more.