1. What year did you graduate from UCSB and did you have any prior internships/experience with working in photography or film while still in school?
I graduated from UCSB in 2012. My experience in film consisted of working on student films, learning from older UCSB students who had more experience and would teach me. I also occasionally did the office internship with the film department and with a production group through the Carsey-Wolf program, mostly to test the waters of my interest in all aspects of film making Photography came as a hobby early in college. With photography, I didn't take any formal courses or have internships. I learned through teaching myself, doing lots of personal projects, researching a lot on the internet, and making connections.
2. What drove you to pursue photography rather than film? Is the world of photography just as competitive as film in the media industry?
I chose photography as my primary focus because I felt that it was what I did best and allowed me the most creative freedom and expression. Before I even realized it, I had invested so much in photography - cameras, lenses, etc. With photography (specifically- weddings, portraiture, that kind of photography I do, as opposed to editorial or fashion photography, I had control over the capture of the image and the construction of the final image, and my vision, through post production. I could not get that kind of control with film, even if I became a director of photography, since the film industry is so segmented throughout the entire process. However, I still take the occasional part in the media industry. I sometimes work as a 2nd assistant camera and have friends working and growing in the film industry that I love to swap stories and experiences with, but my photography business is more prioritized. Sometimes I intersect the two industries when I do set photography and behind the scenes photography for film sets!
The world of photography has its own different industries with each of their own different set of rules and ways of operating - fashion, food, product, landscape, wedding, headshot, portraiture - just to name a few. To say the world of photography is just as competitive as film in the media industry would be an oversimplification and comparing apples to oranges.
3. Being so young in the industry, how did you expand your clientele and how did you get involved in exposing your skills in photography?
Doing personal projects such as the 365 project where I took a photo every day for a year, then doing a 52 weeks project where I took a self portrait once a week for a year helped me figure out what I liked to photograph and what I disliked to photograph early on. I tried all kinds of photography, from landscape photography to doing prom-like pictures where everyone waited in a line and stood against a backdrop. I never really turned away an opportunity to use a camera until recently, when I knew what exactly I liked to photograph and aimed to make myself better at it. I started specializing, posting more consistent kinds of images online, talked to people who had the same interests as I did, and made connections whenever I could.
4. Do you enjoy taking photos of weddings or portraits more and how did you decide in those two types of photography as opposed to nature/scientific/modeling, etc?
I like taking photos of both, as long as I can do it my way and in my own style (and everyone I work with already knows this and I discuss it with them early on), because that is how I work best and the images come out better that way. My approach to both is very natural and real - with weddings I aim to be completely unobtrusive and documentary, except when it comes to family formal pictures and bride and groom pictures, where I obviously need to give input to speed things along simply because of logistics. After about 4 years of doing photography (and doing all kinds of photography the first two or three years), it simply became clear to me that the kind of photography that made me most happy and yielded the best photos were shoots where I was simply there to document an event and tell a story through that series of images, with as little interference and instruction from me as possible. I let that mindset guide me through the kind of photography I do, and people eventually understand the kind of work I do. If I had to choose one, I would say I prefer to do weddings over portraits, because I would rather have my photography be about people being overwhelmed with emotion over a photograph (such as a moment captured on a wedding day) rather than people tossing a picture away because they didn't like the way they looked in a portrait. I want my photography to be so much more than a "pretty picture."
5. What two pieces of advice would you give current film students here at UCSB?
1. When you're just starting out, try everything until you find something you really love - then, do that and be the best you can be at it.
2. It sounds cliche, but it is so important to follow your passion. Whatever you're doing now or working up to be, make sure it's working towards something that you'll wake up being excited to do.