Interview with Chase Jarvis, Co-Founder of CreativeLive

Chase Jarvis is a man of many creative talents. He is an award-winning photographer, accomplished fine artist, film director, book author, and app creator with an enormous online following. His very successful and innovative venture with Craig Swanson, online education site CreativeLive, is now enjoying its 5th year. In honor of CreativeLive’s Photo Week 2015, Chase joined to speak about his path as a photographer and the importance of embracing the Internet in today’s creative world.

How did you get your start as a photographer?

I got my start as a photographer as a convergence of three things: my love and experience with sports, my family, and my education in philosophy.

I grew up in middle class suburbia as part skate punk, part jock and from an early age found motivation in the connection of physical activity plus creativity. The mix of action, sports, music, art, and a disdain for authority (or a love of independence) was my world. This came together poetically for me in college when I attended San Diego State on a soccer scholarship. It was the perfect fusion of punk rock and Southern Californian surf/skate lifestyle and one of the top soccer teams in the country.

The next component was critical in that both my father and grandfather were hobbyist photographers and spent much of their time photographing me and my friends and our sporting exploits—riding pools and ramps, playing soccer at the high level. They had all the gear: the old Canon film cameras, the 3 frame per second motor drives, and the long lens glass… It wasn’t the best gear, but it didn’t matter. It captured photos and my father and grandfather’s passions were intriguing to me as a teenager.


from Decisive © Chase Jarvis


Ultimately, however, it was the mix of those captured moments plus the exposure to media (cameras, TV, news stories) that came from college soccer that formed a potent elixir. It was from looking at photos of my friends and the media pouring out of my soccer experience that helped me understand the power of a photograph to tell a story.

The final component that kicked me into gear was my education. In earning a degree in philosophy, my exposure to the nature of intellect gave me a framework for thinking critically about art, culture, and how one builds a fulfilling life. It helped me understand that the most powerful thing a human can do is not to think, but rather to act—and in particular to MAKE things.

The courage that came with my education as an independent thinker coupled with the untimely death of my grandfather and subsequent willing to me of his cameras came together in perfect harmony to kick my pursuit into gear. The end of my grandfather’s life was the beginning of mine as a photographer.


from New Zealand © Chase Jarvis
You have such a strong online presence between your website, blog, and other social networking sites. How vital is it for photographers and other creatives to create online social networks? Do you see the ever-connected state of our world enhancing and promoting art and creativity?

It’s fair to say that I would not be where I am now without the Internet. I think the same can be said for nearly every successful artist these days, whether you’re talking Ai Weiwei or Macklemore or everything in between. The democratization of creativity enabled by online tools and the ability to reach millions with the touch of a button has surely changed the trajectory of creativity forever.

One of the most important parts of the creative process is sharing your work. Your audience shouldn’t muddy your vision during the creation process, but once you’ve made a thing, the logical next step is to share that thing—to give your art the room it needs to make the statements you want that art to make. When you consider that even just 10-12 years ago the audience you could reach with that material was just a handful of close friends—and now that circle has widened to millions (billions?)—is a testament to the seismic shift that has occurred.


from Desert-ed © Chase Jarvis


In my head and heart I see the ever-connected state of our world amplifying our creativity on every level—technological, cultural, individual. Every one of us is now “in the arena” for opportunity, for criticism, for engagement. It’s what you do with those opportunities that matter.
Since launching in 2010, CreativeLive has become a go-to place to learn about photography, video, design, music, and more. Where did the idea come from to start CreativeLive? What were you hoping to accomplish?

Craig Swanson and I founded CreativeLive based on our shared belief that the world deserves—and needs—access to new models of education, as well as a community of peers and collaborators. Moreover, the future of work, life, community, technology, family, everything will be driven by creativity.

The sad reality was that when we looked around, the status quo education and work structures not only traditionally excluded but even punished creativity—the very thing that unites us all and drives us forward.


from Blue © Chase Jarvis


So our goal is to flip that paradigm on its head. To provide creativity, access, and community to anyone interested in living their life and career dreams. And while we haven’t yet reached all our goals for CreativeLive, we’ve made a real dent. We now reach every country on the planet every month, we share our world with millions of students, and those students have—to date—consumed more than 2 billion minutes of education on our platform. We’ve still got a lot of room to grow, and we’re making huge strides thanks in large part to the community, the experts, and the team at CL that works so very hard day in and day out.


from Paris in Red © Chase Jarvis
CreativeLive is currently hosting Photo Week 2015. What makes this week so unique? Is there anything new this year or a special focus making Photo Week different from past years?

Photo Week is huge for us, and this year it is bigger and grander than ever, thanks to rock star instructors like Matt Kloskowski and five straight days of classes on everything from portrait, glamour, lighting, wedding, business, family, outdoor, headshots, Photoshop, babies, and food photography.


from Endless Winter © Chase Jarvis


from Endless Winter © Chase Jarvis


Photographic and visual understanding is no longer a “nice to have” skill—it’s a piece of cultural literacy. For instance, there’s a rampant misconception that Photoshop is just for photographers. A whopping 62% of employers say that Photoshop or technology like it enables their employees to innovate and communicate better. Photoshop isn’t a solution in and of itself, but it most certainly helps turn snapshots into art, turn marketers into world-class storytellers, and turn scientists into captivating communicators. Visual art knows very few bounds and during Photo Week you can learn from the masters.
If you could give an aspiring photographer a single piece of advice, what would it be?

Create, share, repeat. The secret weapon to succeeding (in whatever way “success” means to you) as a photographer is to create personal work. Follow what fascinates and inspires you. Make something real and then share it with the world. This is the most brutally simple recipe for standing out, for making your mark. But there’s a catch: this work has to be all you. It can’t be a project you undertake to please others or an idea that you tried to fit into a recognizable mold. Get weird, get your hands dirty, chase your very own heart. It’s in creating from there that your work has the chance of turning out solid gold.


from Get Out © Chase Jarvis


CreativeLive’s Photo Week 2015 is currently running through September 25th. All classes are LIVE and available for FREE online to everyone who registers. For more information, to view the class schedule, register, or purchase on-demand access, please visit

To view more of Chase Jarvis’ work, please visit his website and blog or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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    • Para um brasileiro de classe média CreativeLive parece ter um preço inacessível. A pagina tem uma solução para isso ?  For a middle-class brazilian CriativeLive seems to be unaffordable . Does the page have any alternative for that issue ? 

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    • Hi Honorio,

      CreativeLive classes are actually free, you just need to watch them when they are being broadcast live. It only costs money if you want to purchase classes and keep them for future viewing. I hope this clarification helps!

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    • Love this article. Well done, pnet. 

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