my story

01.03.2008

I often get asked, “how did you get started in photography and how did it lead to where you are now?” My story is an interesting one; well I think so anyway.

My point in sharing this is in hopes that you will be motivated, encouraged, inspired or perhaps it will just be the kick in the butt that you may need.

I was sixteen years old and a junior in high school. In my English class I sat next to a kid who was a rock climber. He never paid attention in class because he was always reading rock climbing magazines and playing with his film canisters, camera and shuffling through black and white prints of his buddies climbing.

Obviously I couldn’t help but notice and so I started asking questions. I was immediately hooked and signed up for a photo class my senior year. I loved the class and learned tons. The year after that I signed up for the beginning photo class at my local community college (big mistake). I hated it, everything about it. It was not fun in the least. Long hours in the darkroom, a class size of over 100 students not to mention a hard-core fine art agenda.

Let me interject here: I love fine art, love it. But when it’s pushed on students as if “there’s no other way” or “what? you plan on making money?” or my all time favorite after seeing a print “is that film?”, I hate it. Good crap! DOES IT MATTER!!!!

Anyway, I ended up barely finishing the semester, I sold my camera and lenses. Shortly after I married six years later, my wife went through my old high school boxes and what do you know, she found all of my black and white prints from high school. She started asking questions and before I knew it I owned a camera again. But this time would be different… well sort of.

I started talking with other professionals (the wrong ones) and they had a bad attitude towards the industry, copyright, fees etc, the list goes on and on. They were cranky old farts stuck in the dark ages. (talking about the mentality here, their ages ranged from 20’s to 50’s) I even went to one lecture of a photographer in her early 30’s and she flat out said, “if you want to make money you’re in the wrong industry, plan on being poor.” So I got the crap scared out of me and decided to pursue art direction instead.

I moved to South Beach to attend the Miami Ad School’s AD program. By the end of my first quarter I had made friends with the head of the photo program and he asked me “what the hell are you doing in art direction? Well I gave him my sad story about how I didn’t want to be poor and how it would be a regular income and how I’d be able to pay my bills etc etc etc. He laughed hysterically dropped the F-word a few times and gave me a huge kick in my butt that helped jumpstart me.

Needless to say I immediately quit school and started working full time on my vision and style, some weeks in excess of 65 hours per week. Within a year I started marketing my work on a national level, shot my first national campaign within two months of the portfolio release and signed on with one of the best reps in the country.

For a little bit anyway you’ll be hearing about the things I learned and my experiences over that first year.

So what’s your story… I‘d love to hear it.

btw you should check out this post on sharing your stories and if you really want to get into it read Seth Godin’s book All Marketers are liars.

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4 Responses to “my story”

  1. Tammy Cravit Says:

    What’s my story? In a nutshell, it’s the tale of someone who was doing everything right, gave in to self-doubt and threw it all away, and is now starting over.

    My history in photography is a long one. I can remember afternoons spent in the darkroom in my grandfather’s basement when I was 5 or 6, winding rolls of Tri-X onto metal reels and watching 8x10s swim to life in a tray of Dektol. What I wanted to be, even back then, was a pro photographer.

    As I got older, I did everything I could to make that dream a reality. I bought, begged and borrowed equipment so I could learn as much as possible. As a teen, I set up a darkroom in the basement of my father’s house. I worked after school and on weekends for a commercial photographer who I’d met through a friend of my dad. I worked on my high school yearbook. I taught photography for two summers at a summer camp, and I shot thousands of frames of 35mm film through my Nikon and 120 roll film through my secondhand Rolleicord.

    And then I made the mistake of listening to someone I shouldn’t have. Self-esteem suckers, I call them, the kind of people who conceal their own insecurities behind a cutting criticality of anyone who’s pursuing their passion. I’d never cut it as a photographer, this person told me. I didn’t have the talent. And, young and foolish that I was, I listened to them. I ended up in a safe and thoroughly soul-sucking business (computer software development), making a decent living and hating every second of it. I did freelance occasionally for my local newspaper, writing articles and occasionally contributing photos, but that was penny-ante stuff, nowhere near the amount of money someone with a partner and a kid and a California mortgage needs to be making.

    Ironically, what changed things for me was an offer for a free portrait session, to be taken by students of a local photography school. The hows and whys of that scenario coming about aren’t important to the story, but what happened next is. We went down there for our free session. Being ever curious, I took a look at the gear they were using, and at the results they were getting. And I had two earthshaking revelations:

    1. Though I was introduced to some new gear (DSLRs and PocketWizards, instead of Bronicas and sync cords), the technology of photography really hadn’t changed THAT MUCH during my absence.

    2. If I had access to that kind of studio equipment, I could totally have produced better pictures than the ones they shot that day.

    And with that revolution, everything’s changing. I went out and bought a DSLR and some lighting gear. I’ve put 3,000 frames on my DSLR body in the past five months, and I finally feel like I’m back in practice. I sat down and took a good hard look at where I was, and where I wanted to be. I made a business plan, and a marketing plan for the first quarter FY2008. I have 12 measurable goals, and defined action steps to achieve them. And I have an idea for a book that’s at the proposal stage right now.

    But more importantly, I have renewed my confidence in myself and my abilities. I know I can achieve the things I want to, that I DO have the talent and ability and determination. I have my fire back. I’m not quitting my other work just yet, not until I have revenue coming in to replace it. But I have no doubt in my mind that 2008 will be the last year I have to do computer programming.

  2. Ed McCulloch Says:

    Great story Tammy- Thanks for sharing-

  3. elizabeth Says:

    “Needless to say I immediately quit school and started working full time on my vision and style, some weeks in excess of 65 hours per week. Within a year I started marketing my work on a national level, shot my first national campaign within two months of the portfolio release and signed on with one of the best reps in the country.”

    I enjoyed your story, but I hear so many of them like like that–“So and so did this, and before he/she knew it he/she shot a national campaign!” It seems to simplify the process to an extreme level. I hope your blog will fill in these gaps at some point. Thanks for writing!

  4. kendrick Says:

    Hey, I’m very new to reading your blog, I think I got here via ‘a photo editor’ but I really can’t remember for sure. I agree with Elizabeth and hope that you fill in the gaps in your story a little. I’m at the position now where I’m trying to spend as much time as possible getting my vision and style down. So, I’m eager to hear what you did to hone your craft during that time period. Thanks for sharing your insight! — Kendrick


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