Jeff Cathrow Interview

On this page you will find Jeff's photography from the "Declan Series", along with some Breaking Bad photographic re-enactments. The exclusive interview with Jeff below was featured in Ferreira Fest 54.

To purchase copies of Jeff's artwork please go to his webpage on eBay.



Breaking Bad Location Photographer

Jeff has kindly agreed to an in-depth exclusive interview about his work here.

Listen to the sound clip here:

FF – Hi Jeff, this is Bea from Ferreira Fest and because of legal obligations I have to ask you if it’s okay to record this interview.

JC – Yes it is.

FF – Okay, great, fantastic. So, first question: tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Jeff Cathrow? What do you do for a living? And tell us about The Night Shift.

JC – Basically I’m a photographer. I have been since, oh, I started out as a kid actually. And I’ve also been a big film buff and watch a lot of things on Netflix now that it is around, and I happened to tune in to the very first episode of Breaking Bad back in 2008. I guess I’d seen a couple of previews on AMC and it looked really interesting and even at that time I didn’t really watch much television but it kind of intrigued me. I thought this might be worth checking out.

And so sure enough I did. And I was definitely hooked from the very first episode. I thought that this is great, this is just fantastic. I had lived in New Mexico prior to that. So, when I saw Breaking Bad come up and I recognized the scenery and saw Albuquerque was involved I thought, oh, wow, I gotta see this, this is going to be really fun, you know. I hadn’t been in Albuquerque for many years.

And back in the 90’s and early 2000 decade I was doing a lot of photography, or selling a lot of my work actually, to Nordstrom and other big corporate clients.

And so I was kind of able to live pretty much anywhere I could set up a dark room and make my prints.

So, we moved to Hawaii and I continued to do that, oh gosh, until about 2010 or so. And because of the economy and style changes and so on, Nordstrom stopped buying my work and they kind of switched over, instead of original prints they bought, started buying posters. You know, ready-made framed art to put in their store hallways and walls, dressing rooms and so on.

My wife had kind of really gotten burned out on Hawaii and in 2011 we took our vacation to Albuquerque. So we had a car and we drove around for a couple of weeks and saw the sights. And we were particularly interested in seeing where they filmed Breaking Bad. By then both of us were huge fans.

FF – Yeah, yeah.

JC – And so we spotted the car wash, we just happened to be driving along one day and, oh, that’s the car wash they used. So one thing led to another and I started seeking out the locations that they used, while we were there, trying to get as many shots as I could.

FF – Right.

JC – And even on the way back to our hotel one time we were driving down this little side street, San Jose is the name of the street, I remember. And I immediately recognized Tucker’s house. The drug guy who Jesse tried to lure outside and started digging a hole…

FF – Yes, I remember that

JC – You remember that episode. So, we got that, and we went down to what was Los Pollos Hermanos in the show, which is actually Twisters, a sort of a drive-in fast food joint and took pictures of the Los Pollos Hermanos mural that’s painted there inside.

Anyway, we had a great time. And we really loved being back in Albuquerque so we started making plans to move there. And sure enough the following year, 2012, come April, mid-April, we actually had packed up our belongings and vehicles, and cats, three cats, and we moved to Albuquerque.

Once we were there, after getting a bit settled, I started going out more seriously with my camera and tracking down many, many other Breaking Bad sites to photograph with the idea of putting them into greeting cards. And that worked out pretty well.

I bought myself a big Epson inkjet, a professional inkjet printer, which is what I make them on. I tried them out and they printed out very nicely, so it just kind of snow-balled into a nice little operation. 

FF – I remember we were corresponding and you said at some point that you’d actually gotten involved in the filming of the show? Can you talk a little bit about that?

JC – Yes, I, you know, technically I can say that I worked on Breaking Bad. That was a huge personal thrill for me because I was such a big fan. And it all happened, literally, 10 days before we left Albuquerque. I had previously signed up with White Turtle Casting Agency, there, which is the same casting agency that did Breaking Bad.

