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Another World
A former Milwaukeean’s journey from advertising exec to photographer


May 2017



It’s 6 a.m. and Tom Jordan is staring at a frog. Just a few years ago during this time of day, he’d have been on his third cup of coffee, studying storyboards for a TV commercial at his ad agency.

Jordan was a titan in the Midwest advertising universe, garnering the respect of peers and clients and casting fear into the hearts of photographers and TV commercial directors nationwide. Full disclosure: I was one such director.

It wasn’t that Jordan was physically imposing, nor was he loud, obnoxious or even particularly demanding. He was exacting.

After 25 years in advertising, he became painfully aware of the disconnect between award-winning advertising that was supposedly directed at women, and what women actually thought of the advertising:

They hated it.

Jordan’s book “Re-Render the Gender” lays out the pathology of male advertising executives and their stuck-in-the-1950s mindset, and offers solid ideas, tips and case studies for appealing to female consumers, who are responsible for the majority of all goods and services purchased. But did anyone in advertising listen? If you watch TV or read magazines, you know the answer.


So he quit. Jordan decided to re-render himself. He and his wife, Susan, sold their home in Milwaukee and moved to Sturgeon Bay, where Jordan was overwhelmed with the natural beauty of the landscape. He decided to become the best photographer he could be. “Most men would say, ‘I want to be a world-class photographer. I’ve got to be the best!’” says Jordan. “I shoot for good.

“Shooting for good means a lot of things,” he says. “It means I’m really happy if someone tells me my work is good. It also means if I can do something good with the work, well, that is the best.”

So he’s donating proceeds from “Sturgeon Bay: The Secret Treasures of Door County” to the Door County Community Foundation. His first coffee table book, it showcases photos of Lake Michigan, artisans at work, frogs and all the denizens of Sturgeon Bay.


“Creating a coffee table book is really different,” he says. “It’s a lot like entering a decathlon — (there are) lots of different events you have to compete in. There are people better at portraits, landscapes, tabletops, interiors, closeups, etc. I have to be good at each, and then write the stories as well.”

His new book, “The Secret Treasures of Door County,” includes photos of all of Door County and continues the momentum. Expect more of Jordan’s lush and sweeping landscapes as well as detail shots of a tortoise, a plant or a frog that tell even bigger stories.

Perhaps their emotional power lies in the intimacy of each photo that draws us into his world.


This story ran in the May 2017 issue of: