I remember the specific moment (on February 24, 2012) when I thought, “Hey, I can make this photography thing work. There’s something here.”
I knew I was passionate about making pictures and telling stories. I was willing to work hard at it. And friends had been telling me forever that I had “a good eye.” However (and I’m guessing it’s like this with any artistic pursuit), I wasn’t sure if I could make a good living with a camera. Would people be receptive to the way I see the world, to the way I present them in images, and how I tell their stories?
In June of 2011, I landed a gig to photograph one of my favorite bands (Company of Thieves) through a friend and fellow photographer (Julia Zave) for WEQX. I was thrilled at the chance to shoot the show, but I really wanted to make a portrait of the band. So I reached out to the group’s management company, sending them a link to my portfolio and a promise to work quickly. I heard back right away – Company of Thieves would be happy to have me make a portrait. I did a little dance in my studio.
My assistant – Krystal – and I got to Upstate Concert Hall (Clifton Park, N.Y.) early the day of the concert. We dragged an abandoned couch a half-mile into some shade and set up several lights. I formulated a plan. Then I met lead singer Genevieve and lead guitarist Marc, and I explained what I wanted to do.
“Cool,” they said. “Let’s do it.”
I got the shot I wanted in less than 10 minutes, and I cut the group loose. The photo ended up being used all over the U.S.A. for Company of Thieves publicity. So the experience was a success.
But, it wasn’t THE MOMENT. That came in February of 2012, when Company of Thieves returned to the Capital District to play at Jillian’s in Albany.
A month or so before the show, I reached out to Marc (the guitarist) directly and pitched the idea of me spending the entire concert day with the band, doing a “day-in-the-life” type of shoot. Again I heard back right away – “Let’s do it,” Marc said. I then pushed for what I really wanted, asking if they’d like to make a portrait again. And Marc – whom I’d hit it off nicely with – answered in the affirmative.
So, on show day, JFP assistant Alan and I hung photographed Company of Thieves for a solid 10 hours, documenting their road experience. Before the show, I made a few band portraits, and then I asked Genevieve and Marc – the heart and soul of the group – if I could make a few pictures of just them.
They were down. I told them exactly what I was after and I guided them through the session. Again, we were done very quickly. We made the following photo, which is one of my favorites of all time:
And this photo represents the moment I believed I could make a solid living as a photographer. That’s when I knew I could work effectively in high-pressure situations, that I could get people to buy into my vision, and that I could execute when I created cool photographic opportunities for myself.
Shooting Company of Thieves the first time was a proud moment for me. Landing a second gig and delivering a portrait that made me happy was confirmation that the first time had not been a fluke.
Shortly after this portrait was made, both Genevieve and Marc left me sweet notes on Twitter about my professionalism and the art I’d made. Additionally, the photo ended up serving as the poster image for an acoustic tour in 2013. (I also made a portrait of Genevieve and Marc during that tour — see below.)
I consider myself lucky to make pictures for a living. And I consider myself lucky to have experienced a specific moment where it became a reality to me. Life is good.