This past month has been a whirl wind of experiences and opportunities.
From a family wedding trip gone solo vacation to New York City which lead me back into the offices of IMG Models and NEXT Models, allowing me to absorb information from the fashion and photography industries top leaders, to photographing for major clients, to stepping foot back into the classroom, to growing in demand for my work in the San Diego region, its been a hell of a month -- and yet amidst all the chaos I can surely say that I am enjoying every minute of it!
I'd love to share a personal reflection and what I was able to take away from these experiences, as to further elaborate my perspective to viewers drawn to my site to showcase who I am and why I do what I do. I hope that I can inspire you with these stories and provide some insight at the same time.
I believe the best photographer isn't in who has the best camera, or the best photoshop skills, but the person who truly sees life differently and I hope in some way my writing helps accompany my visual point of view.
New York City. Big city of dreams. I first arrived in NYC at the age of 22 geared up to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Full of dreams, but no idea what they were. Still to this day I have my own qualms with attending Graduate school as early as I did, but at the same time I think it is a necessary part of who I am today, my beliefs, and my experiences. My department of Digital Arts focussed more on the philosophical aspect of art from a Fine Art perspective rather than the commercial art field I went on to work in. Which is why I feel my photography is unique. Because in my mind each piece is a work of art, not a photograph.
I worked my ass off, quickly executing class projects while interning and working for some of the photo industries largest players. Beginning at Art Partner (owned by Giovanni Testino, brother of Mario Testino) , I worked my way from lowly intern to capable producer, leveraging myself onset whenever I could with famed photographers like Terry Richardson. From here to Art and Commerce with the PRODn team with Steven Meisel and IMG Models working under VP David Cunningham.
Despite an amazing opportunity my inner creative longed to be on the forefront rather than the backend and I left to pursue new opportunities back to my native west coast of San Diego, California. I risked it all in this pursuit, with no job lined up, no major plan. Just listening to myself.
Leaving NYC was a hard and complicated decision, but I ultimately new it meant starting again. Something as an artist I have never feared and often embraced. I began work a teacher and creative strategist for a non profit called Outside the Lens with a mission I really believe in, helping get cameras and digital skills into the hands of those schools that otherwise would not be able to provide such an experience. The result has been humbling and taught me more than I think I could teach my students whom I am constantly learning from.
Determined to create a unique lane for myself, I can not say that I am there. Or that I am a success. Or that I know where the road ends. And I am okay with that. Everyday I am a work in progress and learning and growing in the process. I'm a firm believer in connecting the dots. I think life is a pattern, all the tools are there, all the paths are provided, and its up to us to put them all together. I'm still piecing my puzzle together, but can already say its weaving together beautifully.
Upon my return I was able to do some reflecting and compose a list of four bullets that have helped me push forward in life and in business. Come back tomorrow and I will share ten bullets from a man far wiser than myself from a book titled, Made in America.
1. Look at everything as an opportunity (work a shitty job? Find out what you can take away from the experience rather than focussing on the negative? Why does one item sell more than another? How does your attitude effect customer service. Be a sponge!
2. Understand you aren't hot shit...yet. And that there are people better than you. You may be confident and feel like you know everything there is to know, but that just isn't true. There are people more talented and more knowledgable than yourself. LEARN FROM THEM. BEFRIEND THEM. UNDERSTAND THEM. They will be able to provide you a wealth of knowledge and resources that helped them along the way. Look to them as mentors.
3. Treat everyone with respect. This is a big one. Not even to advance but just in general. You never know what someone is going through, what they've been through. Life isn't fair and sure as hell isn't easy so this is just a good rule of thumb for life. For business don't burn your bridges. That person that you thought was a doofus at your last job, may go on to create the biggest business you've ever seen. Treat them with respect and maybe when you need advice he'll open up the door to you.
4. Stay ahead of the curve. Stay learning. You can never know to much. Is there a new technology coming out that will impact your industry. Learn it. Use it. Free class or webinar you can attend? Go! The people that fail to succeed also fail to adapt. Don't let that happen.
Thank you for reading and I would love to hear from you! Send over a comment and share what lessons you have learned along the way! Maybe we can all learn from eachother!
One of the most amazing parts of teaching is being constantly reminded why it is you do what you do.
As part of the Outside the Lens team, I am currently out of my traditional structured High School classroom element and over the past three weeks have been trekking throughout downtown La Jolla teaching multiple age ranges in multiple locations. The experience has had its challenges --lugging heavy equipment around in the San Diego summer heat, memorizing a new group of names and faces each week, balancing the brain from your high school vernacular and toning it down to your middle school speak --but nonetheless rewarding. It has proven to me that really in any circumstance as a teacher, no matter the type of student or the age range, that I can succeed and achieve rave reviews from students and parents. All this at the same time learning a completely new part of San Diego and finding a way to navigate through it (thank you NYC for conditioning me for this).This has lead me in some awesome spaces including the Coast Room of the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla and the La Jolla Historical Society.
This summer I have been teaching a little of everything - The Big Picture ( aNature and Architectural Photography class, to Street Photography, to a new class I created called #Trending. I have been able to collectively tap into the resources that inspired me as a youth, all the while learning to hone and perfect the craft myself. In the Big Picture it was the work of artists such as the famed Ansel Adams and Julius Schulman who inspired us me in films like Visual Acoustics where Schulman explains how elements like adding people to his work really helped it take off and showcase a time past. The trailer for Visual Acoustics below and the full movie can be found on Hulu for free at http://www.hulu.com/watch/678465 .
