Earlier this year when I started shooting again after six years of not touching a camera, I told myself that by end of the year I wanted to get published. Well, really I told myself and others that I wanted to get published in Vogue. I realize that was pretty ambitious. But eventually, I came to my senses that any publication would be just as good.
But to give you a little bit of a background: Six years ago when I was in high school, my interest was strictly skateboarding, because at the time the ideal aesthetic was punk skater-esc. Anyhow, that's all I knew how to do at that point. Then one night, we were out shooting for a video part of a skate shop and the worst thing that could have happened to us happened. To provide a visualization of that night, picture the side of a warehouse lit by two spotlights and a very loud generator. Because the generator was so loud we could barely hear each other, let alone hear if anyone was coming upon us in the dark. Oh, I forgot to mention that we were in the sketchiest area of my town, which includes gang activity.
You are probably wondering why would we go there if it is a dangerous area? Well, we were punk skaters who were not really scared of anything. Well as the night went on that persona changed. Around midnight, gang members ran up on us— fully loaded assault rifles in hand— and took everything. To make matters worse, one of the guys we were with was shot because he tried to fight one of them. To add the cherry on top, the cops came to help our friend, but everyone that I was with was also arrested for trespassing and for possession, but somehow I was lucky enough to be let off with a warning. Since that night I told myself that I am done with that industry and wanted to just focus on school.
Fast forward to January of 2017, I bought another camera. This time I wanted to take pictures of people; specifically people with good fashion taste. I used Instagram meetups as a source to meet other photographers and people that I could take portraits of. After about two months of shooting, I paid to do a collaborative studio shoot with two models and some other photographers. Not a surprise to me, those older guys were super creepy with the models, especially when they were in the nude. That day I showed me that I don't want to be taking pictures of women in poses that look as if they were playmates. Enter a whole new shooting style.
Some few months had passed in which I ended up not shooting much because my grandmother had passed away and I was having difficulty trying to recompose myself. I came back home, and when I did so I had a chat with myself while still mourning the death of my grandmother; I realized that the only thing my grandmother wanted was for me to be happy being who I was, not what society or my family expected me to be. From that moment I knew I wanted to become a professional photographer and just jumped straight into being a full-time fashion photographer. I didn't even think about all the possible repercussions or what-if’s that could have held me back. I just ran with it because I did not want to later regret talking myself out following my dream.
I became obsessive to a whole new level with perfecting my craft. I would stay up all night —EVERY night— studying other photographers’ images. To the finest detail, I would (and still do) put the magazine so close to my eye and imagine how that photo was captured, where was it taken, who took it, how they edited it. Basically, Youtube and Vogue Magazine became my only friends.
By this point, I had already had "get published" on my vision board for 2017. Then, by a miracle of God, an art director had placed a casting saying that she was in need of a photographer for future editorials and that she had a team assembled with hair and makeup artists, as well as a wardrobe stylist. At the time, this seemed to me like an army of people because I had little experience in that kind of environment. So I figured I would submit some of my work, even though I didn’t have much confidence in it then. Sure enough, out of four hundred plus photographers, she chose me. I was sure that she was crazy for doing so, especially considering I had no clue what I was doing. She was straightforward and said, "I like your work the most out of the hundreds of other photographers that reached out. Here is the date, time, location, and the moodboard of the editorial you will be shooting.” I lacked the words to say anything other than a simple “ok.”
The day of the shoot came and I walk into the studio where we are meeting. All I see is about thirty people in one room preparing for the shoot. To my left was thousands of dollars worth of wardrobe and models flying around. Little to say, it was a crazy yet amazing experience, even though I had no idea what I was doing the entire shoot. I basically just had fun with it.
Two months later, the art director nonchalantly says, "Oh by the way you are a published photographer now.” You probably expect me to be jumping up and down with excitement that a goal I set for myself came true in less than a year! In reality, however, I refused to believe her until I actually saw it for myself.
I couldn't believe it. Not only was it my first time being published, and my first editorial, but it was a TEN PAGE spread! Wow. Now at this point, I couldn’t help but jump up and down like a Girl Scout jumping rope while eating cookies.
Goes to show you that if you dedicate and push yourself, you can accomplish anything!
Be sure to write those goals on your vision board because it really helps!