How did you get started in photography? I’ve been an artist since I was a child. As I got older, I continued to draw, paint, sculpt, and create multimedia pieces and collages. But it wasn’t until my first photography class in black-and-white film at Rhode Island School of Design that I fell in love with photography. I was in the dark-room, developing my first print. I saw it appear before my eyes and I fell in love.
What’s it like working as the in-house photographer at Wieden+Kennedy New York? What does a typical day look like? Since I’m in-house, I often get involved early on in the creative concepting. I also know the creatives, and I’ve worked with many of them often, so we have a close relationship and easy communication. I love the variety of shooting for different clients, and I don’t have a typical day. I may be shooting in our photo studio for clients, pitches or proof of concept, or shooting for most of our clients for social media campaigns. Some days are spent editing and going over creative decks. When things are slower on the client side, I might be shooting internal projects. We recently hired a number of people, and I’m redoing the agency’s headshots, so this currently fills up any time I have between client shoots.
How has working at Wieden+Kennedy sharpened your skills as a photographer? I’m shooting all the time, so I’m always thinking about how to best photograph various objects—like people, a beer can or a bottle—and how to light each shoot. When you are constantly shooting and editing, you can assess your work right away. One of the other ways to sharpen your skills is to try something new. Get inspiration and try to emulate something you love from that image. I love geeking out and figuring out how to light something to get the look I want, whether that is eliminating reflections on a can, getting the highlight just right or creating a mood. I’ve also started shooting more video and learning about video lighting so I can be a great cinematographer and director.
How does it feel to switch gears and work on your own projects? It is my time to completely own the project and to be extremely creative with it. I love to experiment with lights, gels and anything else I can play with. My personal projects, test shoots and experiments often make their way into creative work for clients.
What led you to create your series Portrait of a Creative? I started Portrait of a Creative years ago as an opportunity to connect with other people in creative fields. Friends would recommend me their friends, and it grew from there. I wanted to get better at shooting portraits of people, and there was no better way to do that than by taking multiple portraits in a short period of time. I’d bring my lights, figure out how to light the environment and give direction to create a number of different portraits. I also got to interview each person featured. I love learning about how each person got to where she or he is in their respective creative field.
Which photographers do you most admire? I love the work of Cass Bird, Micaiah Carter, Kalle Gustafsson, Erik Madigan Heck, Tyler Mitchell, Julia Noni and Sølve Sundsbø. I am constantly discovering new photographers whom I admire. I love seeing photography that has a unique aspect, whether that is in its styling, perspective or framing. Some photographers have amazing lighting skills, and others have a way with people, direction, composition and framing.
What do you think of the photography industry at the moment? Where do you see it headed? The photography industry is always changing and evolving. Those who shine are those who have a unique perspective. Social media is where most people are consuming photography. It is important to diversify and also have the ability to create and capture motion.
What advice do you have for photographers who are just starting out? Shoot, edit, learn from your mistakes, repeat. Learn to light. Photograph what you love. Find others who are also starting out and want to build their portfolios, like clothing stylists, makeup artists, set designers, prop stylists and food stylists, and work with them. Keep shooting. Learn how to shoot video. Show the kind of work you would like to shoot for clients. This way, you are always building and updating your portfolio. Be different and also be kind. Clients want to work with great photographers who are also great people.