Duration: Five years!
Location: Brooklyn, New York.
Education: Bachelors of science in journalism from the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
Career path: When I was in high school, my theater teacher, Mr. Tempest, gave me a film camera as a gift after he saw me messing with a camera I had borrowed from a friend. While photography was something I enjoyed—and I spent all of my money processing film at Walgreens and buying new rolls—I didn’t consider it a possible career path. In college, I shot for the college newspaper, which gave me access to dynamic experiences, and after graduation, I interned and did some creative work here and there.
After an extended run working at music streaming service Grooveshark, I moved to New York City on a whim. I knew I couldn’t stay in my college town, and I feared going back to my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida without any idea of what I was doing. The plan was to stay in New York City for a year and find any work I could before going to grad school. When I got there, I reached out to artists through Instagram to learn about how they work, what their habits are and how they got their first jobs.
Artistic influences: Photographers Sasha Arutyunova and Elliot Ross perfectly blend the artistic and editorial worlds into breathtaking portraits that have narrative value, and photographer Chris Ozer captures sense of place better than anyone I follow. Also, the Instagram account for Bee and Rog Walker’s ongoing visual project Paper Monday shows a mastery of tone and mood in portraiture. I also love watching and reading journalistic interviews. The art of the interview is not simple; an interviewer has to read the interviewee, anticipate normal responses and then force the interviewee to dig deeper, while being a good listener. Barbara Walters is a master at this.
Favorite projects: For Stories From Here, a massive portraiture project for my Adobe Creative Residency, I traveled around the country to talk to strangers, capture their stories and learn about their senses of place, which I believe factors in how we see the world around us. I also really enjoyed the work I did for the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Program. We were asked to shoot a story about the amenities of a few destination hotels. Branded content is often the same nonsense, but the team at Ogilvy & Mather gave us a lot of room to establish mood and work on messaging.
Work environment: I can work anywhere. Generally, I shoot on location without artificial light. I go to a subject’s home or scout an area where I can get great natural light and establish the right mood in. When I am in my apartment in Brooklyn, I usually make selects and edits in the kitchen or set up my lights for a makeshift portrait session in the living room.
Approach: I focus on listening to my subjects and creating art around the energy they give me. I love to capture a gamut of emotions, so being observant about my subject’s mannerisms is key. Sometimes, even pausing when you should be giving direction—to see how they react—can be helpful.
Aspirations: I’m not sure if I still want to be a photographer in ten years. If I do advance in my photography career, I want to be more selective about who I work with. In the perfect world, I would love to work in the creative department of a National Basketball Association team, providing art direction and overall messaging for its campaigns.
Philosophy: Telling the same story again isn’t a bad thing if you can uncover something new.