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.
I took my first photography class when I was 15, and from that moment on I knew I wanted to be a photographer. In high school, I exhausted every possible outlet to learn more about photography that I could find in my school and town of Spring, Texas to the point of writing the Houston Chronicle and pitching photo stories to them (it worked!). At eighteen, I moved to New York to study photo at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. It was a wonderful program full of talented students and great teachers like Tom Drysdale, Deb Willis, and Phil Perkis. I loved being surrounded by people who liked to talk about images.
After graduation, I lucked into a job as Bruce Davidson's studio manager. Working for Bruce taught me what the life of a working artist looks like. He taught me his method of darkroom printing and gifted me my Mamiya 7II, which is still my favorite camera. Almost as soon as he gave me that camera, I left to go make my own work for a few months. That began my on-going series "Rodeo Texas" about my home state. Upon returning to New York, I got a job working under photo agent David Maloney at Art Department. There I learned all areas of production (bidding on jobs, budgets, building crews, on-set production, travel, billing, contracts, etc.) and worked my way up to being one of his two head producers for his roster of photographers. When I wasn't head producer, I had time to work on my own fine art photography on nights and weekends. Slowly, I started getting into shows and winning small awards like Jen Bekman's Hey Hot Shot. I was using all my vacation days to travel for shooting personal work. But it wasn't enough. I knew I needed to shake things up if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be with my own photography.
So, I applied to grad school and decided to quit my job and attend SVA for my photo MFA. That decision changed my life in incredible ways. While in school, I began what became "May the Road Rise to Meet You," a road trip photo series about my dad's life as a traveling telephone pole salesman. Grad school also changed my relationship to images and how I view myself as an imagemaker. After graduation, "May the Road..." started getting a lot of exciting attention. I was awarded the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer's Fellowship and signed with Daylight Books to publish "May the Road Rise to Meet You" which was released in 2013. I was very fortunate to be asked to join a Flash Powder Projects retreat right before my book came out, and there worked on ideas for pushing the book and taking my photo career to the next step. And since then, I've had a traveling exhibition of that work shown all over the country and in some international photo festivals, my collector base has grown, and I was selected as one of PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch for 2015. And just two months ago, I self-published a small edition of my older series "Kiss & Tell" that sold out in 2 months, so now, in addition to my latest work-in-progress, I want to revisit that series and see how it has evolved since I started it over 10 years ago.
I've also been teaching photography for 3 and half years now at SUNY Rockland Community College and am starting this fall to teach at CUNY Kingsborough Community College. And I've been shooting more and more commercial and editorial work, which has been great and something I'm looking to push more in the coming year.
I feel really fortunate for all the good things that have come my way and grateful for all the experiences that helped inform my skill set and creativity. The advice I tell my students is: be humble, be grateful, be hungry and just don't stop.
If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?
That's hard to answer. I don't know that I'll ever be EXACTLY where I want to be, because each new wonderful achievement opens new doors and leads to new goals. But it sure would be nice to sell out of the editions of a series! And a definite new goal of mine is to partner with a gallery for representation.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
In addition to gallery representation, my goals for the year are to create a "Kiss & Tell: Volume II", make a significant amount of progress with my newest series, explore more exhibition opportunities for "May the Road Rise to Meet You," and seek out more editorial and advertising clients. And get a dog. I'd really like to get a dog.