Sometimes it only takes one other person to believe in your dream to move that vision forward. In CJ Wolfe’s case, it was a top professional football player and friend who helped him make the decision to formulate a plan that involved quitting his role as a financial advisor and pursuing his true passion for football. to be a full-time photographer.

Risk? Yes. Worth it? Absoutely.

With the help of NFL safety Will Parks of the New York Jets, Wolfe jumped behind a camera lens and created Immortal Vision Studio. The studio offers both a creative space and the services of a creative agency. Wolfe used his lessons as a student-athlete, along with experience gained from other jobs, to launch his Philadelphia-based business. Parks encouraged the jump while letting Wolfe take pictures on and off the field of himself and other NFL athletes. CJ now finds pleasure in helping other creators build their portfolios and pursue their dreams.

Zenger sat down with the young entrepreneur to discuss his journey from hardwood to studio. He also explains what makes his company unique and much more.

Percy Crawford interviewed CJ Wolfe for Zenger.

zenger: You were a hoop star. What made you stop chasing that dream of becoming an entrepreneur, or are there a lot of things in between that I miss?

Percy Crawford interviewed CJ Wolfe for Zenger. (Heidi Malone/Zenger)

Wolfe: It’s kind of crazy that you figured that out. I always created, even when I was a student-athlete in high school and college. From my background, I was limited because I didn’t have much, but once I got to college and was exposed to more gear, technology, and different professors and areas of people, I was able to enhance the creativity and the resources that I had around me for me to create.

A typical day in college when I was still playing ball, after class or after practice, watching YouTube University, learning, and driving home to Philadelphia. My school, Gwynedd Mercy University, was about 45 minutes from Philadelphia, so I always came back, filmed my boys playing overseas and getting ready for the draft – stuff like that. I just fell in love with it. Once a friend let me hold a camera in my sophomore year in college, it was just something I fell in love with.

zenger: Photography wasn’t part of your training at all, so you literally learned on the job, right?

Wolfe: I was 19 when I picked up a camera. I learned on the job, but it was a great experience, because I consider photography to be an art. We can watch videos, we can learn from others, but everyone has their own niche in life and business, but mostly in their own way.

My image may be different from yours. We could be in the same place, at the same event, filming the same event, but the way I see it and capture it would be totally different from yours. That’s what makes it great and that’s also what makes entrepreneurship great, because when we talk about the arts, we’re talking about more hungry artists, more creators with opportunities. Other creative studios are emerging.

What makes my creative studio different? Having this sporting experience adds to the healthy competition of what separates me from you. I always look at the commercial part, and even the photography part goes hand in hand. If we play badly on offense, we have to come back and sprint and cover the basket on defense. I’ve always taken those life skills from basketball…I’ve played AAU since I was a kid, and those friends I’ve been able to photograph have helped my portfolio. It was important in my network.

I put in everything from school, finance, college and being a student-athlete to becoming a full-time creative entrepreneur. Everything goes together. I just try not to complicate things, take it day by day and always be willing to learn and lean on each other to get us where we want to be.

CJ Wolfe’s Immortal Vision Studio has become a staple of the Philadelphia creative scene. (Karisa Augstine)

zenger: Your studio seems to be an open network for creatives. You have an open door policy. The other day, I saw you were hosting an event, and it was just a network of creators.

Wolfe: Yes sir! Along with our studio, we also have an agency. I’ll be the first to admit, shooting in the studio isn’t me. My gallery inside the space is not made up of shots that I shot inside the studio. They were shot outside the studio in different countries, different cities. But I knew there was a need for a studio, and people are now using me with it, because the studio is a place where you can come and collaborate.

Our greatest thing is our agency. We will produce content for businesses and athletes. My duty is to introduce and mentor other creators, so they can have the opportunity to work and build their portfolio. But more importantly, they get paid what they deserve and give them that experience. There was no one for me saying, “CJ, go do this job”, “CJ, go do this job”, “CJ, I’m putting you in front of the councilman.”

Impact is what really drives me. How can I pass this torch and continue to build this community? My creative gift within my team is going to put me in a better position, but more importantly, it’s going to put Immortal Vision Studio in a better position that will help the next generation. We really think about impact and legacy when we think about the studio – not just to be here at the moment.

zenger: The pandemic has affected everyone in one form or another. It actually changed your thought process and basically changed your course of life. Please tell us how.

Wolfe: I was in Mexico working with [NFL player] Parks Will. I was up all day. I did not sleep. It was early in the morning, I couldn’t sleep, and I said, “You know what, I have to do this full time. It must be my lifestyle. How many times am I going to be with different people, take trips, and not buy everything into what I’m really good at, and what my calling is? »

At the time, I was a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual. Individuals were calling me about their life insurance and stocks and asking me what to do with them. I constantly had to change rooms to take the call. I felt like I wasn’t there to give my customers everything they needed. He [God] constantly showed me, “This is what I want you to do, and I believe in you. I had to believe in myself and leave the financial sector.

Some people will look at this and say, “I can’t just quit my job.” But I had a plan. I didn’t just quit my job right away. I quit six months after deciding I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to develop a strategic plan. I had to go to a bank and work a 9-5. I devoted my weekends and after hours strictly to my craft. Once I got the studio, I was able to build a solid team, I said, “Okay, now I can quit.” Then it all went from there.

zenger: What was the influence of Will Parks on your vision?

Wolfe: Very influential. He gave me visibility and I think that was the most important thing. Your belief system comes from what you see and experience. It comes from your process. He was able to put me in different situations and rooms, even out in the field, to be able to capture that stuff, which really led to the young man I’ve become.

Professionally, I really rely on that. We’re still leaning on it to find different ways to help and impact the city of Philadelphia, and especially young people, and give them an outlet to create. Let them know it’s more important than being in sports. I did sport. Will is lucky to be in that 1% to make it happen. But we can still impact the game and the lifestyle. We can still do the storytelling. We can take a camera and know how to use it.

The pandemic provided the fire for CJ Wolfe to change professions. He now helps other creators pursue their dreams in his Immortal Vision Studio. (Karisa Augstine)

zenger: We know that the meaning of immortal is to never die, forever. What was the thought process behind your company name?

Wolfe: It just kept growing. At first, I was like, “Never let anyone tell you the value of your work. It started on Instagram. I kept seeing myself posting on Instagram and forgetting about it. I would say, “That’s a great shot.” But it was such a rush of, what’s next? I was not living in the present of what I just captured. The immortal part comes from understanding that works of art are always immortal. Do not forget it. Just because you need to follow the news of social media posts to get your work seen, make that work immortal and last as long as you want.

The vision part comes from whether it’s your artwork, your vision, or… Whether you want to lose 15 pounds, get better at photography, whatever your vision is, make it immortal. Things will come in between, roadblocks are going to happen, so you have to keep that immortal vision in order to get what you want.

For me, it’s capturing different images – it’s what drives me to keep my vision immortal. At Immortal Vision Studio, we don’t just do photography. We organize different networking events; we are going to do creative classes where i will teach my classes. Either way, keep that vision immortal and don’t let it die.

Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Kristen Butler

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