MEET. Rob Hammer

© Rob Hammer

Meet San Diego-based advertising and documentary photographer, Rob Hammer.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
If we’re strictly focusing on photography-related podcasts then I’d have to say The Candid Frame and Visual Revolutionary. Both of them are very educational. 

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
I hate Instagram in a lot of ways. It’s a gift and a curse. As far as living photographers, I’m currently getting a lot of inspiration from people like Walter Iooss Jr., Kurt Markus, and Andy Anderson. The rest of the inspiration comes from gallery accounts that share a lot of iconic photography that they represent. 

What 3 words describe your photography style?
No idea. Never think about that and don’t plan it. 

What do you listen to when you’re shooting? 
It all depends on the client and the type of shoot. If it’s a commercial fitness client then it would probably be some type of Spotify hip-hop playlist or something else that would provide energy. When I’m on the road shooting, it’s a mix of audiobooks, podcasts, country, rap, and rock. If I’m home editing then it’ll be a Spotify ‘Focus’ or ‘Calm’ playlist. I love them for editing because it’s relaxing background noise without any words that keeps you entertained but is never distracting. 

What inspires you?
Can I just say everything? Photo books are probably the biggest source of inspiration and my collection is starting to get out of control. I can pinpoint a drastic positive change in my own photography/career to when I started incessantly digesting photo books. I also travel a lot and try to visit photo/art galleries whenever possible. They have been great. Seeing different styles of art is so informative. Movies/documentaries are great too. They give me so many visual ideas. Reading has also been an amazing tool for learning different ways to tell a story. Sounds weird to type that, but it’s true. Travel, in general, is inspirational. People are inspirational. You can find inspiration anywhere as long as you’re open to it.  

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
That’s changed so much over the years and hopefully it continues to change. Early on I photographed a lot of famous athletes and thought that was so cool and figured it was the way you built a name/career for yourself. Then after a few years, I realized it was all bullshit. Now I could care less about photographing anyone famous. The important thing for me is the final result. If a client wants to make interesting images that happen to involve a famous person, then great. Otherwise, I’m just as happy to shoot a no-name that’s into collaborating and making great images. I love making images. I really do. It’s an obsession more than it’s a profession and my favorite place to do that is on the road wandering around America. Not sure what I’d do without the camera. Making photographs of anything is pleasing to me. Whether that’s for a client or images that will never be seen, it doesn’t matter. 

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
Backcountry snowboarding, fly fishing, hunting, backpacking, food, and travel. Most of those still involve making photographs though. There isn’t much separation for me, which is a gift. The only activity I ever put the camera down for is snowboarding. That’s a full checkout. Otherwise, I’ll have anxiety about missing a photo during all of the others. The thing I most recently got into is learning to ride horses. 

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
A disorganized wreck. 

Who were your biggest influencers?
That’s a really long list of which I’ll certainly forget a few names. William Eggleston, William Albert Allard, Fred Herzog, Bresson, Saul Liter, Martin Parr, Alex Webb, Joel Sternfeld, Joel Meyerowitz, Ernst Hass, Andy Anderson, Walter Iooss Jr, Harry Benson, William Klien, Yousuf Karsh, Kurt Markus, John Langmore, David Allen Harvey, Stephen Shore, Frank Hurley, Annie Leibovitz, Dennis Hopper, Wyatt McSpaden, Darius Kinsey, and on and on and on. In order to be good at anything, you have to be a student first and never stop your education. And I don’t mean that in the traditional sense. “School” is a very flawed system that needs a massive change. 

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
One thing I regret about starting out was that I didn’t do much assisting. At the time I was arrogant and thought I could do it all on my own, young and dumb, so I was never really around other photographers to get that advice from. I never learned much about photography or the business, which held me back a lot. Even now after doing this full time for however many years, I still think about asking people if I can assist. My desire for knowledge is greater than anything right now. 

What are the current challenges that you face as a photographer?
I’ve always hated marketing so the business side of photography is the biggest challenge for me. And the “business” is always changing. For instance, mailers used to be a way of reaching new clients, but who knows if clients are even in an office anymore so where would you send a mailer? What is the best way to get your work in front of people these days?? Instagram? I have no idea. Setting aside time and energy for advertising has never been a strong point for me but that needs to change.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far? 
Any photographer that is honest will tell you that their career is full of peaks and valleys with really high highs and really low lows. Mine has certainly been that but I’m so grateful for all of the lows, no’s, and downtimes because that’s where you learn the most. In the past, there have been stretches of months and months at a time where the phone just stopped ringing and that’s never good for your head. There are certainly some extremely fun commercial projects I’ve worked on in the past, but the things that stand out the most are the personal projects, simply because of the experiences I had during them and what they lead to afterward. My “Barbershops of America” project was and continues to be really special to me. It started ten years ago documenting traditional barbershops in all 50 states and is still going today. “American Backcourts” has also been a lot of fun and connected me with so many like-minded people. One thing I always find myself grateful for though is the ability to just document things I do with friends and later turn that into a paycheck somehow. This goes back to what I said earlier about not really having a separation between my life and my photography. I photograph what I’m interested/active in and worry about everything else later. I don’t shoot things because I think it will make me money. Clients tend to be drawn to the images because they are real so they’ll end up licensing them. That’s really rewarding. 

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
Had a long string of jobs from private investigator, to carpenter, to bartender, and everything in between. 

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
If I were born a couple hundred years ago it would have been a blast to be a pirate. 

What do you do when you get stuck?
Exercise. 

What is your best advice for your peers?
Personal projects. Personal projects. Personal projects. I can’t stress enough how important, in my opinion, personal projects are. Anything of note that’s been gained in my career has been the result of a personal project. They organically connect you with like-minded people/clients. They are incredibly satisfying and take away the need to ‘sell’ yourself.  People know you’re genuinely interested because they see the passion in the work. And on top of all that, it’s yours. It’s not just something you did for a one-time, soul-suckin’ paycheck. They are photographs that give you the ability to earn from them for the rest of your life. I try to think about my career in the long run and it’s never been about money. The photographs come first. Money comes later. And when it’s all over I’d rather have built something of my own than look back on a body of work that was only created for big companies to profit from. I’ve been lucky to have a handful of really fun commercial clients that have also brought about great relationships. Most companies don’t give a shit about you though. They just want to get as much from you for as little as possible. So why not create something that’s your own that will cause people/clients to come to you instead of the other way around??? 

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
1) Don’t be an arrogant prick
2) Don’t go to college. Instead, spend those 4 years assisting and soaking up every bit of real-life knowledge about photography and the business as you possibly can. 

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
Photography has changed so much because of technology but the goal/role of a photographer shouldn’t change in my opinion. Whether you’re shooting for a client or yourself, you should always be striving to make the best images possible and then do whatever you can to get them out in the world and seen by the people that matter. 

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Working on my own projects with select commercial projects peppered in along the way. Telling stories. I love telling stories, especially about people/professions that are often overlooked.

Check out more work from Rob Hammer.

MEET. Paula Watts

© Paula Watts

Meet Southern California based photographer and APA member, Paula Watts.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
I love podcasts and am always on the lookout for new ones. I’m probably the only person who hasn’t gotten into podcasts but I’ve been devouring audiobooks though. Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones is a must for any woman!

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
I am loving London based photographer Desiree Mattsson’s work. I love Lindsey Adler and her photo breakdowns, Comedian Celeste Barber for a great laugh, The Female Hustlers for some extra motivation, and AskSternRep because they give so many helpful Q/A’s on the business side of photography.

What 3 words describe your photography style?
Clean, elevated, bright

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
It usually ranges anywhere from 90’s hiphop or Beyonce.

What inspires you?
A team without egos, collaboration of the minds, artists of all mediums, kindness.  

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
I love bringing a vision to life with a creative team who all played a role. It truly takes a village and it’s so satisfying to see a campaign come together.

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
I love to workout and have family time with my husband and 5 year old daughter.

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
I work from home mostly (pre covid and currently) unless I’m on set. Since my work is project-based, I have weeks where I’m doing a lot of marketing and the business work and then I have weeks where I’m in pre-pro meetings and scheduling plus I also have weeks on set or dealing with post-production. It varies depending on the job and deadlines. I wish I could tell you there was any sort of routine, and it’s not a negative or unorganized answer, it’s just the nature of the industry. 

Who were your biggest influencers?
I was and still am influenced by a lot of the greats… Richard Avedon, Annie Leibowitz, Herb Ritts, Irving Penn. I studied under Michael Thompson who directly studied under Irving Penn and there was such a refinement in everything they did. Yes, deadlines are deadlines and we all feel rushed in certain aspects, but attention to detail, interaction with your subject, lighting, it was all so flawless. 

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
Shoot often. Shoot personal projects and constantly refine your work.

What are the current challenges that you face as a photographer?
Marketing feels like a moving target a lot of times.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
Highlights: One of my first years in business, I was hired to travel around Norway for 3 weeks to photograph some of their top chefs and dishes and learn all about Norwegian cuisine for a television show. It was even more remarkable of an experience than I can describe, and just starting out at the time, I don’t think I even realized how amazing the gig was. It set the bar and expectations of future projects really high 😉 Challenges: I need to get better at realizing the ebbs and flows of my industry. When things are slow for a couple weeks, I need to learn to enjoy that time so that when things are really busy, I have had some restful and rejuvenating time in there too. Learning balance is easier said than done.

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
Studying advertising photography and assisting photographers. 🙂

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
Well some options I’ve considered have been: scuba diving instructor in the GBR, surgeon with Doctors without Borders or skydiving instructor. I still think I could do all 3 in this lifetime, right? 😉

What do you do when you get stuck?
I’m a verbal processor so I usually talk with my husband or family or a close friend. 

What is your best advice for your peers?
This industry is 90% business and 10% photography. The best photographer in the world won’t get hired if no one knows about them. Market yourself even when you’re too busy. (I’m speaking to myself here too!)

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
Buy as much property in Southern California as you can possibly afford and outsource all the things you aren’t great at!   

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
A great photographer is so much more than a button-clicker to a piece of equipment. We are communicators. We are a creative voice. We help strategize, give input in the creative ideation, we are experts in lighting and understand a vision and help interpret it. There’s a whole process that the masses who buy a camera won’t hone in on. 

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
I still see myself as an advertising photographer. I’m always striving for quality projects over quantity and more time with my family, so I hope I’m heading in that direction year by year. 

Thank you APA. You’re such a support to the photographic community and I am honored to be interviewed by you!

To view more of Paula’s beautiful work you can follow along here.

MEET. Jermaine Beckley

© Jermaine Beckley

Meet San Diego based landscape and nature photographer and APA member, Jermaine Beckley.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
I don’t consistently listen to podcasts, but during lockdown I would listen to a lot of Jim Kwik during my walks outdoors.

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
I follow Dan Winters because I’ve always enjoyed his work, but I get my inspiration from @Kodak, @Ilfordphoto, and other hashtags I follow mostly.

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
I don’t usually listen to music while shooting, but I’ll listen to mellow sounds to get me in the mood while driving to where I want to shoot.

What inspires you?
Nature inspires me. The more I learn about it the more fascinated I am about how similar everything is. 

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
Seeing a potential image everywhere I go.

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
Music, bowling, working on my vehicle, however most of the time if I’m not making a photograph, I’m thinking about how to make the next photograph. I can’t turn it off.

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
I honestly think Pre-Covid my routine was all over the place. Now it’s more scheduled and I’m more focused and not taking things for granted.

Who were your biggest influencers?
In life, it’s my dad. In photography and I know it’s cliche, but Ansel Adams, Gordon Parks, and Vivian Maier. I love their stories and storytelling.

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
Study art and not just photography.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
Having one of my photographs sold at an auction was a pretty cool experience. The challenges were trying to shoot everything instead of focusing on one genre.

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I served in the US Navy for 20 years, however photography was picked up during that time.

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
I probably would have been a musician as I played music most of my childhood.

What do you do when you get stuck?
I’m always learning and sometimes I go back and look at some of my images I didn’t think too highly of with a fresh set of eyes.

What is your best advice for your peers?
Learn your gear! Great photographs are still being made with old technology. You can’t buy your way into getting better at seeing light.

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
I wish I had found a mentor when I first started in the 90s to help me learn how to see. I’m still fascinated by photographers back in the day who have produced incredible imagery without things like YouTube and online courses.

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
I still believe the still image is incredible and I still believe teaching others about composition helps to tell the story.

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
I hope to have an exhibition within the next five years. It will take hard work, but I’m up for the challenge.

To view more of Jermaine’s work you can follow along here.

MEET. Samantha Schwann

© Samantha Schwann

Meet underwater photographer and APA member Samantha Schwann.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
I’m not a podcaster but right now I’m trying a learn to speak Spanish one.

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
@spacex
@hiroshisugimoto
@missionblue
And a couple of dog accounts because they bring me joy 🙂 

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
I can’t listen underwater, but there is nothing better than getting lost in creative flow while editing with good music. A lot of indie electronic.

What inspires you?
That we still have a shred of a chance to preserve our oceans, but it’s a global call to action.  

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
I get to invite viewers to join me in experiences, and share my passion for our ocean planet.  

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
I’m deeply engulfed in a project (which is my happy place) so it’s pretty all-consuming. That being said, I love what yoga does for me mentally and physically, so I try to keep that balance.  

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
I’m a very early riser and find mornings are when I’m at my creative best. Currently it is a lot of writing and preparation for a project. Covid meant no travel, but time in quarantine allowed for concentrated work in other areas. I’m usually traveling every couple of months, so it’s a cycle of developing, preparation, and then editing.

Who were your biggest influencers?
Nick Brandt
Edward Burtynski
Laurent Ballesta

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
“Hard work beats talent any day of the week” – Joel Grimes.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
Highlight is happening right now, working on my dream project. The challenges have been learning how to navigate my way to where I want to be, and in funding my work.

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I was an investment advisor. It was interesting and I was ok at it but I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to be doing. I saw a lot of people who worked and saved their whole lives, for moments which never came. That stuck with me – while it’s important to plan and be responsible, I want to do things now, while I can.

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
Perhaps an oceanographer, or a submarine pilot – but I require a creative outlet. I feel I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.

What do you do when you get stuck?
I’ve learned to trust the creative process, and stopped freaking out a while ago. Step back, hit a yoga class, go for a swim or lose myself in a movie. The less I stress about it the smoother the wave.

What is your best advice for your peers?
Keep going.

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
All of the experiences you will go through, especially the difficult ones, will be catalysts for growth. Be fearless in your pursuit, observe and listen to learn as much as you can, and trust your instincts.

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
I think it’s great that technology has made it easier for people to become interested in photography and take better pictures! I don’t see it as a threat, as I find it can foster a deeper appreciation. While advances have made things easier, at the end of the day you still have to put in the work if you want to pursue photography seriously. What separates a photographer from the masses is a cohesive body of work, personal style, and vision, and there are no shortcuts for that.

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Contributing to ocean conservation in a meaningful, tangible way, and ocean exploration.

To view more of Samantha’s work you can follow along here.

MEET. Amy Scott

© Amy Scott

Meet Houston based commercial and editorial photographer Amy Scott.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
Dear Art Producer by Heather Elder, Focus on Women with Traci Terrick, and I love listening to the “Daily Wellness” every day on Spotify.

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
I let my clients choose, otherwise I like to constantly mix it up depending on my mood. In the afternoons when energy is a little low on set after lunch I like to pump things up with pop and R&B from the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s because they make folks laugh and sing along.

What inspires you?
People who see the world differently than I do. I love coming across artists and authors and other creators that explore the whole range of humanity through their work! Whether it be playful, heavy, or poignant, people doing work that reflects the insane, wonderful, and inspiring stories around or inside of them fill me with joy and help me think about my life and work from new perspectives.  

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
Making images that really convey the feeling of a moment. Working with incredible inspirational teams to make something I could never create on my own. And problem solving! Every day is full of surprises and I love it.  

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
I love cooking, travelling, wandering through forests, growing food, writing, making weird wines and vermouths.  

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
Every day that I’m not on a shoot, I work out or take a walk before I start my day. I try to make sure I start the day with a clear idea of what my goals are so I have a daily to do list and highlight the things that are essential. Each week I spend time researching and connecting with new prospective clients, planning out marking emails or social media posts, brainstorming new projects, and teaching myself new skills. I have trouble unplugging at the end of the day and will often work late, but I’ve been getting better about it and try to just work 9-6 if I’m not on a shoot.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
It was hard to get consistent assisting jobs when I was just starting out and trying to learn. I was even told once that I wouldn’t be considered for an assisting job because I was a woman. Many (male) photographers told me that I would have to prove myself because male photographers wouldn’t believe I was strong enough to do the job. I just had to persevere and continue to look for the folks who would hire me and mentor me regardless of my gender. 

One of the biggest highlights of my career so far was being awarded a grant to pursue a photo documentary project of Houston farmers. That work then led to work with a national rice brand, and many more opportunities.

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
Do not give up. This is a hard business, but you will make it if you don’t give up – let everyone else be the quitters.

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I was the manager of a 26 acre vegetable farm!

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
I’d be a writer, an advocate for small scale farmers, or I’d pursue my weird dream of going back to school to study ancient Greek papyrology.

What do you do when you get stuck?
Take a break, get outside, try something new, do something active.

What is your best advice for your peers?
Connect with each other! I would not be where I am without the support of other photographers and I am so grateful to not feel alone in this sometimes very challenging, lonely business! Community is what makes everything worthwhile.

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
Always be yourself and make no apologies. You got this.

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
I still see us as storytellers first and foremost. Anyone can take a picture, but I see us as creative partners who work alongside our clients to make their story or campaign come to life.

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
I would love to get larger grants to tell more photo documentary style stories about US farmers through stills and motion!

To view more of Amy’s work you can follow along here.

MEET. Luis Garcia

© Luis Garcia

Meet Southern California based editorial and commercial photographer and APA member Luis Garcia.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
I subscribed to some podcasts but not always listen to all of them; one of my favorite podcast is How I build this with Guy Raz on NPR.

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
I don’t have a favorite, my feed I filled with accounts from photographers, designers, travelers, cyclists. 

What 3 words describe your photography style?
Simple, honest, clean.

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
Most of my work is on location, so I don’t listen to anything but the sound of the city or nature.

What inspires you?
I’m always inspired by nature and humanity; we live in such a beautiful and wonderful world.

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
Knowing new people and new places.

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
I used to be an elite cyclist, now I’m just a cyclist, so I enjoy a lot going out and riding my bike.

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
I’m not set on any kind of daily routines, I need to work on that.

Who were your biggest influencers?
Too many to list them all.

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
Show up and don’t fuck it up. (*mess it up) advice given to me by a photographer friend that is no longer with us.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
As an editorial photographer the highlight of my career has been being able to somewhat travel the world, I’m still waiting for that call to shoot an assignment in Africa. Challenge, making the full jump to commercial photography.

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I was a photo assistant for a few years, before that I tried to become a professional athlete, did not succeed on that.

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
I would be a chef, I love cooking!

What do you do when you get stuck?
I step away from that thing that I feel stuck in, I look for some type of distraction, watch a movie or go for a bike ride to clear my mind, I talk to friends and ask for advice from my peers.

What is your best advice for your peers?
Be honest to yourself, always under promise and over deliver, and show up and don’t fuck it up.

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
Be more focused.

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
I think it has always been, but now more than ever; the photographer’s role in today’s day is as a problem solver. You need to work with what you have and make it work. Technology is there to make things easier and more efficient, but ultimately you have to make it happen.

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Hopefully shooting more commercial work.

To view more of Luis’s work you can follow along here.

MEET. Todd Glaser

© Todd Glaser
 

Meet Photographer, Waterman and APA | SD member, Todd Glaser.