And they came up with the role, a possible role, they were looking for doctors, real doctors and nurses for this upcoming show which, of course, turned out to be The Night Shift. At the time it was titled "After Hours". That’s what they originally called it. And I thought well, heck, I got this white lab coat that I bought when we lived in San Francisco, so I had this outfit and I thought, they’re the same casting agency that does Breaking Bad, it’s worth a shot just to get my foot in the door and get me noticed if I sign up for this After Hours role.

FF – Right.

JC – You know, just a background actor. And so I dressed up as a doctor and went out and set up my tripod, and I just did a whole bunch of self-portraits, different poses and expressions, in my lab coat and stethoscope and clipboard and I even had some black and white slides that were in this little panel that you held up to the light and it kind of looked like I was looking at x-rays.

FF – Gotcha.

JC – So I got that out and I sent them a nice group of shots that I ended up with. And sure enough I got a call, oh, a week or so later: we need a doctor tomorrow, are you available?

And I said, sure, yeah, I’d be happy to do that. The only two scenes I’d been in so far are the ones they shot there at Gibson outside the hospital, which is partially occupied. Part of it is a working hospital, and then the other part is under renovation. And I guess they’re doing the whole thing, but they used that part, the unoccupied part, for a lot of episodes in Breaking Bad as well. Just as a side note. I later went back and photographed later because they had used it in Breaking Bad, so….

FF – So, when you got the part as the… that was for Breaking Bad? The background extra? You played a doctor on Breaking Bad as well? Or….

JC – No, I’m sorry. The first part I got, yeah, thank you for getting me back on track here, Bea. I landed the part as a day shift doctor for The Night Shift. So, they filmed us outside the hospital late in the afternoon or early in the morning. We were either going to work or leaving work, and then the night shift was coming on, that sort of thing.

And they did probably 7 or 8 different scenes with me. I’ve only seen two of them so far and so I’m hoping that I’ll still be in more episodes of The Night Shift, coming up. Even if it’s just a second or two here or there it’s fine.

FF – Right. Yes.

JC – It was so much fun. Anyway, I’ll fast forward now to actually before that, in January of 2012, just shortly before we left Albuquerque, to move to here, I got a call from Dock at White Turtle and it was a rush call. They had a cancellation, somebody couldn’t make it and so they needed somebody to fill in for the scene at Garduno’s, the Mexican restaurant there. So I was there on the set. I got there, it was an afternoon shoot, and I was in the big restaurant scene with Hank and Marie and Walt and Skyler in the episode called Confessions.

FF – Right. I remember.

JC – And I was sitting at the bar, way in the back, talking to this young lady who was supposedly celebrating her birthday. We were drinking margaritas and singing Happy Birthday and toasting her and everything. But the irony is that the whole time I was there the camera, I couldn’t see the cameras from where I was sitting. Of course, I wasn’t really looking too hard because I didn’t want to look at the camera. Especially when they were filming.

FF – Right.

JC – So I just took it for granted that the cameras would see me and I’d get some face time, hopefully, or at least be seen. But where I was sitting was completely blocked, either by other guests in the restaurant or this post kind over in the corner where Marie was sitting.

FF – Oh!

JC – And so I’ve watched that episode probably twenty times and looked so closely but I’ve never once seen myself. And I at first thought it had just been edited from the scene. But I later realized I think it just happened to be bad luck on where I was actually sitting.

FF – Yeah, yeah, the angle.

JC – Because I could not be seen at all, so technically I was on Breaking Bad, but only technically.

FF – Only technically!

JC – That was my one and only little official employment from Breaking Bad, but I was so involved with the show before then because I was going around shooting all the locations.

FF – Right.

JC – And I recognized the crew and everybody. It was really kind of a kick just to be there and actually be on the set.

FF – Oh, absolutely.

JC – On the other side of the camera.

