Well it’s been a month since I posted something to my blog. Partly because I’ve been traveling more and shooting less. A flight to Pittsburgh and a drive to Chautauqua Lake, NY to visit friends and family for Thanksgiving was very much needed. As any photojournalist can attest, this is always a slow time of the year. It gets cold outside so people and their events all hibernate for the winter. As do the paychecks.
So how do you get through this time as a freelancer? I asked myself that question about four years ago while struggling to find much work from about December through March following graduation. I immediately went to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review photographer, Justin Merriman, for help with that. Although he wanted to help, as a staff photographer, it’s not something he has to worry about. Instead, he forwarded me to freelancer Jeff Swensen, a guy he shared a photo studio with on the south side of Pittsburgh. What transpired over time from that single meeting at the Terminal Building has sent me on a much more clear, guided, thoughtful, happier, and fulfilling path. I joined a great space with a crew of folks that included Jeff and Justin, along with (current Pittsburgh Tribune-Review photojournalist) Stephanie Strasburg and (videographer and marketer extraordinaire) Mickey Miller.
As creatives we’re always looking to improve on our craft. And I’ve found the best way to do that and to always be driven is by surrounding yourself with other fellow artists. Not just good artists but good people. People who are open to working together and pushing each other in a positive way. It’s not just good for your artistry but also for your sanity and your mental state. There will be a lot of days where no one calls and no one emails with potential work. It can be pretty depressing at times and you can easily fall into a terrible state-of-mind if you’re not careful. On the flip side, there’s no better time to brainstorm and start on personal projects that you’ve been putting off all year. Use this time to put together your best images from the year and a new business plan. Write down what goals you accomplished and set new ones for yourself.
Collaboration is the key. These friends will help drive you on those days when you’re not feeling confident about your work or your business. For me, it’s a huge asset to have and certainly part of the reason for me returning to Pittsburgh. In that town, people aren’t afraid to share work. They make sure that the community succeeds because they genuinely care about each other. If someone helps you out with an assignment, you don’t steal their client, and you return the favor whenever possible. And that’s not even factoring in the daily benefits of being able to critique each others work and constantly keep each others minds thinking about the future in how you can evolve and become a better photographer, businessman, etc. And if you live in an affordable city that can foster groups of young creatives, start a studio! Get a few people to chip in for a space. It can be really beneficial to get everyone out of the house and into a place with fewer distractions that would allow for more work and progress to happen. The larger your circle of friends and fellow artists grows, so do your ideas, clients, and ultimately, paychecks. Because let’s face it, as much as we love what we do, the bills come every month too, regardless of the season.
So my suggestion to everyone out there having a tough time keeping busy is to just to continue to network and be a good friend. I am personally very thankful that I have such an amazing crew of people in the steel city. It won’t always solve your immediate financial issues but as long as you’ve set aside a little savings to help you through those months, it will at the very least keep your head up and the creativity flowing. After all, what are friends for?
I will leave you with some of my recent football images that were a result of my creative flame always staying lit thanks to those aforementioned people…
If everything we asked for and chased after resulted in our ideal outcome, what fun would that be? As an artist, I’d never learn how to get better at my craft nor would we strive to become better people.
We would be stagnant and boring with nothing to surprise us.
Why am I bringing this up? Because my quality of life will soon be in a much better place: Pittsburgh.
This February I will be moving back home to the city of bridges.
I’ve been three years removed from the place that taught and gave me so much. And even in such a short time, it has changed a lot. Just ask my good friend and artist, Baron Batch, who is making things happen over at Studio AM in Homestead, a part of western Pennsylvania that is especially close to my heart. It’s where my grandfather, or ‘Pap’ as I called him, grew up and made his living for so many years. The same man who introduced me to the city, Three Rivers Stadium, and the Stillers.
Whereas Gerald Wickerham, or Pap, was executive director of the North Side Development Council working on constructing new offices and landmarks during the height of the steel industry, this generation of young creatives are finding ways to repurpose those same interiors with their own ideas designed for today’s world while still maintaining the blue-collar mentality.
One foot firmly planted in the past and the other proudly moving forward towards the future.
It’s exciting to have the opportunity to put my own stamp on a city that was molded by previous generations of my family. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time in Boston. I met some really great people, experienced historical moments, both good and bad, and made some pictures that I’m proud of. And for those things, I am truly grateful.
But it’s time to come home to the place I truly belong.
Being back in Pittsburgh is a feeling unlike any other. It’s a combination of the tangible and intangible moments. There is certainly a general sense of feeling welcome in such a friendly part of the world. But there’s also a self-confidence that comes with being in a place that is open to change and taking chances. There are no limits to what someone can accomplish in such a progressive place.
Don’t get me wrong – nothing will come easily. There will be a new set of challenges that await. But with the support of friends (let’s face it, they’re really family at this point) like Jeff & Beth Swensen, Justin Merriman, Stephanie Strasburg, Mickey & Molly Miller, Andy Russell, Jasmine Goldband, Baron Batch, Sean Beauford, and the rest of the folks I’ve missed dearly these last few years, I can’t go wrong.
And not to mention all of the Pamela’s hotcakes I can eat!
One of the best parts of freelancing is never knowing what assignment is around the corner. And thanks to Tanner Curtis, a great friend and one of the best assignment editors I’ve ever worked with, I was asked by the New York Times to cover what was likely the last day of live horse racing at Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston. And working with great writers, as I did with Jess Bidgood on this story, makes working all the more enjoyable.
A huge thank you to the folks over at the track for the amazing access and for opening their doors and hearts to in order to best tell their story!
Here is a link to the story by Jess: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/06/us/suffolk-downs-is-put-out-to-pasture.html?_r=0
And I’ll leave you with my favorite images from my day spent with these wonderfully interesting people and beautiful horses…
Well, baseball season is over (for me at least!), which means football is back in full swing again. Last night the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals came into town for a Sunday Night Football against a struggling Patriots team but couldn’t keep their unbeaten streak alive in a highly offensive game, losing to a resurging Tom Brady and shut down corner and Pittsburgh native, Darrelle Revis, 43-17.
Here are some of my favorite images from the game. Enjoy!
Not because it’s located in Homestead, Pennsylvania – a place where my family grew up and that holds a special place in my heart. Not because the walls of the former Smoke BBQ restaurant are now covered in amazing artwork and awesomely painted movie props. And not because it would make for one of the greatest bachelor pads.
It’s because of the people who spend their time inside this space – excited about life and collaborating together. Genuinely good people. Friends. And I meet new ones every time I visit.
I may live in Boston but this is always my first stop when I come back home and will be working closely with all of these guys in the coming months, showcasing the great relationships being forged and things being created.
In my first Studio A.M. post, here are some fun portraits with artist Baron Batch curator Sean Beauford and from my most recent visit to 8th Avenue. There are certainly plenty more creative individuals involved and I will be bringing you their story soon!