If you haven’t heard of the name Joe Giron before, you’ve definitely seen his work. Giron is the poker industry’s premier photojournalist and has personally raised the bar on poker tournament reporting for more than a decade.
Prior to joining the poker industry in 2005, Giron was an established photojournalist with an impressive resume that has continued to grow. His photo of Daniel Negreanu following his bustout in the 2015 WSOP Main Event earned him a 2016 American Poker Award and was just the latest in a career of amazing photographs.
We caught up Joe recently between tournament stops to talk about how he got started in the industry, how Black Friday impacted his business and more.
PokerUpdate: You were an established professional photographer prior to starting work in poker in 2005. Why the transition into poker and was that even your intention when you started?
Joe Giron: As any good professional photographer knows, it important to keep an open mind and have as many clients as possible.
I was an established, world-class professional photographer in the music industry, shooting editorial and commercial assignments for magazines and record companies.
So, when the World Poker Tour magazine contacted me in December 2005, I was intrigued by the scope of the assignment they presented. They wanted someone to capture the action at the WPT events in a photojournalistic manner, which is exactly what I had been trained to do in college and practiced as a staff photographer for two newspapers.
After I secured the job to photograph the rest of the events on the WPT schedule for that season, I saw how much was involved in terms of time and travel. I always had the intention of continuing my portrait work in the music industry, but as I secured more clients in poker, I had less time to concentrate on the music industry.
PokerUpdate: What was your first assignment in poker and do you still work with that company / casino today?
Joe Giron: I alluded to it above, but my first assignment in poker was the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond event for the WPT magazine. It was a hell of an introduction as well, with a final table that included Doyle Brunson, JJ Liu, Phil Laak and Patrik Antonius.
PokerUpdate: Poker media members often have to wear a lot of hats / provide a myriad of content. Poker photojournalism obviously is more than just “taking pictures.” Give our readers a bit of an inside view of what it really takes to get the “perfect poker shot.”
Joe Giron: The main purpose of photojournalism is to tell a story that conveys to the viewer a sense of what is taking place. That type of photography is not just about pressing the shutter. A photojournalist makes sure to compose and capture all the necessary pieces of information within the image to convey their story. Capturing reaction and emotion helps with that as well.
PokerUpdate: Are there any photos that you’ve taken and upon reviewing them went “I can’t believe I caught that on film?” Give us a couple of examples. (Joe, it would be awesome if you could even provide a photo example.)
Joe Giron: One just happened this past weekend at the WPT Borgata Poker Open. Jesse Sylvia had just won and sought out his friend Vanessa Selbst. They hugged in the dimly lit spectator area of the TV set and it literally lasted a split second.
Another image is the one that won me a 2016 American Poker Award is the shot of Daniel Negreanu busting out in 11th at the 2015 World Series of Poker.
PokerUpdate: How did Black Friday impact you on a professional level? Did it overly impact your business or force you to take a different direction?
Joe Giron: Black Friday did impact me on a professional level, as I was PokerStars’ photographer for their North American Poker Tour. In fact, I was flying home from an event at Mohegan Sun during season two of the tour on April 15, 2011 when I heard the news.
It made me seek other clients such as the WSOP and explore more options with the WPT in order to secure more contract work with each of them.
PokerUpdate: What’s been the biggest change that you’ve noticed in terms of poker photojournalism since you started over a decade ago?
Joe Giron: The camera technology has gotten better allowing people with little skill the opportunity to produce “passable” images.
PokerUpdate: What’s your favorite event to cover? What’s your favorite casino / card room?
Joe Giron: Favorite event is the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas every January. I have photographed every PCA minus one since 2006. The main reason it is my favorite is that I work with and hang out with colleagues that I generally only get to see once a year and who are some of my favorite poker writers and journalists.
Working with them is both professionally and personally gratifying.
Some of my favorite current tour casinos include the Aria, Bellagio, Borgata and Thunder Valley.
PokerUpdate: Do you play poker at all? If so, how often, what games / limits, etc?
Joe Giron: Once in a while, I have friends or family visit me in Las Vegas and they want to head to the casino to play, so I might play a few, low stakes, No Limit Hold’em tournaments a year. I rarely play cash games.
PokerUpdate: When not taking some of the most amazing photos we’ve ever seen, what hobbies or activities take up your free time?
Joe Giron: My main activity is playing golf, although recently, there has been so much travel that I generally get home and just want to veg out with my wife and our two dogs.
PokerUpdate: Looking forward to the future (or even looking back at your past work), what type of legacy do you hope to leave when you’re ready to hang up the camera?
Joe Giron: I hope I leave a legacy of good, story telling, emotionally charged photography. I want people to say they felt like they were there in person even if they weren’t and feel every emotion portrayed by the subjects of my images.
If you would like to check out Joe’s work, poker or otherwise, head to the sites below: