In between family vacations in El Salvador, I was able to arrange a meeting with Salvadoran stylist René Valdivieso. He's become one of the most prominent social media celebrities, so it was a true honor for me to meet someone who is always generous, amusing, and straightforward in everything he does, which explains his appeal.
We happened to be staying at a neighboring hotel in San Salvador near his hair salon, which made it even easier for us to meet. I'd want to emphasize that strangers are simply friends we haven't met yet, and you often don't realize the influence meeting new people may have on your life until you realize that they are guests in our story, just as we are in theirs.
There wasn't much to work with during quarantine in terms of fitness equipment unless you already had it. I had a set pattern for getting to the gym at 6 a.m., and when that was taken away, I was left with possibly the most intimidating piece of gear in the gym which was the only thing I could get my hands on via Amazon. I was familiar with the kettlebell but was unsure on how to properly use to simply mitigate the chances of getting hurt with it.
I ultimately gained comfortable with it, to the point where it's the major piece of equipment I use to test my body, thanks to many Youtube videos, patience, and a few bruises. With that stated, I'm always fascinated by trainers who have honed their ability to maneuver such a large piece of machinery, which leads me to Collin who's a complete master at it not just at Dean CrossFit but where he gets the opportunity to challenge himself with it.
I was in Miami a few weeks ago for a shoot that lasted only a day. I arrived in Miami at 9 a.m., and my flight back to New York was at 6 p.m., but I managed to meet up with Rachel Mariotti, a professional mental health counselor and personal trainer located in Miami, before my flight. The most surprising aspect of the rendezvous was riding around on the back of her Vespa scooter, hoping to find the perfect location for a photo session. Rachel was someone I knew while she lived in New York, but we never met until recently.
For the most part, everybody we've grown to like has done so because they've influenced a section of our lives that we didn't realize needed nurturing. Their ideas, and viewpoints have enlightened us, so we eagerly anticipate what they have to say and accomplish. We've grown enamored with them, rather than anything flashy they employ to sell themselves.
I can't tell you how much time I've spent sprucing up my website with the intention of keeping it new, but where I frequently fall short is expressing more of who I am as a person, my narrative either via Tweet or Instagram. Fortunately, I can always count on Zach Tyler's succinct but insightful Tweets to remind me of what's more important, and what's more likely to make us relate with individuals we haven't met yet.
I have a few Apple ecosystem subscriptions, but one that I look forward to the most on a monthly basis is AppleNews+, partly because of the vast number of magazine publications that you can quickly devour without danger of physically hoarding any of them.
I tend to pay more attention to magazines like SHAPE, Women's Health, Men's Health, Men's Journal, and even Outside Magazine because they all cover the types of subjects I enjoy photographing. The intriguing aspect of it all is that with each new edition that hits the digital stands, there's a good chance that someone featured in the magazine is a personal trainer I've shot with in New York.
This time in the June/2021 issue of SHAPE Magazine, I was startled not just by someone I know and have worked with, but also by the fact that the photo used in the issue to showcase Erika Hammond was a picture of her I shot in 2019 at Rockaway Beach which I was completely ecstatic by.
As a creative one of the best ways to invest in yourself, in your craft, in your business is to invest in your mind, your own education and your own empowerment. I recently attended a sold-out workshop here in New York conducted by the awesome Paul Weaver entitled “Business Builder Pricing Workshop.” We covered topics such as understanding your value, what to charge for your services, licensing and pricing strategies.
At the end we had the the amazing @brunapetrillo take part in the workshop in which we had the opportunity to shoot with a talent interacting with a product and these are the images resulting from the experience. A lot of times, when it pertains to investment in our craft, we tend to relate that investment to something tangible but it doesn't always have to be. I've never attended a paid workshop and I was initially hesitant because you're always considering if then value and information from it can be acquired elsewhere and more than likely for free.
I view the workshop experience as one of money that I'm looking forward to expanding on because it's one of those experiences that you can't criticize until you try it and this one was well worth it!
When pricing your products or services, remember you’re not just being paid for that thing. You’re being paid for your time, your talent, your experience, your energy, your reputation, your investments in your own growth. Don’t undercut yourself. You’re worth so much more.
This took me time to understand and it fully sunk it when I began to realize there’s a difference between doing something for fun in which you’re good at and when someone is willing to pay you for it. There’s a lot more variables to consider especially if you want to take this thing you do even further and remain profitable.
There’s rarely a cookie-cutter answer to how one should things because everyone’s creative pursuit is different but luckily there’s no shortage of resources that may take time to research but we owe it to ourselves to put in the time behind-the-scenes so that we’re being compensated correctly once we’re on stage.
When you are traveling, it’s not always a breeze to strike up a conversation with a strangers. Luckily I've always had the support of having worked in retail to quell the shyness that's comes with meeting people abroad but also the added element of having a camera usually elevates the probability of some type of interaction because I always see it as way of me having the ability to offer something as oppose to them feeling like I'm taking it.
During our stay in El Zonte in the department of La Libertad in El Salvador, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Fabi and Alec who I had befriended beforehand via Instagram and these are the fun photos that resulted as the 3 of us took in a gorgeous sunset.
The uncanny part about growing older is that in spite of the unexpected grey hairs I discovered in the mirror this morning as I was shaving is that I’m a lot happier at 39 than I was in my early 20’s, largely in part because I give way less of a f*ck about a lot of things and care more about things that will benefit me long-term like health or financial independence.
