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Getting the picture: Photographer Lewis Jacobs goes to great lengths to capture on-set images

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in a scene from the first season of “Better Call Saul.” (Lewis Jacobs/AMC )

Lewis Jacobs will put himself through a lot to get a photograph.

As a set photographer based in New Mexico, Jacobs indeed has put himself through the ringer to get a fantastic photograph.

Case in point.

“One of the most challenging times I remember being one summer in Downtown Albuquerque working on season one of ‘Better Call Saul.’ It was 95 degrees out and I had to lay down on the asphalt to get a photo of Bob Odenkirk laying down getting arrested,” he says. “There I was with a wide angle lens with the police in the background. I was burning up from the asphalt and it was hot. That was a tough condition and we were able to get the shot done. It was a good shot.”

New Mexico native Lewis Jacobs is a set photographer for the film industry.
(Courtesy of Greg Peters)

Jacobs grew up with a love for photography, as he and his father used to photograph for former Gov. Bill Richardson.

“We worked on a lot of his political campaign,” Jacobs says. “We worked a little with (Rep.) Deb Haaland, as well.”

Jacobs grew up in Santa Fe and both his parents had a foot in journalism.

His father worked for the Albuquerque Journal’s North Bureau for about 15 years and his mother was publisher of the Eldorado Sun.

“I was definitely well acquainted with that world,” he says with a laugh. “I remember sitting down with my mom and we used to collate (the) paper together to create the Sun. She eventually sold it.”

His feet were in journalism thanks to his parents and Jacobs wanted to keep telling stories.

At the University of New Mexico, he studied fine art under Patrick Nagatani and Adrienne Salinger.

Of course, his news days weren’t over.

“I worked at the Daily Lobo, where I took photographs,” he says. “The year before I graduated, I went out to Burning Man and I met a lot of people from Los Angeles. They told me that I should start shooting for the film industry.”

Graduating in 2003, Lewis began his journey to becoming a set photographer.

“I started sending out résumés to smaller non-union productions and began to get a little bit of work,” he says. “I was hired on a show before it went union and began my work.”

There are two ways to get into the union as a film set photographer, namely get 30 days on a union show within a year or 100 days on a non-union production within three years.

By this time, Jacobs was splitting his time working on projects both in New Mexico and Los Angeles.

“I was getting work in the union here and in LA, and this was the same time that the tax incentives started to take off in New Mexico,” he says. “I either wanted to go into this type of work or photojournalism documentary work.”

Over the course of his career, Jacobs has been on all types of sets — both big and small.

Jackie Weaver and Ben Kingsley on the set of “Perpetual Grace, LTD.” (Lewis Jacobs/EPIX)

A few of the films he’s worked on are “Cliffs of Freedom,” “Kepler’s Dream,” “Gold” and “Just Getting Started.” Some of his TV productions include “Better Call Saul,” “Breaking Bad,” “Preacher” and “Perpetual Grace, LTD.”

He says each production has its own journey and he’s along for the ride.

“You always want to try and tell a story and show expression or emotion in the images,” he says. “The productions are highly structured and they know what they want out of a photographer. My job is to exceed their expectations while giving them what they want. I’m lucky because I look for those subtle moments that will make a photograph memorable.”

Val Kilmer as Mark Twain. (Courtesy of Lewis Jacobs)

Jacobs, who lives in Cochiti, recently got back from Pittsburgh working on a film called “Lone Wolf.”

“It’s about the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing,” he says. “It was a fun production to photograph.”

Jacobs will endure the long days of shooting to get the best photo. No matter whether it includes rain, show, wind or mud.

“I really like the creative side to it and the more artistic the show, the better,” he says. “To be able to have creative license on projects is a game changer.”

In fact, Lewis called up Epix last year when “Perpetual Grace, Ltd.” began to shoot in northern New Mexico because he wanted to shoot the series.

“I let them know I was interested in it,” he says. “We finished in March and the series is so beautiful. It was cold up there in Española, Las Vegas and the road up to Puyé Cliffs. Those elements made for some phenomenal photos.”

Janissary Army marching forward from late Ottoman Empire in “Cliffs of Freedom.” (Courtesy of Lewis Jacobs)

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