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
@walteriooss @aspictures @burkgnar @petesouza @livefromsnacktime

What 3 words describe your photography style?
I don’t know if I would be the best person to answer that question, but if I had to describe my approach it would be to:
keep it simple

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
Depends on the mood, if I’m in the water there’s no headphones or music, but in the studio or on an outdoor shoot it’s usually whatever the vibe of the shoot is. If we need a lot of energy, something a bit more fast paced like the Stones, if it’s a bit mellower than the music will compliment that mood. Most importantly if you’re listening to your subject your intuition will guide you on what you need to hear and how to best capture them. There is always an energy to the shoot and as often times music can enhance it, it can also be a distraction.  

Always music during the edit though!

What inspires you?
Watching the light then thinking about how to tell a story or someone’s experiences through your lens. I love watching films as inspiration for cinematography and framing, but the best way to be inspired is to go out and experience new things that we can bring to our vision and subjects. Behind every great actor is a great story and we need to be able to not only have an idea, but bring ourselves into the experience with our subjects so we create something special together.

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
Pre-covid I would say the travel! Now as the world is opening up, travel may be more of a reality, but because of a camera I’ve been able to meet some incredible people who are now dear friends, I’ve filled quite a few passports with countries of places I’d dreamt of going, but have also been able to share the world through my eyes which is pretty cool. Above all else, when you make an image that makes people happy, it feels good and it feels good to feel good.
 
When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
Surfing, bodysurfing, cycling, running, currently unpacking boxes since we just moved, and learning how to cook/bake as well as spending time with my wife Jenna usually doing most of the above at the same time.
 
Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
My daily routine varies quite a bit. If I’m not on site shooting, I’m usually working on a few pre-productions or edits from future or past shoots, organizing prints, shipping books, or working on a new book that I’ve been editing for during Covid. Besides that I’m usually drinking way too much coffee and trying to keep the business part of photography running smooth.  It’s a lot of work to not only shoot and edit yourself, but be responsible for the business side such as taxes, bills, maintaining gear, booking travel, etc..
 
Who were your biggest influencers?
Danny Clinch, Anton Corbijn (never met him, but he’s my favorite!), Michael Halsband, Steve Sherman, Dustin Humphrey, Scott Aichner, Grant Ellis, Thomas Campbell, Tom Servais, Ted Grambeau, Cole Barash, Kevin Zacher, Chris Burkard, Pete Taras

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
Say please and thank you, have common courtesy to everyone.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
Being able to turn my passion for the ocean, travelling, and photography into a career would be the biggest highlight I could ever imagine. The biggest challenge would be keeping a balance between being present at home while travelling as much as I used to.  

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I started shooting photos when I was 15 and at the time I was going to school and working at a local surf shop in San Diego. We didn’t start work until 10 on the weekends and I had Surf PE at school so whenever we shot it was always in early morning light which worked great! I didn’t know anything other than shooting at sunrise and for the film we were using at the time (Velvia 50) you didn’t want to be shooting at any other time!
 
If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
I’m not too sure, hopefully something where I got to think and problem solve creatively. I have a ton of admiration for Firefighters, Lifeguards, and the Coast Guard so maybe do my best to work in that area to help others?!
 
What do you do when you get stuck?
Lately I’ve been going on runs or riding a bike, or surfing. Something where I am as far away from phones and computers as possible. I used to always have a camera with me everywhere we went, but found I was using it as a crutch to belong in a way, whereas by being more actively present in spaces you’re unfamiliar with, you take those experiences with you when you take the camera out and view either your subjects or your experiences through a slightly different lens. More connected.
 
What is your best advice for your peers?
What makes your work yours is the way you choose to compose an image as well as the moment you choose to capture it. No one can take away your perspective and that is what not only shapes your work but defines your style as well. Also, if you’re considering getting into Surf Photography, make sure you go surf without the camera too!  
 
What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
I would tell myself it’s ok to say no sometimes. Listen to your gut, your instincts, those will guide you. Also, looking back I see how many major life events I’ve missed in my families and friends lives so making more time for them, which at times may lead to missing a shoot day or missing a particular shoot, but means so much to them.
 
What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
The role is the same it has always been. To tell stories and capture a time in life whether you’re telling the story of current events which will turn into history, the story of a person, group or place, or to inspire. The only big difference I have seen between now and the past is the accessibility to creating and sharing images in a quicker, more efficient way. I constantly look back at old National Geographic Magazines and Time magazines and think to myself, the photography now isn’t any better by any means even though we have so many new cameras, the principles of photography have remained the same, the only difference is there are more images that come out quicker.
 
What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Jenna and I were just talking about that and to be honest am not entirely sure. In the last 5 years I came out with my first book and had some amazing opportunities to build a broader commercial portfolio both with stills and most recently motion, so I’m thinking more of the same. I’ve been shooting for and editing a book that I’m hoping to come out in the next year or two at the most as well as storyboarded out a short film I’d like to produce and shoot as well.  Whatever or wherever we end up I’m sure there will be large bodies of water around and an early morning alarm clock to watch the sun rise :).
 
To view more of Todd’s work you can follow along here.

MEET. Nitashia Johnson

© Nitashia Johnson

Meet APA | San Diego member, multimedia artist and educator from Dallas, Texas Nitashia Johnson.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
At the time my favorite podcast is the African Folk Tale on Spotify. It’s so good and full of storytelling. 