When you’re young, you may fantasize about what getting older may feel like based on the people you had around you but I’ve learned that how old you feel and your chronological age don’t always have to coincide. I don’t feel 39 which I attribute to being continuously active, being influenced by what I read, what I watch, the individuals I follow and who I’ve had the gift to meet through my photography.
Life much like our environment is constantly changing. The world continues to rotate and as a result we’re constantly evolving physically, mentally and even emotionally. The more the years creep in, the more I notice patterns, seasons or even processes which I know there’s philosophies that teach all this stuff but certain things need to be lived to be understood.
The way we learn to move on from one stage to another doesn’t have to be scary because what might seem like an ending can equally signify a start. As you begin spotting new grey hairs, be hopeful in becoming better at recognizing happiness in front of you as well because a lot of times it’s not contained in a place or thing but within experiences that we take for granted.
Remember that any person in this life has had to first develop the audacity to not give a f*ck about something in order to determine what’s worth giving a f*ck about.
My path to becoming a photographer hasn’t been linear. In fact, it compares nothing to a beautifully constructed highway where everything that commutes on it glides as smooth as you would expect the experience to be. Instead, my path has been more like a one of those narrow dusty trails leading to an undiscovered beach. You’re well aware there’s a beautiful scenery filled with adventurous opportunities at the end but it’ll take several near falls, branch scratches, and self-doubt to make you consider on whether the trek is worth it because regardless of whether you own all the gear that could facilitate your journey, you’ll still need something that it’s not as easy to pack in your backpack or pocket; which is self-confidence.
Owning photography gear and having self-confidence to do the work are 2 different things. A lot of times we tend to like the idea of something more than the act of doing it and you won’t know how you truly feel until you put in the practice where those 2 elements coalesce either via test shoots or personal projects.
It took me years to call myself a photographer. When asked, I always packaged my answer in a way where I would remove pressure of owning the title by simply saying, “oh, I just play around with my camera.” There was something about admitting to being a photographer that felt like too much responsibility that I wasn’t worth of yet. Granted I was already doing the work, putting in the practice but not wanting to take credit for it. It’s as if I was awaiting for something magical to happen so I can then feel like a photographer. Regardless of people seeing my as one, at the time in my head, I felt far from it.
Recently I was reminded of this self-doubt period by an article I read on The Art of Manliness blog entitled Want to Feel Like a Man? Then Act Like One. The article talks about why young men today are “struggling with the transition from boyhood to mature masculinity due to lack of a rite of passage, positive male mentors, refining challenges, and simply an understanding of what manhood is and what it requires.” In this case, rather than referring to a transition into manhood, we’re talking about a transition into when you feel like a photographer.
The author Brett McKay says:
“Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t feel like a man, you simply need to start behaving like the man you want to become and eventually you’ll start feeling like you’re that man. Act as if. Fake it until you make it. Your brain will eventually align your attitude/belief about yourself with your new behavior.”
Assuming the skills and technical abilities are there, one can’t expect to be seen as a photographer if our self-doubt is greater than the vision we have for ourselves in this creative business. The beauty about the world we live in today is that we don’t need permission to create from anyone and that’s how I felt. You wanna work with someone for a shoot? Reach out! Have an idea for a personal project that requires traveling but feel that you don’t have the money to? Reevaluate where you might be squandering it on unnecessary things and consider investing in yourself and your craft instead.
Our actions along with consistency is what’s going to make the difference on whether we make it or not. I’m far from “making it” at the moment but without hesitation I introduce myself as a photographer with confidence now because I was able to shift my mindset before I was able to buy more unnecessary gear to convince me that I was. “If you don’t feel like a photographer, you simply need to start behaving like the photographer you want to become.”
I’ve worked in retail for the past 15 years. Some would say, it’s not a line of anyone initially seeks out to pursue but more something people fall into because it has a tendency of being the default place to gaining experience as we hit our stride in life. Regardless of that, one should always feel inclined to giving it all you got in what you do for a living even if you’ve decided that what you’re doing now is not right for you. Do that long enough and good things will come your way. Even though people may not remember everything you say, they’ll recall the consistency you put into your work.
For me, retails has taught me a lot. It’s taught me humility, self-respect and if you’ve ever been the type of person who’s felt superior to others, I welcome you to spend a day, a week, a year working in retail to straighten that side of you up. In a way, retail has been a lot like travel. The longer you’ve been involved with it the more you realize that you don’t know everything and that’s ok, as long as you’re receptive to that fact and opened to be enlightened through the endless interactions with others.
As a photographer, my biggest transferable lesson from retail into the creative side continues to be the strengthening of my communication skills. In a retail environment, our main focus is to sell and engage with clients. In a studio setting, to a certain extent, there’s only so much the camera can do for you because the connection between you and the talent is equally vital. One can’t expect people to give us all they have when you haven’t created the atmosphere in which they can open up to us to begin with. The dance ebbs both ways in which what we do with our camera is just about creativity, technical abilities as it is about quick relationship building.
In one way or another, don’t view what you do for a living now to cover your living expenses as a waste of time. What you ultimately envision yourself pursuing creatively in the end can only be strengthen by the accumulation of life experiences here and there. I can assure you that what you’re going through will make up the whole of who you are as an artist.
In studio with division 1 soccer player turned athletic strength and conditioning coach Meghan Hayden. Loved being able to connect with Meghan again but this time in a beautiful New York City midtown studio.