The most straight-forward answer is Craigslist and rolling the dice! That is the best way I can describe how I became an Architecture Photographer. Let’s go back 15 years ago. These are what I like to call my starving artist days- simpler times, but also much poorer times in my life. It was a time that I sometimes wish I could travel back to, especially with how crazy the world is today. But let's not dwell on the current events of today, way too much anxiety there! Let’s think about annoying songs in 2005 like “photograph” by Nickelback, ughh life was so much harder then, right? haha. Jokes aside, it definitely was harder back then to make a name for yourself in the photography industry. We didn’t have Instagram or Pinterest, Facebook was more about keeping up with friends, and Linkedin was still pretty new. Really the only way to get a photo gig was networking events or word of mouth. I’m sure there were other ways, but I was only 23 years old and honestly didn’t know what I was doing. From 2005 to about 2009, I was a bit all over the place. At one point I had three jobs that consisted of a front desk employee at a fitness club, a framer at a small mom and pop shop, and as an assistant to a professional photographer in Phoenix AZ (Michael Woodall https://www.michaelwoodall.com/). Michael was very influential to me. He’s an incredible architectural, portrait, and commercial photographer, but what made him so influential to me was his ability to openly share his knowledge and love for photography. The knowledge I gained from assisting him was invaluable, and I highly suggest any new photographers to assist for at least a year while you’re building up your portfolio. You will gain more knowledge in one year assisting than you would in four years of photography school, believe me, I did both! I’ll share more maybe in another blog post about what you learn and gain from assisting but let's just say it's TOTALLY worth it.
Ok, so on a typical starving artist night for me 11 years ago… I popped in a cheap TV dinner, while half-watching one of those popular reality TV shows, I half-searched for jobs on the internet. One of my go to places to look for photo gigs was Craigslist, super classy, but I was desperate. So as I was scrolling past all of the annoying Lifetouch Ads and the creepy, not so appropriate photo gigs, I stumbled upon an ad for an architecture photography job. I clicked on the ad and it had this long laundry list of requirements for the job, most of which was an expensive list of required gear. In the background on TV as someone was getting voted off the island in Survivor, I responded to this ad. I figured, well I have about 3 of the 10 required items listed, soooo yeah I’m totally qualified!! Three weeks later I receive a response back, “We love your work, but would like to see more architecture as we don’t see any on your site.” Yep that’s right! I applied for an architecture photography job and had no architecture photography work in my portfolio. But hey, let’s get the foot in the door first right?? At the time I was primarily a nature photographer, so I responded back that I would put together a contact sheet and send some of my architectural work. I grabbed my camera, tripod, and two lenses and was off to downtown Phoenix, photographing random buildings. I even convinced some locations to let me photograph the interiors. I quickly rushed home, did some editing and sent it back. You know that term- fake it till you make it? Yeah that was me. To be fair, I did have formal photography training in school and had been assisting for a year. I guess I could back it up for the most part, but I was very much a greenhorn in this particular field. To my excitement, they actually responded back saying that these images were exactly what they were looking for. The next step was a webcam interview, as this was a Canadian based company. So I jump on this interview, faking it till I make it, and it actually goes really well. They want to set up a second interview but now it’s with the CEO of the company. That interview went so well that they invited me to Vancouver, Canada for 5 days of training. But here’s the kicker… You have to have all the gear required that’s on that list, pay for your own flights, lodging, and food AND you have to pass training. Pass training... woah! So you’re telling me I have to buy about 5k worth of gear, pay for flights, hotels, and food! And I’m still not guaranteed to have a job, hmmmm.
Rolling the dice! I can talk forever about the back and forth and mixed emotions I went through on making this decision, but to save time I threw the dice on the craps table and went for it. I maxed out the only two credit cards I had, got all the new camera gear required, found the cheapest flights I could find, and actually stayed in a hostel because Vancouver hotels are crazy expensive. Honestly I don’t know what I was thinking back then, this was crazy. I was going to Canada for a photography job that I found on Craigslist, so many red flags. I was half expecting that the address they gave would lead me to a dark alleyway to get mugged, but this was Canada- everyone is nice right?! The mile walk from the hostel to this address was probably one of the most nerve wracking moments in my career because I truly didn’t know what was in store for me. Turns out the address given was a McDonalds. Just kidding! It was legit, a real photography company. The company is called VRX Studios and they specialize in hospitality Photography (they do much more now but 10 years ago it was mostly just hospitality). The actual job title is an Independent Contractor for Hotel and Resort Photography. Anyways, I had five days of intensive training to basically be ready to be thrown out into the field. I had to learn how to use a pano head for 360 panoramics, learn all the filing and naming conventions, guidelines for each hotel brand, and everything in between that was required by VRX. It was a lot of information to absorb and a huge learning curve, but when the CEO called me into his office and put his hand out offering me the job, I quickly extended mine and started working a week later. Fast forward ten years later, and I’ve photographed over 400 hotels and resorts around the world. In January of 2020, I decided to retire from VRX Studios to go the solo route. I have many reasons for making this change in my life but I will always be grateful for the experiences I’ve had working with VRX.
I want to share more regarding my time with VRX- it’s a decade of stories and invaluable experience that I have gained in my photography career. I promise to add more on that to this blog in the future. But for now, that’s my little blurb on how I got started as an architecture Photographer. Below are some fun and random places I've been to photograph :)