How did you get started in photography? When I was six years old, I was going to take a day cruise that went under the Golden Gate Bridge, and my favorite aunt gave me a Kodak Instamatic to use. I remember shooting and loving the angles I was seeing, especially in the light. She developed the images for me, and I was mesmerized by them. Later, when I went to San Francisco State University, I started out as an architecture major. But I knew that architecture wasn’t my passion. I was giving the advice “Do whatever you want and do it well” to my younger cousins, and I thought, “I’m giving this advice and I’m not even practicing it myself?” So, I changed my major to photography and stayed on that path from then on.
When did you discover your love for photo editing? When I was hired by the amazing George Pitts as an intern for Vibe magazine, I thought, “Wow, I’ll be shooting covers and celebrities!” Not at all. But, working under George and seeing the actual behind-the-scenes and production work made me realize that this is what I wanted to do. As a photo editor and producer, you are the glue that keeps a shoot together. You hire the entire crew: photography, hair and makeup, set design, catering, studio, and more. It comes together because you bring it together to accommodate a vision. It’s an amazing feeling. People can look at a cover and think, “Oh, that’s a beautiful cover,” and I can look at it and say, “I know how much work was put into this, and I appreciate it.”
How have your experiences as a photo editor at publications such as the New York Times and TIME impacted your photographic approach? The New York Times and TIME were two of the three places I had wanted to work at since I was in high school. Their approaches to photography are paramount. Since I was young, my first love has been photojournalism, but prior to working at these two publications, I didn’t have the experience of assigning. At the New York Times and TIME, I learned how to assign on the drop of a dime, how to complete what needed to be done without a crew, and how to produce in completely different settings and spaces. Most importantly, I’m extremely grateful that I was able to develop my eye in such an incredible way. I have to thank all my fellow photo editors, especially MaryAnne Golon and Michele McNally. They were both integral in my learning and “seeing.”
You joined OZY Media as one of its original team members in 2013, and five years later, you rejoined as the director of visuals. What was your experience like coming back to OZY? My background had been in print publishing all of my career, and OZY reached out at a time when I knew that I wanted to do and learn more digitally. My role as the director of photography was purely just producing photography. Since it was a smaller team, with ten to thirteen staffers, everyone’s hands were in all departments, pitching in.
When I rejoined OZY in 2018, we had close to 60 to 70 people. Although it was a larger staff, we still worked together across department duties. But at this point, I was doing much more than I had been doing previously. In addition to shooting, assigning and producing shoots, my team, including visuals editors, Sean Culligan and Ned Colin, also created illustrations, made extensive GIFs and compositions, designed, and produced immersive experiences for our readers. We’re no longer the photography department of 2013, but the visuals department of 2021.
What are the challenges of working in motion, and do you think it’s important for still photographers to work in motion as well? I think it’s extremely important for photographers to work in motion. When I assign, I want to create an experience for a reader that’s more than just static. So, a video, a moving portrait or an animated GIF for social. I think it’s also important to understand how to create great audio and lighting for motion. When I was at the New York Times, I was allowed to take a video and Premiere Pro class. I found it to be a different beast! I discovered that, like photography, motion’s got a science of its own!
What resources do you turn to for inspiration? Always the New York Times and The Washington Post. Also, for a long time, I’ve looked at American Photography annuals, the Society of Publication Designers’ annuals and the online platform We And The Color. And, of course, Instagram.
Aside from your camera and lighting, what item could you not work without? Aside from my backup equipment, my Samsung Gear 360. I bring it everywhere. I’ve recently gotten into virtual reality and augmented reality, and it’s a great little camera that takes lovely stills and 4K 360-degree video. It’s so much fun to use. I’m all about learning new skills, and this has been my latest fascination.
What do you think of the photography industry at the moment, and where do you see it headed? Photography has evolved so much more in the last few years than in the last few decades. The technology is getting bolder, but the photos don’t always seem better. Although everyone can claim to be a photographer, you can still cull out the few who are indeed talented.
What do you feel is your greatest responsibility as a photo editor? Ensuring that the photographers who work for me know that I expect their best and for them to follow art direction and treat everyone with kindness and humility, whether it’s an assistant, subject, crew member or public relations professional. Also, I make sure that my photographers know that I will always have their back.
What lessons have you learned during your career? No job is too small or too big. I am a huge believer in this. I am the one to get aspirin for a photo assistant, buy new socks for a subject or hold a light for a photographer. Do the best you can in everything you do—inside and outside of your career. Treat everyone with kindness. Lastly, there is always something new to learn. So learn it.