Courtney Campbell

Courtney Campbell HS

Never settle. Never do the minimum. Courtney Campbell Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Photography, 2014 , The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
Job Description/Responsibilities:

To capture and produce a wide range of high quality, photographic, and visual images of general, medical, and/or scientific phenomena and subjects utilizing highly creative and artistic skills. Responsible for employing specialized techniques of modern photography to produce a wide variety of creative, high quality images for clinical, teaching, research activities, special events, university website, as well as print publications produced by Marketing and Communications. Primary function being editorial planning and shooting for the magazine, Sombrilla with a circulation of 80,000+ nationwide. Secondary function being the photo archivist for the entire university; organizing all digital assets and fulfilling photo requests from colleges, departments and the media.

Describe a typical work day.

My work days vary so much. Generally speaking I usually have 1-5 photo shoots a week for a variety of purposes. In between shoots I am either editing previous shoots, fulfilling photo requests, managing and organizing our digital assets, planning editorial shoots, coming up with creative concepts and being in meetings with other marketing and communications colleagues to help fulfill the university's vision. Every day is truly unique.


How did your education at The Art Institutes prepare you for your career?

The Art Institute changed my life. I have always been an artist but the idea of having a career as an artist seemed unrealistic to me until I found AI. The two things that I feel helped me succeed the most are: 1) the small classes felt very personalized in a way that I was able to get to know my professors well and in turn, they helped me develop the skills I needed. My professors allowed me to pursue my personal dreams versus a strict pathway that would have thrown all of off course. 2) My professors were professionals. They all worked in their field in some way while I was there. I will never forget my professors. They taught you from real life experiences, not from a textbook. Getting a true critique on your artwork is very different than getting a score on a test. What is your best advice for students, when the going gets tough? Never settle. Never do the minimum. I never once read an assignment and did the bare minimum just to get my project done. Nobody makes you go to college. You make the decision so why not make it work for you. Every single project I was assigned in those 4 years, I took and made it my own. I imagined it was for a client, or for an exhibition. Doing this gave me a very strong portfolio in the end. I wasn't rushing to build it up because I had already done that over the past 4 years. Every quarter...pretend you are in your last quarter. Every photo shoot...imagine it's for a high-end client. Every project...imagine it's going on a gallery wall. Never get lazy.

Talk about a challenge or obstacle that you've overcome in your career. What was it, how did you solve it, and what did you learn?

My biggest challenge was actually health related. Three months prior to me graduating from AI I had my first grand mal seizure due to the stress from working one full-time job, one part-time job while going to AI full time. I graduated in December 2014. My epilepsy also gave me partial (focal) seizures about 20 times a day for 15 seconds each where I could not speak or understand language. This totally threw my motivation off course. I thought how could I go to an interview? How can I talk on the phone? How can I have a successful career with this? I wasn't able to drive for a year and a half. I applied for photography jobs for 10 months, none of which that I was super excited about. In November 2015 I got a call from UTSA, the only place that I had applied where I REALLY wanted the job. I had an interview lined up and was absolutely terrified of having a partial seizure during the interview. For months I was working on managing stress but still, I was nervous. I nailed the interview. I had no seizures. I followed every single detail that all my professors told me over the years. I think channeling those reminders got me through that interview. After I got the job and got started my seizures started to subside. It's been a little over a year at UTSA and my seizures are almost completely gone. Do not let stress run your life. If something is out of your control, let it be. If there is something stressing you out, fix it or change it. Stress can literally ruin your life.

Explain the level of commitment you've needed to excel in your career.

When you get a job that has a positive environment, you become naturally committed. Especially when you are doing what you love. Work doesn't seem like work so much when you get to talk about art and photography all day. However, your superiors need to see that commitment so that is why I have made a habit of helping others where I can. For example, when I have downtime with nothing to work on, I will walk over to the design suite and see if there is anything I can do to make their jobs easier. For me, working at a university, you not only need to be committed to your job but the entire vision of the school.

Talk about how you experience or cultivate a creative environment at work.
What impact do you think you are making?

Well, so far I think I have made a huge impact on my department as they recently told me I changed the entire look of their magazine due to my creative process. I really try as an artist to halt literal interpretations of an editorial story. I motivate people to see the value in strong composition and design control. For example, a feature story about a person could easily have a simple head shot next to it. But, does a head shot really make you want to read the story? No. However, a beautifully lit environmental portrait in a lab or a greenhouse can really change the entirety of the feature story. It will draw viewers in and engage them in a different way. I try to make every assignment I get as creative as possible, even if it's slight.

When and how did you experience the benefits of your hard work and determination?

Well, I experience the benefits of my hard work everyday. When I was hired, I was strictly a photographer for events and for the magazine. Two months later I became an archivist and implemented Photoshelter's Libris, a digital asset management system to help organize the 30+ years worth of photos. Currently, my manager is in the process of submitting numerous editorial published photographs for awards and recognition. I'm hoping for the best.

How do you feel stretched and challenged to keep growing in your profession? Please cite a specific example.

The main thing that challenges any photographer I think is how every situation is different. Every head shot, portrait, editorial, event, etc. is different. So you have to keep growing in the technical field of lighting. For example, I do not have control over when a department wants their annual group shot together. They may want it at noon, which is the worst time of day. I have to constantly learn how to adjust to get people the shot they want. Earlier this year I went to shoot the most important photo for the magazine, the cover shot. For the first time ever, all my lighting failed. One trigger broke, than another and it was completely out of my control. I had limited time and had to think fast to come up with a solution. I ended up shooting 3 separate shots to composite together to get the shot we needed. As a photographer, I constantly have to learn about new gear and techniques to keep up in the field. If I don't, I would fail in the future.