On the nature spectrum we visited the work of world renowned photographer, Peter Lik, and with the help of Krystal Lawler, the Gallery Director for the Peter Lik Gallery we were able to engage in our own personal tour of the collection.
As my work began in fashion and portraiture it was fun to become a tourist along with my students and document the sites here in San Diego. Heres a few shots I got that I really love.
For Street Photography it was artists like Scott Schuman aka The Satorialist (whom I've had the opportunity to meet several times during NYFW with IMG Models) where I learned the principles and building blocks of my own website and ideology, the work behind starting your own website, the hours behind the scenes, and the laborious task of making sure you are sticking to the script EVERY day. Intels video for Mr. Schuman has always been a source of inspiration for myself as I began learning the fashion and street landscape so it was none other than imperative that I showed the clip.
In #trending I was given the task of teaching the social media landscape to middle school students in a way that empowers them to create content and share, but with caution and with purpose. To question the students with things like filters for their photographs and challenge them to understand why we hashtag, if a filter is necessary or important to a photograph, and examine what items and elements make a video/photo successful via social media. For the answers I looked to brands that have dedicated themselves meticulously and with much success to their social efforts such as a formed company I had worked for like IMG models, and how they use the page to document of the moment information as well as the videos of Levi Maestro, a young entrepreneur I had the pleasure of meeting at Reed Space in New York City a few years ago. Levi also is a self made photographer/videographer who started from humble beginnings documenting moments with his friends which lead him to success in the digital field all through the promotion he put out there on platforms like vimeo, instagram, twitter etc. In this class I was able to put my extensive knowledge of social media marketing to the task with years of experience from both companies big and small, trial and error as an entrepreneur for my own sites and ideas, and studies from San Diego resources such as Immersive Youth, a youth marketing agency that regular publishes tips and tricks to reach young audience viewership.
Learning new things is one of my favorite things to do. But there is something to be said about revisiting a topic you have already learned. It can make it feel new; feel fresh. For me, having the opportunity to relearn photography and media and disect it on the stage for each age group has been a learning experience for me as well. Passion, even the strongest kind, can fade. But only if you let it. The secret is to discover and remember and find new reasons why you love doing something everyday. Hell I think thats the secret to life.
O ya and we had some fun in slowmo. Shout out to Hilary from Outside the Lens for the edit.
P.S. Special thank you to Outside the Lens for giving me the opportunity to teach what I want in these amazing locations, to MCASD and the La Jolla Historical Society for allowing us to use your facilities and show the students why La Jolla is so amazing!
If your a space nerd like myself I'm certain your already aware of the social media upheaval that has emerged throughout Outer Space in the last few years. NASA and astronauts alike have take to the phenomenon expanding on our real time documentation is able to shorten our wait time and receive live viewing of our universe from the Cosmos.
Over the past two weeks Astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, host of Star Talk radio and Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, engaged in the conversation with the likes of twitter and social media in space calling in the likes of twitters own Biz Stone and Chris Hadfield to expand on the phenomenon.
Link to Star Talk Radio episodes:
The Impact of Twitter on Society with Boz Stone:
Social Media in Space with Chris Hadfield:
More with Neil can be found here: Star Talk
Lastly, and a little of topic, but still in space theme I leave you with a bit from the Bombay Bicycle Club called Home By Now. With a Wes Anderson feel they have children reenact Stanley Kubrick's classic work, 2001 Space Odyssey.
My day is typically dispersed through a number of locations. Finding a since of balance therein is not only something I had hoped to find since joining Outside the Lens, but rather an imperative quality that I knew would be necessary to work efficiently, manage multiple classrooms at multiple sites, and somehow still grow in the process.
Since joining audible on a discounted rate I was able to negotiate I have picked up a number of books to make my travels more tolerable, and task myself in the meantime to create a booklist that helps me evolve as a man, teacher, and entrepreneur. Of these reads I try to learn from great minds I admire, the likes of Einstein, Obama and the Clintons, Steve Jobs, and Eric Schmidt.
For anyone looking to mange the scale of work and life (and maybe even pair them to one in the same) I highly recommend Work Rules by Mr. Bock. Bock attempts to break down Googles structure in an attempt to show why and how it has grown into one of the most respected and sought after companies to work for on the planet. And given his expertise in the area or hiring and managing he does it from a humble perspective not failing to not Googles's flaws and failed attempts along the road.
Some of the major insights I was able to acquire from this book will translate instantly to anyone in a managerial role or hoping to start a business of their own. Particularly in regards to hiring reform which Google believes should not be one managers and rather it should be a deeper screening process. Be willing to concentrate your people investment on hiring. Rather than join and then have to prove yourself, you hire folks who are already capable and let them hit the ground running.
One of the biggest confirmations I received was a thought I have always had regarding short training sessions are a waste of company time. Companies often use the illusion of seminars and certifications to allow employees to feel empowered and "learn new skills" when in fact nothing is genuinely acquired in these short periods and serve little purpose in the office. I have been to many of these both in the education and advertising world, leaving with a feeling that I have simply put another check on my resume rather than gaining any real world value and experience. Hire people smarter than themselves, steer away from micro management, and let the magic unfold. You'ld be amazed what workers like this are capable of.
Finally -- think like a founder. Even if you are the founder.
“Building an exceptional team or institution starts with a founder. But being a founder doesn’t mean starting a new company. It is within anyone’s grasp to be the founder and culture-creator of their own team, whether you are the first employee or joining a company that has existed for decades.”
If you pick it up let me know what you think. Glorified HR consultant telling why his company is the best or the blueprint on how to build the next best company?