FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter. Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them. In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.
Describe the arc of your photography career so far.
The arc of my career really started with my education. In 2004 I enrolled in a technical photography program in North Carolina at Randolph Community College. The program has a storied and influential history in the North Carolina photography world yet I knew very little about it when I enrolled. All I knew was that photography was the one thing I hadn’t got bored with yet. So I went for it.
RCC requires all students to start with a medium format film camera. I went on to learn film processing, color printing, lighting theory and large format photography. This technical training really created and still serves as the foundation of all of my work. Although I primarily shoot digital today everything I learned there has influenced how I work today.
I went on to study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Pat Davison and Rich Beckman. All the while I was doing internships every summer. This allowed me to put my education into practice as a working photographer while still receiving guidance from excellent editors like the late Bruce Moyer of the Hartford Courant.
My big break came when I landed a job at The New York Times. I was 26 when they offered me an internship at the website as a photo producer. This soon led to a full time position and a truly unbelievable experience. Somewhere along the way I learned one of the most valuable skills a photographer can have and that is the skill of self-promotion. I began developing relationships with the picture editors I worked with and I began showing them my work. Then I started working on my own stories and sharing them with those editors. People like Michele McNally, Jim Estrin, Clinton Cargill, Meaghan Looram and others gave me great feedback and support, the kind that is invaluable when you are a young in experienced artist. It wasn’t long before I had my first personal project published. Then I began shooting assignments through the metro desk. It was all truly a dream come true and an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
At some point along the way my family situation “expanded” and I decided I want to branch out a little bit with my career. I was fortunate enough to meet Marcel Saba and Redux Pictures who invited me to become part of their extended family. I relocated to Atlanta and began the second chapter of my career as a freelance photographer.
September 1 my photobook “Birth of a Warrior” will publish and this will be one of the proudest points of my career so far. I have to say that if it weren’t for the relationships I’ve built and maintained with those I work along side with in the photography industry I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.
If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?
I believe that never being satisfied is a healthy way to stay motivated. I’m thankful and gracious but I am absolutely never satisfied with the work I produce. I like it that way.
If I were exactly where I wanted to be with my career I would have multiple gallery representations, my book would be hardcover, I would be shooting covers instead of inside portraits, I would have my own studio, I would have a full time assistant and I would have the opportunity of hearing my name mentioned in the same sentence as Richard Avedon’s. If I had all of those things what would I have to work toward?
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Over the next 12 months I have several goals the first of which is to see the successful launch of my new book. I also want to do several super rad talks and presentations of this work around the country. I want to shoot at least 4 cover shoots and begin shoot my next book project. I want to learn how to manage my business finances better and I want to elevate my exposure in the industry through better publicity. I also want to shoot at least 3 more music videos and be a better dad to my kids than I was in the last 12 months. Not that I wasn’t a good dad or anything but it’s all about progression.