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
I would say that those people are:
@tobishinobi – Photographer
@Sidgejay – Animation and Performing Artist
@notaliyahcydonia – Painter

I’m a multimedia artist and their work inspires me so very much.

What 3 words describe your photography style?
Deep, powerful, and peaceful.

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
I’m very eclectic so it ranges from r & b, rock, pop, country, jazz and so on. Music can really change your mood and push you to create. I freaking love it because it inspires me to get going.

What inspires you?
My lil big sis and the deep love she pours out to me. I’m also inspired by her and the hard work of others. The good energy found in them is really amazing. I’m inspired by all who love and support me.

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
Meeting so many great people. They all matter. Another thing is I get to create peace in such a crazy world.

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
I love working on creative videos, being around family, connecting with nature, and drawing. I like to enjoy the little things, that’s what life is all about.

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
Whew, busy! My days are full of creative things. I teach African American art and photography at the university level once a week. I’m also a full time graphic designer and photographer. This consists of creating for a Dallas university and shooting for news outlets such as The New York Times, Dallas Morning News, NBC and the Marshall Project. During the weekdays  I also set aside time to support my new non-profit The Smart Project and to work on my photographic book series, The Self Publication. 

More work has come to me and I’m learning how to manage my time. I’ve started to really pay attention to what I take on just to make sure I can handle it all. By doing this It gives me time to experiment with other things. I just finished a great residency which forced me to understand myself and how I should plan my time moving forward. It’s ok to be busy but it is also very important to set aside some me time. This reduces the chance of you disappointing yourself and others. Take care of you first and the rest will follow.

Who were your biggest influencers?
My teachers, those in my family who stepped up to support me during the tough years of youth, and the universe. My youth was affected by many things, my parents were not around and that can make things hard but with absence comes love and I thank the people who came in my life to help me when I felt so lost. Because of the help of others and the energy from our source of creation, I’ve grown into the artist and woman I am today. Thank you all.

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
Stay focused and in due time you’ll shine like wine. 

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
Confidence was a challenge. Navigating this world as the person I am, as a black person has been a challenge, a mental one. It was hard understanding who I was at first and because of that I found myself hurt from interactions or past trauma. My highlights deal with me overcoming and sticking with what I loved so much. I’ve met all kinds of people and I’m just happy that the good vibes of those who meant well of me overpowered any of the negative. I matter. 

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I was acting solely as a graphic designer, grad student and teacher. everything just pretty much came together as I continued my journey. My visual art led to my graphic design work, my design work introduced me to photography, and now my images have set up my wedding with video.

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
I would simply teach. Teaching is power and it is a great gift to give  the world. You can really make a positive change in someone’s life, I know the strong good teachers I had in my life did.

What do you do when you get stuck?
I go out in nature or listen to music. I rarely get stuck because my mind is always going and because of that I keep a notebook near me. Nature is my medicine
.

What is your best advice for your peers?
Never give up. There is only one you and that happened for a reason. Your purpose on this earth is different from the others around you. Love yourself, be kind to your soul. Create from the core and never compare yourself . Happiness is understanding that you matter and in your journey you are right where you are supposed to be.    

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
This too shall pass and to let go of what is hurting you. You have work to do kiddo so keep your head up and fly high. You matter in this world.

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
I feel that a photographer’s role is to show the beauty in the world that can be so cold. The strong will and passion can inform many and create unity in the areas most needed.

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Running The Smart Project, loving my family (with an additional new little human), and still creating in a way that  shows others how valuable they truly are.

To view more of Nitashia’s work you can follow along here.

MEET. Patricia Fortlage

© Patricia Fortlage

Patricia Fortlage is a female empowerment photographic long-form storyteller and fine art photographer.  From her core belief that if you invest in women and girls, entire communities will be raised, Patricia has focused much of her photography career working with organizations doing just that. 

From her powerful piece covering the female-led Othakarhaka Foundation in Southern Malawi to the stereotype breaking, female empowering Wonder, girl! Project, to an ongoing project depicting the often life-long after-effects of sexual assault on women, Patricia is promoting female empowerment one project at a time.

Do you have a favorite podcast?
My favorite podcasts are meditation oriented, with my go-to being a meditation and trance podcast by Joseph Clough, a British hypnotist who lives here in San Diego. 

Who are your top 5 favorites that you’re following on Instagram?
That’s easy.  I follow women that are making positive impacts on local and global communities (not just through photography):  Stephanie Sinclair @stephsinclairpix, Lynsey Addario @lynseyaddario, Korie Picket @hoosierqueenkp, Emma Fitzgerald @em.chick, Ida Puliwa @ida_puliwa, Liliana Hueso @liliana_hueso_photographer, Mandy Pursley @bethesparkcosplay and so many more!! 

What 3 words describe your photography style?
I don’t really think in terms of photography style; instead, I simply strive to convey a clear and meaningful message.  I think of myself as a storyteller and I really go for impact. 

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
I’m a pretty Zen person, so if it is up to me, I like for all of my senses to be tuned into the people and the moment as the experience is unfolding, and music, because it can be so powerful in and of itself, can take away from that.  That being said, most of my work is supporting groups that are working to better the lives of women and their communities… so whatever they are listening to sets the mood for the shoot.  