FF – Well, let’s talk a little bit about your actual photos because, you know, we’ve featured them on Ferreira Fest before. So people are familiar with your work. Can you tell us a little bit about what the process is? Of creating one of those vistas that you do as a photographer? I’m assuming it takes, it starts with the actual picture but what you actually put out on eBay and when you sell, is very different from just a normal photograph.

If you can talk a little bit about the process from taking, like snapping a picture, to actually putting it out there as artwork.

JC – Well, of course, once I find a location that was used, if the light is good, and you know most of the time it is, the light in New Mexico is just wonderful. You know, 99% of the time it’s a fantastic place to do outdoor photography anyway.

I usually take quite a few shots unless it’s something that is really sort of transitory. I generally use my ultra-wide angle lens. I like wide angles a lot. I like to get close to my subject, wherever I can. Although some of these subjects, particularly Declan’s cards, are more or less sort of sweeping vistas of landscapes and so on.

FF – Right.

JC – But there again, the wide angle is great for that. And I love the view of the Manzanos, the mountains to the east of Albuquerque and slightly to the south. And those mountains are featured prominently in a lot of the scenes that took place that are supposedly in Mexico, and Declan was out there and dealing with Walt and Mike and everybody.

So on my trip to Albuquerque last summer, while I was there a whole month I would go out whenever I wasn’t on the set of The Night Shift. I was out seeking out these other locations that I hadn’t visited yet. Anyway, I get the shot and then when I get back home I upload  all the photos onto my computer. And then I open them up, say like I took a shot like Declan’s  mesa which is one of my personal favorites of my whole series… that was shot out in Los Padillas which is kind of a little suburb south/ southwest of Albuquerque.

And that mesa is just sort of a low mesa that overlooks I-25 on one side and then Los Padillas road on the other. And it’s kind of remote. It’s a couple of miles out. And there’s that dirt road where those trees are that you see in my photograph, that goes up to that mesa.

And I was out there in January of 2012, there again, just before we left, moved from Albuquerque, just to watch them film. I was following everywhere they were filming, as much as I could. When I knew they were going to be some place, I was out there as much as possible trying to get shots. And I could see them, you know, the security people, up there on top of the mesa just standing there like guards, guarding a fortress up on the mesa. And I knew they were doing something probably up in that industrial shed that they had up there.

But little did I know it was going to be, supposedly, Declan’s underground drug bunker/ school bus. But I was up there and I was out for a couple of hours and I just took shots from down below and didn’t really get up to the location until last summer when I went out there in August and photographed Declan’s gate and Declan’s mesa and the site of his massacre which I believe they call Declan’s ABQ compound.

FF – Yes.

JC – And, I didn’t know at the time, I just wandered up there, the gate was open, but apparently they don’t really take well to trespassers up there. Whoever has that junkyard, or whatever it is, just like some metal sheds, maybe somebody’s home, and a lot of old dilapidated vehicles and machinery, and so on. But I didn’t see anybody, except for a fellow on some kind of plowing implement and I just stood behind this big old rusty tank and waited until he passed, with his dog too, and before I took any more shots… but I later found out they really don’t like trespassers and I could have gotten in big trouble if he had seen me.

But anyway, I managed to get some good shots of where the bus was supposedly buried and the action took place. And then I just made my way back down and got out of there. And when I got back home I downloaded them. And then once I downloaded the photos on my computer, I opened them up in Photoshop, which I’m not extremely well versed in. I taught myself how to edit and manipulate photos on my own. As I’ve done most everything in photography, I’m pretty much self-taught.

That’s the way I tend to operate. And I will often enhance the color and shift the color and saturate the colors. And, maybe in one section of the photo I’ll change the color of the sky, and another I’ll change some objects. I just kind of go through and put my little artistic twist on things the way I kind of think that best evokes the mood that I’m trying to recreate when I take the shot.

FF – Right.

