I‘ve been a photographer and director for about five years now. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with, meet, and build friendships with some of the most talented people on the face of this planet. From actors to musicians and quite literally everything in between, it’s still hard to believe that it all started with a road trip and a Nikon D40.
Five years later and one thing remains the same: I work a lot. And by a lot I mean constantly. I don’t remember the last time I truly had a day off. In no way, shape, or form am I complaining. I know how rare a career is in this business and am thankful every single day. Leading the kind of lifestyle where you’re constantly working and creating new content is incredible and I cannot imagine doing anything else. That being said, with so much happening all the time it’s easy to get burnt out both physically and mentally. When that happens everything comes to a screeching halt. You can begin rehashing ideas or phoning in the creative. You go for the easy sell. The one that sits right at the bar. Fresh ideas drive work and burning out means there aren’t any new ideas coming. In turn, no new work means you’re not inspired to outdo yourself on the next one. It’s a poisonous domino affect.
I’ve fallen victim just like everyone else. The key is learning from your first burnout and knowing how to recognize the warning signs in the future. Which brings me to last week and the purpose behind this post.
It was a Saturday afternoon and I was having a meeting with my assistant Joseph about an upcoming project. We’d been incredibly busy around the studio and I could feel the burnout on it’s way. I needed to find an outlet. To walk away from the day-to-day and go make something for myself. When I woke up that morning all I could think about was doing a photo shoot. Nothing on canvas. Nothing that required a big crew or expensive lighting setups. Instead I wanted to find a way to reignite that struggle to make something out of nothing.
In my mind I saw clean lines and bright sun. Concrete. Harsh contrast. Problem was I had nobody to photograph. Thinking on my feet I had Joseph try on my coat and, while he has 50lbs of muscle on me, miraculously enough it fit. We grabbed the camera kit and headed to the closest parking garage. After scouting the location for a few minutes we landed on a spot where the sun was cutting hard lines against the concrete. Perfect. I posed him and began shooting. By the third frame I had it. The shot above is the outcome.
But it didn’t stop there. For the first time in a long time I was taking pictures without the safety net of a Profoto/Photek combination. I liked it. The pressure was still there but it felt different. It was a pressure on myself to learn something new. And not only learn but to be good at it. To use the sun to my advantage and experiment with framing.
An hour later we wrapped things up and I walked away with something fresh that I could proudly put my name on. No, this style of photograph isn’t new. And yes, there are a million other photographers out there doing much better versions of the exact same thing but that’s far from the point.
As photographers/directors, pushing in new directions keeps us from creatively loitering. It not only informs our work but encourages those around us to do the same. If everyone is raising the bar it keeps us all fresh. In which case we all win.
Keep learning, keep growing, and…
“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” – William Faulkner