By Ellie Lieberman
Five years ago, Jordan Jimenez picked up a point-and-shoot camera out of his mother’s closet. His track and field career had ended due to injury, he wasn’t playing basketball like he used to, and a bout of depression had dominated his early high school years. This week, he’s taking photos of Steph Curry, and is the mastermind behind all the Instagram photos in the UPB feed.
To understand how Jimenez, more commonly known as “J-Squared,” got his start in the sports photography industry, it’s important to understand the drive that he had the moment he picked up the camera. Jimenez didn’t start by photographing NBA All-Stars, he started photographing nature walks and San Francisco rooftops. He would show up at third-grade basketball games to take photos, and the first time he ever got paid was for a prom photoshoot. Today, Jimenez has an Instagram following of nearly 14k, but none of it would be possible without his hustle to perfect his craft.
“I know that if I put in a million hours towards something I want to get good at it, I’ll eventually be really good at it,” Jimenez said.
Not only has Jimenez put hundreds if not thousands of hours towards sports photography to the date, but he’s taken risks such as purchasing camera equipment and even dropping out of college to pursue his dream. Though these decisions may not be what’s right for everybody, Jimenez, as he puts it, continues to bet on himself. When asked to give advice to other aspiring sports photographers, videographers, and general creatives, he said the following:
“I’ll start with [suggesting] always betting on yourself, having the confidence to realize that although you might not be the best in the world right now, you can be the best in the world,” Jimenez said.
It’s hard for Jimenez to pinpoint one memory in his photography journey that cemented an “a-ha moment” besides picking up the camera, but the first time he felt his photographs were truly valued was on a trip to Los Angeles with fellow content creator, Devin Williams from In The Lab. The two went to a game at Crossroads High School, Jimenez shot a photo of Shareef O’Neal, and he later posted it on Instagram.
From there, Jimenez’s photography career continued to pick up steam. Though through his modest demeanor, he is quick to credit his connections in the industry for helping him to get where he is, it’s clear that he has more than that. Besides drive, and the utmost confidence, Jimenez has the unique ability to showcase different perspectives of athletes that have never been seen before because of his ability to seamlessly connect with basketball personalities like friends or peers.
Look no further than his photos of Jordan Poole at UPB. Jimenez noticed the small details that make Poole who he is, his Playstation necklace, his leg tattoo that reads “Only the strong survive,” and his stitching in a pair of Nike’s that is dedicated to Tamir Rice. Besides his focus on the small things, Jimenez always works to further gain perspective by shooting at different levels, and through different objects.
“How can I show these guys in a way most people won’t really see?” Jimenez says of his thought process while heading into a shoot. “I always try to take my photos in a way people aren’t going to walk into the gym and that exact view they could see.”
And capture the details he has. In his visits at UPB, Jimenez has shot one of his favorite players in Sue Bird, Steph Curry and Sabrina Ionescu, and a photo that he believes sums up UPB’s value proposition in Aaron Gordon jumping over a high schooler.
“One of the really cool things about UPB when there’s a professional athlete working out, if you look on the other side of the court, there are kids working out,” Jimenez said. “These kids get an opportunity to share a court with a pro.”
What many of these kids may not realize is that they’re also sharing a court with an up-and-coming photography legend. Jimenez has shot everyone from the Golden State Warriors to J-Cole, and still comes to the gym with the intention of capturing youth learning to love the game of basketball.
Having the right intentions, a relentless work effort, and an impeccable attention to the details, has pushed Jimenez’ brand to the upper echelon of the basketball world over the past years. He readily admits he has a ways to go, but would one day love to be a player’s personal photographer, while still shooting for sneaker companies, and even further down the road would like to help minorities get into the creative landscape.
“In terms of a longer term goal, my goal is to have a creative agency that will put on minorities and people of color, especially creatives,” Jimenez said. “I know that in that field, there aren’t a lot of people that look like me. They’re not black, they’re not brown, there aren’t many Filipinos.”
In his five year span of learning photography to getting immersed in the industry, if anything is clear, it’s that Jimenez can achieve whatever goals he sets. He’s solidified himself at UPB, and we hope you will give him a follow on Instagram.
There’s one particular exercise Clair Steele will never forget from UPB. And that’s Packie’s famous five-minute plank that would be thrown in at the end of workouts. Clair Steele used to dread those planks.