Have you ever admired an artist’s work and then got to meet them? It’s pretty cool, right? It’s happened to Andy & me a couple of times, but earlier this month we were treated to something extra special.

Not only did we get to meet singer/songwriter Justin James as he passed through Cape Cod on his 2012 A Beautiful Life tour, we also got to photograph him. I guess this makes us legit “rockstar photographers” now, eh? Ha! (That was a little inside joke for our photographer friends who know how we feel about “rockstar photographers.”) But, in all seriousness, it was a somewhat surreal experience for us.

Although he may not yet have the notoriety of James Morrison or John Mayer, Justin James’ is every bit a star to us. His music is sunny, sweet and immensely likeable, just like the man himself!

As if the excitement of meeting and photographing JJ (as he likes his friends to call him) wasn’t enough, he also played us a few of his brand new, not-yet-released songs during the shoot.

To quote Bravo fashionista Rachel Zoe, “I die!”

Andy has been, most dedicatedly, teaching himself to play guitar for the past year and a half, and I think the experience of meeting/photographing JJ was particularly inspiring for him. He’s been playing the Beautiful Life album non-stop…for two weeks! No joke.

We first heard JJ last summer, while in the car on our way to photograph a wedding. I like to listen to music to inspire me before a wedding, while Andy prefers quiet to collect his thoughts. But, before my mister had the chance to turn off the radio, JJ’s 2009 release “Perfect Sometimes” came on a local station and the catchy, upbeat tune hooked us both in, and left us feeling injected with a healthy dose of happy.  It was the perfect soundtrack for a day of documenting love.

Listen for yourself…

After the wedding, we found JJ’s website and became friends on facebook. He is one of those rare artists who is EXTREMELY accessible to his fans. He was once signed to a major record label, but preferred to have more control over his music/marketing and started his own independent label, where he sells his music directly to his fans. It’s kind of crazy how accessible he is for such a talented musician. But, this was one of the things that we found so appealing about him.

Check out his website HERE to listen to/purchase more music from this crazy talented and super sweet artist. On his website he also shares a pretty cool story about how he got into music. I won’t give away too much, but let me just say it involves a shark.

Needless to say, we were both super excited when we learned that JJ was coming to the Cape this summer. I had reached out to him on facebook and asked if he minded if we photographed him during his show.

“That would be great,” he said. “I was actually thinking about you guys the other day and was wondering if you had time maybe I can hire you for a shoot. ”


I don’t know what was more flattering, that he was thinking about us or that he wanted us to photograph him. Around this same time, we also learned that we’d been chosen to have our kitchen remodeled for a new HGTV show (long story for another time, but in the end we decided the latter wasn’t the right fit for us). But having two such exciting opportunities arise at the same time was a bit dizzying…in the best kind of way.

Our afternoon with JJ was, as Andy & I expected, super fun! After 10 years of photographing primarily weddings, shooting a musician required adjusting our approach somewhat. But, as always, our photography came straight from the heart and the session was as much a labor of love as any we’d ever done.

Here are some of our favorite moments highlighting this sweet, sentimental, extremely talented music man.

Ladies & gentleman, please welcome for the first time to the Bello stage, the incredibly talented Mr. Justin James…

These next couple of shots are of JJ playing one of his new songs for us. Seriously awesome!

Up close & personal.

Sing it baby, sing it!

Talented and foxy. Nice!

We were both super excited to photograph JJ, but once he started playing, I just wanted to kick back and soak it all in. It’s not often we get serenaded by a superstar during a photo session. I could get used to this!

During the session, JJ said he was hoping one of the photos from our session might be his next album cover. Yeah….no pressure or anything. Eeeeeek! But, I do think we got some cool perspectives that might just fit the bill.

Bow chicka wow wow…

sunny & happy, just like his music…

Lookin’ good, JJ!

LOOOVE this super cool perspective Andy got  while I was getting the one above (right). Awesome, honey! You rock!

Getting to hear another new song….so cool!

Because his music is more beachy, we decided to head to the water. Love this candid moment as Andy made JJ laugh. So fun!

Turning up the heat…

Freedom is…doing the thing you love most in the world. Hip, Hip, Hooray for that!

We were quickly losing the light, but didn’t want the session to end.

Someone from our facebook page shared this photo yesterday on her wall with this caption “A man+ a guitar + Cape Cod = {heart}” Love that and couldn’t agree more!

These next two shots are from the same moment, two different perspectives. Can you tell whose is whose?


In this next one, Andy was really trying to emphasize the movement of JJ’s hands as he played. Very cool, no?

While I went for something more dreamy…choosing instead to focus on the sea grass in the foreground.

Again, Andy wanted to try something showing movement. Love this next one! He did a similar shot of me on our trip to Nicaragua a few years ago, as I walked passed a series of brightly colored buildings. I like that it subtly conveys the idea of our lives being constantly in flux and how even THIS moment is here and gone in the blink of an eye. Deeeeeep.

For this tour, JJ has been traveling cross country in a van he lovingly named L’Coche. He wanted to do a couple of photos of him chilling in his 70s inspired digs. Way cool, man.

And, in what felt like a blink of an eye (though it was really 3 hours) our session was over and JJ had to dash off to meet some fans who’d driven several hours to come see him before the show.  We met up with him later and after putting our cameras down and picking a couple of cold ones up, we had a night out like we haven’t enjoyed in some time. It was most definitely PERFECT SOMETIMES!

Thank you so much JJ! You are wonderful and it was so much fun to finally meet and get to work with you. You are as fabulous in front of the camera as you are behind the guitar…and that’s saying something! Thank you so much for letting down your guard and trusting us to photograph you here on Cape Cod. We hope these photos serve as happy reminders of your visit to our beautiful little island (it’s not the Dominican or even Brazil, but it’s special all the same). And, although you said, “No worries if it doesn’t work out,” we hope that somewhere in these photos is an album cover waiting to be born. Can’t wait for the next album to come out!

With big love & hugs, Chris & Andy  xoxo