The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
You are your work. Constantly strive to improve your craft and your portfolio. Gary Miller , Photography Instructor , The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
I’ve always been a creative person. I was working in biotechnology sales, thinking that I could tone down my creative side, but it just took over. I decided to leave my sales job, move across the country to attend graduate school in photography, and then become a fine artist and teacher. It was a dramatic move, but one that’s been very satisfying.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
As a professional photographer, I can relay real-world experiences to students. I think it carries a lot of weight when you can tell someone that you’ve been where they are and then gone on to accomplish the same creative goals they have. Working in the industry gives you a real sense of the day-to-day challenges students will face. Academic knowledge is one thing, but for creative people, industry knowledge is vital.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
I think too much hand-holding is a bad thing for creative people. They need to develop good problem-solving skills. I like to push students to be more independent-minded and to develop their own style. Many of my assignments don’t provide all the answers—they require students to problem-solve and to see things their own way. I like to tell them, “I’ll give you the tools and a blueprint, you build your own house.”
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
All of our creative students will need to work with other professionals out in the real world. Photographers are notorious for being lone wolves, so I always encourage my students to work with peers from other disciplines.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
The most important thing I can impart in students is passion. Being a creative person is always challenging, and it can be demanding. True passion will drive them on and help them produce their best work.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
Be a problem solver, not a problem maker. Clients love it when you make their lives better by coming up with great creative solutions. Those are the people who’ll be hired over and over. You are your work. Constantly strive to improve your craft and your portfolio.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Even though I‘ve been a photographer for many years, I’m constantly pushing myself to be better. You should never stop learning, and never be totally satisfied. Always push yourself to create new and better work.