“If you want to be a creative person, then you’re gonna have to be creative in how you put your career together. There isn’t a path. Part of the creativity is making your path.”
I had previously assisted a commercial photographer and decided that that was not the route for me, that there was something kind of soul-crushing about the whole experience. I was always nervous to work as a photographer, to say, make my living doing weddings or something like that, because then I thought I would hate photography. I got a job working in the darkroom of an art museum, and this was a pretty good job—a 9 to 5, and for me that was important. I decided at a certain point that I could be really aggressive in my working life and thus have to give up my art, or I could have this low-paying, but not all that demanding job, and then I would have my brain free on the weekends and the evenings and so forth. So that’s what I did. I wasn’t particularly satisfied at work but then—and this is important—I was very hard on myself in terms of continuing to work on my photography. So every weekend I would do something—if I didn’t do something I would just be really upset with myself.
Yeah. Now I’m in the position where I see a lot of young photographers pushing their work, and I think that’s fine, but so often it’s wasted effort before the work is ready. Everyone’s running around trying to promote themselves, and you kinda have to put in those years of hard work to make something decent before you do that. Particularly that first project is the hardest thing. I always say the 20s are the hardest decade because you don’t have money and you don’t have a reputation. In relation to this kind of issue, I’m always wary that the advice is like “you need to put together this promo package that you send out to these 100 people.” No, you need to do the work, and worry about that later.
Yeah, I went shooting every weekend, more or less. In the beginning, for example, coming out of school I didn’t know how to photograph other people. I was a super shy person so I was terrified, but I knew that I had to learn how to do that, so I just went out practicing, essentially. At that time, when I was working those jobs, it was really an unhappy time. My job was terrible, the first job. Then I’m going out and taking these pictures which I know are not a real project—it’s like, not great work, just practice.
Yeah. It just felt big; it felt bigger than anything I’d done before. Things worked in a kind of fluid way, where I wasn’t forcing everything. I have to imagine that if you’re a musician you have this feeling—“practice practice practice, play dumb little shows, dumb little shows”—and then there must be a moment where you’re not thinking as hard. That was a big thing too, because as a young photographer you’re tearing your hair out all the time trying to make something new. I think I reached the point where I could just relax and make work, and feel good about that.