I originally went to school for theatre design, eventually moving into film and art direction. A couple years into my program, I was on set and it was one of those long, boring days that was 16 hours of me thinking all about how much I would rather do something else for the rest of my life. A good friend recommended the commercial photography program at my university. With my background in art direction and design, it made a great transition from building sets and telling stories through movement, to trying to capture it all into one single frame. It was a challenge. Teachers told me I wouldn’t make it. And that was a claim I wanted to prove wrong, pushing me harder in my degree and eventually into a career.
I love the softer, long term stories. Recently I’ve been focusing on location and where people live. I am very interested in where people live and why. I moved around a lot as a child, and I love seeing human migration not just on a massive level, but on the small scale as well. I have photographed nomads in the Middle East and towns in Utah with populations of 800 people or less. It is all interesting to me and tells a story not only of individuals, but the identity of a place as well.
To me when traveling, the most important thing is to take your camera out on the first day and have it out all day. I will shoot the majority of my travel images in the first 48 hours of being in a new place. It is then that everything is fresh and interesting. If I wait until I have settled and recovered from jet lag, my eyes won’t be fresh and I will look over the simplest and most interesting parts of being in a new place.
It’s a bit of a copout to say both, but I don’t think one is necessarily more important than the other. If you don’t have a camera that you know how to use, you’re not fast with it, you won’t get that serendipitous moment. However, if you have nailed everything technically, have years of experience, and the light is bad with a dull subject, you won’t have a photograph either. I would say preparation is a bit more important, it will give you more options and the ability to make the best of the worst. However, you always have to be looking for what Henri Cartier-Bresson calls “The Deciding Moment” as well.
They are so important for one another. Whether it is my personal photography that lands professional work, or my professional work that introduces me to concepts and places, they are very intertwined. The more I push myself professionally to take better photographs, the better my personal photography is. As great as it is to make money, I think it is just as important to be constantly shooting for myself and hashing out ideas and techniques I would be nervous to try for a client. I am a huge proponent of personal work, but I feel like if it were not for the commercial clients pushing me the way they do, my personal work wouldn’t be where it is today.