My advice is to follow that dream. It’s not easy. It’s hard to make a living at any of this stuff. It takes a lot of persistence but if I can do it you can do it. If you’ve got that dream and that passion I would say don’t give up. It would have been very easy along the way to just quit. There were many days when things weren’t going right, I wasn’t making much money, I was doing other jobs and excelling in those jobs, I’d go out in the ocean and shoot a roll of film and it wasn’t looking good. I’d say why am I doing this? But I just couldn’t let go and I couldn’t quit because I loved it so much. For other emerging photographers if they have that same desire and that same passion and that same dream they can do it too. Don’t give up, find a strategy, find a plan that will work for you, execute that plan and I believe that dream will come true for anyone that is diligent and patient.
This is what I think the big key is, if you love it then you should do it and you should try and work as hard as you possibly can and try and learn as much as you possibly can and just outlast everybody (laughs). It’s a tough business and a lot of people quit and so if you have enough talent and enough drive and enough luck you’ll get there. The only thing you can control is how much drive you have, the other stuff will just work itself out.
I would try to set short-term goals and say next year I want to get a little piece in a magazine and I got a little thing in SLAM. The next year I wanted to write a feature in a magazine and I wrote my first feature, then I’d like to do a cover story. I didn’t ever sit down and actually write them out but I knew I wasn’t going to come out of nowhere and write a cover story for a magazine, I knew it was going to take work and I was going to have to get to that point somehow. I figured it was better to hit the smaller points along the way and make it a more logical progression than just trying to go to the top right away.
We rarely ask people where they went to school, it really doesn’t matter. I know that a lot of times I go back to Notre Dame, where I did my undergrad, and people will ask what do they need to do to get into this business. You really just need to have a passion and a desire and you have to be persistent and survive. I think like anything just surviving the business and being persistent and working hard at it. All the other stuff and requirements kind of fall away as long as you’re willing to put in the work. It’s hard, it’s always hard when you’re starting out for the first X amount of years until you break through. It always seems like a long climb until you get there and then you realize it was a long but it was worth it.
My only advice would be that I definitely started a lot of jobs in a volunteer position and eventually made a little bit of money doing it and eventually, eventually, eventually now I own a business and have a career. If this is something you’re entertaining be patient, show humility, try things out, be okay to volunteer, be okay to not live super lucratively for awhile but live happily and pursue your dream. Doors just keep kind of opening if you stay open to it. I never had a set path but it hasn’t proven me wrong yet to take the next step and see where that goes then take the next step and see where that goes. I’m pretty happy where I’m at right now and I don’t think I ever had that global vision from a distance. It’s high quality of life versus working for the future, you’re just living now, and to me that’s the ultimate goal.
I sort of set up a game plan or goal, I said this is what I want to do within the next two years and I really stuck to that and realized that I needed to get more new pictures from different photographers. In the beginning you have to see that through and reach your goal. You can’t be greedy and feel like you’re not earning enough. I was peeling onions in the night working catering jobs to be able to participate in my first few photo shoots. I think you have to know what your dream is and you have to be hungry, you mustn’t be afraid of working.