Meet John Philp Thompson III

As someone with a positive outlook on life, it is refreshing to meet another with the same uplifting view. This month I had the privilege of chatting with the hottest photographer on the block – literally and figuratively speaking. With roots of the Matthew McConaughey variety, his southern charm has helped him breeze on in to the Windy City. He shines on both sides of the camera while effortlessly oozing cool. 

I present Mr. January: John Phillip Thompson III.  

What drew you to photography? 

I grew up not loving photography. My mom, is not a photographer, but she took a lot of pictures of me and my siblings growing up. We would actually hide the camera from her. I have a twin sister and we would wait for my mom to count to 3 and then sprint the opposite way instead of sitting there and smiling. My mom has so many pictures of us running away from the camera.  

It wasn’t until after college that I bought myself my first big boy digital camera.

How did you branch out? Did you start shooting people or places, or yourself? How did that grow? 

I grew up in Texas and after college I had a job lined up in real estate. I had this epiphany — I could see myself 30, overweight, and unhappy in my cubicle. So that lit a fire under my butt to get out of Texas and do something different. I was drawn to Chicago. It wasn’t as big as New York and seemed chill. I hadn’t heard anything bad about it except how cold it gets. 

How’s that for ya, being from Texas? Have you learned to handle it?

I’m still here! Four years and five winters later. It really hasn’t been too bad. You just have to layer up. 

I will say girls in Chicago are crazy. They run around in short dresses with no coats because they don’t want to carry them to the bars. They just hop from Uber to the bar. Borderline crazy in Chicago not to have one on. 

To finish answering the question though — When I moved to Chicago I didn’t really know anybody. Instagram was a new thing, but it wasn’t huge. I started following a few photographers here. In my free time I would go out and start shooting. I started growing my following and then began meeting other photographers. My friends at home thought I was crazy for meeting people on Instagram. This was before tinder or bumble — when meeting people on apps became acceptable. My friends thought I had lost my mind.

You model too right? Do you feel you spend more time behind the camera or in front of it?

This past August— I launched a menswear and travel blog. It’s called The Risky Jackal. I go over everything from men’s apparel, to grooming, work outs, sports/activities, and travel. My time in front of the camera is a lot more because of that. So time spent in front or behind the camera is 50/50 at this point. 

I fought it at first. I didn’t want it to lesson my credibility as a photographer. Then I realized I might as well. 

A photo posted by John Philp Thompson III (@johnphilp3) on

It probably makes you more comfortable or fearless in what you’re willing to try. 

Sure when you have a shoot and wear briefs, like little tightyyyyy whities — now I have no shame. I was so nervous before doing that. Now I’ll strip down in two seconds. I could care less. Its a confidence thing. I don’t think I have the best body, I’m not in to being in my underwear. [But] If thats what the client wants — I have no problem doing that. 

It seems like you’re a pretty positive guy. Do you have a mantra or something each day that inspires you that you share with your following?

In 2012, I started collecting quotes. I’m a quote hoarder. Whenever I come across a quote that speaks to me, I write it down in the notes section of my phone. I also have these little blank pocket books called Field Notes. I think now I have filled up nine different ones in the past five years — some of them are Buddhist, Christian, or authors throughout different generations. 

I just felt the need to share them. It seemed like I got a lot of feedback from people saying it made their day better, how inspiring it was, or how much they needed it. They aren’t my words but if I can pass them along to one person who needs them that day – it’s a proven success in my eyes and makes it all worth it.

My daily mantra is “take the stairs.” It kind of refers to taking the road less traveled. It might seem like a slower way or more work right now, but you’ll get to the same place and appreciate it more when you get there.

Do you travel a lot? 

I do. I’ve been super fortunate. In the past three years I have had clients take me all across the country and out of the country. 2016 was an amazing year for travel. I’m like shoot — 2016 was so good to me, I’m not sure if I can top it. I know so many celebrities passed away and so much bad stuff happened, but I never said anything. For me, 2016 was awesome. 

J: You’re the first person I’ve told that to. 

K: I am honored. Am I allowed to print that or do we have to keep it on the DL? 

J: Laughs. I’m coming out as liking 2016. 

Your blog — The Risky Jackal. Whats the inspiration behind the name? 

The Risky Jackal started out as a tumblr that I created about 8 years ago. It was mainly for photos or inspiration. Since creating that tumblr I’ve done some risky things. These include moving to Chicago and quitting my job to pursue photography.

When I was trying to come up with a cool name for my blog — I thought of my two favorite movies. At the time it was Risky Business and then this old 60’s sniper movie about a British sniper trying out take out the French Prime Minister. That was called The Day of The Jackal. I just combined the two and thats how the Risky Jackal originated.

A photo posted by John Philp Thompson III (@johnphilp3) on

He doesn’t play for my team, but you can’t win them all…

K: I’m thinking you popped up on my explore page because we both follow Olivia Rink. I’ve sent some boutique stuff to her in the past! 

J: We actually met in Finland. That was one of my awesome trips of 2016. It was an amazing experience. So fun to meet her! I was so glad when she moved to Chicago. 

K: And now you’re dating?

J: No! No, no no. We’re not dating. 

K: You all would be so cute! 

J: I’m gay actually. 

K: Oh ok! You all would NOT be so cute! So are you dating anyone?

J: No, still single. I dated someone for over a year, but we broke up in August. 

K: So who is your type?!

J: I tell myself that tall, dark, and handsome is my type. It has been in the past, but really it’s so much more. I think someone who is confident and loves what they’re doing and wants to be a part of what I’m doing. Basically a nice guy who is willing to put up with me. 

K: I FEEL YOU ON THAT. I mean is that too much to ask? 

Tips from JPTIII: Use instagram for dating! Forget tinder or bumble. You can get a better sense of their behind the scenes. An instagram profile can be a really good indication of that person. 

Other title: Trap Queen 

I love to cook. I’m really into making fried rice. It could be Italian fried rice or Mexican fried rice. I get weird in the kitchen. It’s my creative space. I’m bad at following directions, so I like to whip up stuff with whatever I have in my kitchen. 

I also love a chicken pesto kale salad situation. Honestly, I’ve been on a health kick lately so I’ve not made too much fun stuff.

J: I am eating pancakes right now. 

K: OH! Are they protein pancakes or the real stuff? 

J: Laughs, protein. But I added some banana so it’s pretty good.

K: Ok, we’ll take it. 

Even JPT can’t stay away from bad TV.

For sure — Real Housewives of NY. You can get stuck watching any of them and enjoy it. I think NY is my favorite because of Bethany. She’s such a hustler and has such a sharp tongue. 


Most of my photography is online or for other brand’s social media. I definitely want to start focusing on getting into more publications — having more physicality. For 2017, that is my goal. 

In coincidence with starting a blog, and talking about style — I enjoy that but it can bring a type of emptiness. It feels like fluff. It could go away tomorrow and the world would keep spinning. I’m frank about stuff like that.

I was in South Africa around this time last year and did some work with a non-profit called Grassroot Soccer. It empowers young girls to play soccer and get involved in their community, and has such a positive impact. It was such a rewarding experience. I just bonded with the kids so much,really loved it, and created some content that the organization needed and can use. It really shed a light on the importance of meaning behind my work.  

My Field Notes….

A photo posted by John Philp Thompson III (@johnphilp3) on

If you’re ever in Chicago — send him a message. JPT III is a big believer in connectivity. We are all invested in countless social media platforms and John pushes us to use them as tools! Reach out to those who inspire you, grab coffee with a local when you travel. The worst someone can say is no. Thankfully for me, JPT was not one of them! 

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