What inspires you?
Making a difference.  I am just a worker bee.  I work for the cause; my contribution just happens to come in the form of photographic support. 

What can we do together to better diversify this industry?
We can lift our heads and take a look at the world around us.  There is a bigger picture.  What is it?  Who is it?  We need to pull from that larger demographic.  And we need to remember that photography is art.  There is no “one way.”  The fact that there have been ‘rules’ that get taught in schools and that there are particular aesthetics that have been rewarded again and again, it’s all nonsense.  It’s all been made up.  We all benefit from varied perspectives.  We must find them.  We must encourage those who do not look and think like us. It will make us all more creative.       

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
Knowing I helped someone make a difference in this world.  Or knowing I made a difference, myself.  I recently had a young woman approach me about my Life Sentence project (Life After Sexual Assault).  She had seen the portrait I did of a woman sleeping in her closet, along with the caption that talked about how common this is for women after experiencing such a trauma.  This young woman told me that she had been sexually assaulted over a year prior and she had not told a single person about it because she thought she was strange for sleeping in her closet.  Once she learned she wasn’t alone, she reached out to a therapist and her healing journey began (she has since shared her story with a couple of friends and her now fiancé).  She had frequently thought about taking her own life before. That is a big change.  One of my photographs did that.  

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
Pastimes?  Free time?  What are these things you speak of?  In all seriousness, I am a person with a disability.  I have Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease, so my time outside of photography is focused on caring for myself and managing my disability as best I can in an effort to stay as healthy as I can.  I am very motivated to continue my art for as long as my body will allow.  

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
Pre-COVID, I was supporting locals’ programs in developing countries mostly.  I was on the road (and in the air) a fair amount and in between I would have a lot of editing to do.   

Currently, I am trying to continue with the Life Sentence project as social distancing will allow.  I am also using the down time to work with my content expert (a therapist who specializes in sexual trauma) to be sure my project plan is sound and that I am getting the experiences right.  I am also contemplating a book on Malawi.  It is an incredible place that everyone should visit. 

Who were your biggest influencers?
My biggest BIGGEST influencers are not photographers.  They are people like my father, who believes it is all our duty to help those with needs greater than our own. And some of my other influencers are not people at all, but experiences.  I have experienced my share of discrimination and trauma, and there is nothing more that I want than to protect others from those same experiences.  Although I enjoy shooting images just for the sake of photographing, I mostly do photography because of the cause, not so much because of the photography itself.  That being said, I am overwhelmingly inspired by photographer Stephanie Sinclair.  The work that she does is awe inspiring… truly, beyond words.  Definitely look her up; you will thank me. 

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
Pricing.  I had the good fortune of receiving some mentoring from a very successful photographer who taught me about the psychological side of pricing. She had us both enter images in the local fair.  She entered three amazing images (that she was known for), and I entered three images of mine (remember, I was a beginner so they were very bland).  She put a price of $15 on each of her submissions and we put $250 on each of mine.  Every single one of mine won first place in it’s submitted category and each one sold for $250.  None of hers won or sold.  Her point was that many people equate value with the price tag, so if you undervalue your work, others especially will, too.   

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
Highlights have been when clients contact me and tell me that they got the funding they needed because of my images, or that minds were changed, or lives were improved.  You can’t beat that.   

Many of the challenges I have faced have to do with the fact that I am female.  I am often not taken seriously by male colleagues.  It gets old being told which gear I should have, and even when they eventually see I have appropriate gear, they pivot to assuming I don’t know how to use it.  Eventually they see my work and come to understand I have a fairly successful career and they warm up to me.  It’s minor, but it is annoying.   

There can also be challenges as a solo female traveler, especially with all of my gear and with some of the countries I am entering alone.  I have learned to navigate fairly well, but it would be nice if personal safety wasn’t such an important concern at times. 

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I spent many years in the corporate world of mergers & acquisitions.  It was grueling and rewarding at the same time.  I really appreciate it now because it has made the business side of photography a snap for me. 

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
If I were to start all over again, I would go to medical school.  I have supported many medical teams as a photographer and they are absolute heroes, especially in the far reaches of the globe.  Watching a life being saved is beyond humbling, and while I love that I get to support their work, my contributions are so miniscule in the grander scheme of things.  I would like to do more.  If I wasn’t mid-career, with a disability, I would probably give it a go even now. 

What do you do when you get stuck?
When I get stuck (in anything) I tend to swing my efforts to the opposite extreme.  If something isn’t working and I keep trying and trying at it, I usually ask myself what the opposite approach would be, and I go there.  For example, in bowling, if you throw a gutter ball, conventional wisdom tells you to move a little farther away from that gutter.  But if you keep moving and moving and the ball still hits the same gutter, you best try marching right over to the offending gutter and start throwing from there.  It seems opposite of what would work, but that different perspective often changes your whole approach. 