JC – And I generally, not always, but I generally will frame them in a black border, if somebody’s been killed at that scene, like Declan and his crew got massacred. So of course I always do Declan’s mesa with the black border and I think probably just about all of his.

FF – Yeah. The whole series had the black border, yeah.

JC – And other times I might put a Breaking Bad green, that kind of forest green that they had the logo set against. I’ll put that on sometimes. Or maybe no border at all. It’s just a minor detail that I will add or not add, depending, from time to time. 

But it’s mostly a lot of manipulation of colors and contrast and texture. I’m a big fan of texture and I’ve done a lot of color photography as well as black and white over the years and most of my color photography really gravitates towards the abstract with the focus on texture.

FF – Right.

JC – And so I’m always looking for really interesting texture in all my shots. The fact that I loved the show was almost immaterial. The subject, the sets and the locations they used were just right for the kind of shots that I like to take. It really was a very happy coincidence.

FF – So, Jeff, one final question that I have for you that people will be interested in. Where can we purchase copies of your work? Is it mostly on eBay that you sell? Or is there another place that I can send them to?

JC – Yeah, it’s really just eBay.

FF – Okay.

JC – I haven’t tried to venture beyond there.

FF – So e-bay is our best bet. Just go to eBay and to your page.

JC – It is. Because I almost always have something on eBay.

FF – Right.

JC – And I just re-listed all the other cards that I had before and I don’t have all those in stock, but I’m going to get my printer squared away here very soon. So I’ll be able to print up anything that anybody needs, or wants, that I don’t have in stock.

You know, now that I’ve got the series, I’ve had suggestions from different customers - am I ever going to do a book of my Breaking Bad locations?

FF – That would be fantastic.

JC – That’s an excellent idea, I just tend to procrastinate so many things and I really need to get on the ball and get something like that going.

FF – Yeah.

JC – And that may be a possibility. It’s not a bad idea and I might even be able to do a prototype on my printer here.

FF – Well, thank you so much for your time, again, Jeff. This is really terrific and a little unexpected that I would get to talk to you today and all that. So this is really great and I really do appreciate you taking the time.  I’ll talk to you soon.

JC – You’re welcome. Bye-bye.

Many thanks to Casey for the transcript!


The Declan Series: Breaking Bad  Location Photography


East Mesa dirt road leading to where the meeting with Walt, Jesse, Mike and Declan was conducted during "Buyout" and  "Say My Name" in Season Five.


Las Padillas, NM 2013.   This is the gate located near the top of the small mesa where Declan operated his buried school bus-meth lab during the Final Season.


Las Padillas, NM 2013. Declan and his crew operate an underground meth lab atop the mesa seen in the distance until Lydia, Jack and Todd decide to take over...


Las Padillas, NM 2013. Declan and his crew run their meth operation from this desolate industrial location atop a small mesa in what is supposed to be somewhere outside of Phoenix---but was actually filmed in a small community on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Las Padillas, NM 2013. The area atop a small mesa near southwest Albuquer- que/ Las Padillas is where Declan and his men were slaughtered by Jack's gang of ex-cons under the direction of Lydia Rodarte-Quayle.  This was also the location of the buried school bus/ meth lab which was located to the right of the telephone pole seen in my photo.  There is now simply a pile of old wheel rims and tires covering the hatch where the school bus/ lab was buried (the actual bus was located on a sound stage for the filming).
The Breaking Bad Filming Locations Project
All  images © Jeff Cathrow/Bad Shadows Productions 2014

Breaking Bad Re-Enactments

Jeff did some stunning re-enactments of famous Breaking Bad scenes, using himself as a model. The similarities are quite amazing!

Heisenberg Goes After Jesse,
Tohaji'ilee, NM

(2013 re-enactment by Jeff Cathrow)

Walter Hartwell White Surrenders to Hank
as Benjamin Franklin is Nabbed by Cholla,
Tohaji'ilee, NM

(2013 re-enactment/art direction by Jeff Cathrow )
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