Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
I knew I was destined to be a photographer from the moment my parents—both photographers—put a camera in my hand. I was eight when my mother bought a new camera, and handed her old one down to me. As a third-generation photographer, the path for me was clear. And I’ve pursued my passion for 25 years. It’s an honor to carry on the legacy that my parents and grandparents left for me.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
My students would be the first to tell you how I constantly inform—and maybe overwhelm—them about what’s going on in the industry. I cover everything from creating photography to running a company. Many of my business associates come in and speak to my students, which adds more real-life layers. Being a working professional and teaching is a balancing act. But when I see my students posting on social media something I’d taught them years ago, it makes it worth it. I strive to impact my students in a down-to-earth way. One thing’s for sure, they won’t leave here not knowing how the commercial world works.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching, mentoring, and pushing your students beyond their own perceived limits?
I have students develop their own personal business plan. It forces them to think beyond where they are right now. They do extensive research based on their goals, and come up with educated conclusions about their future. They can't just Google, "What do I want to do with my life." Completing the project brings a mix of relief, celebration, and pride.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Candor. My students know if they ask me a question, they're going to get a real answer. They know if an image is good it's going to get praised—but if it isn't, they’ll get a sharp critique. There’s nothing more I can offer than the truth, whether it’s about life or business.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
One, never stop shooting to please your own creative eye. It’ll keep you growing. Two, find a mentor in your field. Meet with them regularly and exchange ideas and insights about what’s happening in the industry.