What is your best advice for your peers?
People ask me how to break into the kind of work I do overseas, and I always recommend watching the movie “The Pirates of Somalia.” It’s a little odd in the beginning, but it really is a career gem.  I also recommend learning the business side of photography.  Do that first if you can.  And, be a person people want to work with.  Customer service is key.  Show up early, be flexible, remember who the client is. Under promise, over deliver, all that.     

What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years? 20 years?
Believe it or not, 16 years ago, I had a plan, and it worked.  I have been doing exactly what I wanted to be doing all this time.   

That being said, one thing I wish I had tried was to become a combat photographer.  As difficult as that likely would have been back then (especially being a woman), I would tell myself to put the effort in and give it a try. 

What is a photographer’s role now that technology has made it so much more accessible to the masses?
I think it is important to remember that every industry evolves.  Technology is advancing at a breakneck speed so things will continue to change and many things will drop by the wayside.  Cameras have become so good that many people have or will stop hiring photographers.  Be ready to pivot instead of pouting. Most people don’t use a travel agent anymore. Photography is no different, so keep figuring out where the markets are and decide if photography is important enough to you to go there.  

What do you see yourself doing in five years?
In five years, I hope I will still be healthy enough to be supporting the programs that are so important to me… especially supporting the efforts of women in order to change entire communities.

To view more of Patricia’s work you can follow along here.

MEET. Morgan DeLuna

morgan-deluna
© Morgan DeLuna

Meet San Diego based Photographer, and APA member, Morgan DeLuna.

What 3 words describe your photography style?
Poignant
Conceptual
Multifaceted

What do you listen to when you’re shooting?
I am crazy about pretty much every style of music, but it depends on the work. When I am photographing someone else, I let them put on whatever they’re into and allows them to feel at ease and confident. I shoot my self-portraits alone, so I select music that puts me in the right headspace for the image I am working on. I could be playing anything from Kitarō to Queen, Marvin Gaye, or Dom La Nena. Setting up the studio is usually something to get my energy up like Classic Rock or P-Funk, for shooting and editing, the selection shifts to the tone of work at hand.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by mystery, wonder, and transformation. I’m hyped anytime I get to perceive reality in a new and fascinating way. It could be environmental, like experiencing a new place, or intellectual, like learning about new ideas in science and history.

What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
The challenge of creating a visual that communicates feelings and ideas without words…I do also love that little flutter of excitement when you realize you got the shot.

When you aren’t making photographs, what other pastimes do you have?
I like to keep busy. I enjoy reading history and non-fiction books. Before the pandemic, I would spend hours at the library picking out way too many books to bring home. I spend time outdoors and take drives to the desert to stargaze. I dabble in blending essential oils for skincare. Lately, I have been re-watching seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Schitt’s Creek, Bob’s Burgers, and various standup comedy specials because I love to laugh.

Describe your daily or weekly work habits. (Pre-Covid and currently)
I begin every day with meditation and yoga. I am more creative in the later hours, so I use the mornings to tend to the business aspects of things. I take care of phone calls, meetings, emails, website updates, writing, submissions, social media, and so forth. In the afternoons, I’ll read, research, and sketch ideas. I also print and make natural light images at that time of day as the light in my studio is best then. I reserve the evenings for studio photography and editing. Pre-COVID, I would visit galleries and museums midday, and exhibition openings in the evenings. Now that things are virtual, I look at shows throughout the day.

Who were your biggest influencers?
My biggest influencers come from different aspects and times in my life. I was a theater kid and fortunate to work for years with a wonderful director, David Braddock, who studied under Marcel Marceau. From David, I learned how to use gesture and body language to convey an emotion or a story in silence. It takes patience, pacing, and thoughtfulness. I utilize everything he taught me when creating images today.
Annie Leibovitz is another one for me. Growing up, my Grandmother would pass along last month’s fashion magazines when the new ones arrived; I would pore over those pages for hours. Annie Leibovitz’s’ photos were my favorite. I loved her color palettes, compositions, and lighting. I think her single light work reminded me of stage lighting which, really appealed to me and became nicely saturated in my mind. Around this same time, I discovered makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. I became very interested in makeup illusion and fascinated by beauty culture. I would look at the portraits in Kevyn’s books, Making Faces and Face Forward, religiously. After 23 years, they are still on my bookshelf. Later on, I became influenced by Frida Kahlo, John Singer Sargent, Flor Garduño, Imogen Cunningham, and Harry Callahan.

What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out?
I was struggling with a creative project when a friend and former teacher, France Marie-Haeger, gave me some guidance. She told me that sometimes there is nothing wrong with the idea, but with the medium. This advice freed me. I began exploring the concept and the aesthetic as a partnership rather than trying to jam an idea into a self-imposed mold. I allow the aesthetic to be fluid and work with the idea.

What were you doing before you became a Photographer?
I was working at a gym to pay for art classes and supplies.

If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be doing?
I am an artist to a fault, the medium or form would be different, but I would still be creating. Art is my language, my soul.

What do you do when you get stuck?
Stuck for me equals too in my head, passing judgment on my ideas instead of just trying them out. When that happens, I ask myself “Where is the fear?”, ” What is the thought that is stopping you?”, then I either journal, meditate or go for a walk to work it out.

To view more of Morgan’s work you can follow along here.