J-Chord Photography is owned and operated by Owen-Withee resident Jedediah (Jed) Cordwell. Jed is no longer a newcomer to the business, having been in his shop for a year-and-a-half now. But he is a long-time resident of the Owen-Withee area, having been here for almost 22 years now.
“Professionally, I started pursuing about three years ago. But I have always been into photography. I have been driving trucks since I was 21 and I am 28 now. About four years ago, I got a route where I had lots of free time. I had a really nice camera, so I dug into it. I discovered that I really prefer taking pictures of people more than scenery.”
Bugs and birds and animals are nice, he says, but they are a lot more fun with people in them. It went from amateur to professional quickly. Since he owns his own truck, he understands how a small business works. We actually get to deliver here to Owen but a lot to Wausau and New Ulm and all points in between.
Hobby started with his dad’s old screw-in lens Pentax. He attempted to learn on that. A childhood church friend had done weddings and got Jed into the world of real photography. Guitars and girls distracted him along the way, “but I always came back to the camera,” he says.
He got a new Pentax digital to move to the next step. He still has an emotional attachment to Pentax but he uses Nikon for professional use. He still loves to use film, even though digital gives a photographer the instant feedback—and gratification—that film doesn’t allow.
We then broke into a protracted dialogue about analog vs digital technology in the world of photography and music. For a young artist, he has an old school sensibility. We engaged in a brief discussion of photography in the 1970s and in 2021. It’s not quite so expensive now. No film, no dark room, no developers or stop baths…
This is not his first photography shop. He started with a shop in Eau Claire, near Water Street, where he rented for about a year. He got his feet wet with shooting a friend’s wedding at Saint Katherine’s Episcopal Church. He has also traveled to Milwaukee for wedding shoots.
“This is my first studio to push publicly,” Jed explained. “I learned from the Eau Claire experience that I need good space to achieve what I need. That led me to Tim Swiggum offering me this space here on Main Street.”
He purchased an impressive array of lights and umbrellas and more and has set it up for action at 218-B N. Central Avenue. “I can do just about anything you want lighting-wise,” he says without boasting. He has a full studio kit, including an Elasta-light set up that allows him to shoot silhouettes.
He is happy with the space he has on Main Street. “This is going really well,” he says with a smile.
He is not strictly bound to portrait work. He also does events and even some sports photography. He especially likes cars and hopes to shoot Formula-1 Monaco racing one day.
Jed is a family man with four children—three daughters and a son—and a son on the way. He grew up in New Jersey but his family moved here in 1999 when they bought the Klabon farm south of Withee on CTH O. They had come out in 1997-98 to visit a friend. His parents wanted to retire but not in New Jersey. So, they chose the Owen-Withee area.
Jed finished schooling through Owen-Withee High School and CVTC. He went on to work as a truck mechanic, like his father, and then on to driving and buying his own truck.
He wants to move into large format printing of his own work. He can do smaller format—like 8x11, 5x7, 4x6—but he wants to do the much larger sizes, eventually. His goal is to sell 20x30.
His body of work is already impressive. His equipment is top-notch. Now he has a proper studio.
Recently, however, he managed to buy out the equipment of a photography studio in Medford, who had gone out of business and finally decided to sell off his equipment. Now, Jed is looking to expand his front office into the space next door to his photography studio, which he will keep solely as his studio, in downtown Owen.
Business is so good that Jed asks for a two-week heads-up for getting into the studio.
Jed is available by appointment. You can visit his web site at jchordphotography.com or find him on Facebook. Call 715-316-1465 to schedule an appointment.
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