Oh look, a blog again...
My website was completely redesigned to v3.0 about 2 1/2 years ago with the intention of also implementing a blog with my thoughts and experiences as a photographer. While I did put the blog into place, I simply posted that I now had a blog live and then never bothered to update it. How unfortunate as my 4+ year stay in New York City has come to an end and what a ride of four years it has been. I've met so many inspiring individuals, had some of the most insane situations of my life, and found the thriving career as a creative that I so insatiably desired. New York City has been many things to me, some amazing, some horrible, but in the end it has been the most valuable journey I could have ever asked for. When I left Miami on February 5, 2012 (or as I call it, "Madonna Bowl Sunday") I am positive that I hadn't "found" myself yet. I didn't know what specifically it was that I was seeking or that I really understood who I really was. I leave New York City, now as a 30 year old, with a completely different understanding of who I am, what I am worth, and what I want to accomplish with my life.
Having gone to school for Digital Arts & Design the obvious answer of a career to pursue afterwards was to be a graphic designer. I wasn't convinced it was for me even though I knew I was good at it. It just didn't grab or captivate me. I didn't find magic in it. Ultimately I believe that is what led me to continue my education to receive my Master of Science in Entertainment Business. Perhaps not for the right reasons however, looking back, I was potentially delaying the process of getting "real" with myself. Eventually I graduated and was left to face the realization that I still didn't know what I wanted for myself. Thankfully at this point I already had secured a decent job as a software facilitator due to my undergrad background, so I wasn't struggling financially. Mentally however I knew I wasn't doing what I wanted for myself. I had picked up a tinkering interest in photography though and many of my clients that I taught creative software to also had such an interest. Teaching Photoshop or similar software often led to more questions from my students about actual photography techniques which I could not always answer. This did push me further to learn more and eventually led to me declaring myself a full fledged, self taught, professional photographer.
It all seemed to click together. My passion for technology, fashion and suddenly a new found interest in taking photos. I can combine them all together and make a career of it! This went on for a couple of years in Miami with moderate success as a freelancer while still working my software training gig. While agencies seemed to love me for updating model books, I couldn't seem to land anything full time. Whether it was lack of real professional experience or just the Miami job market, time went by and I felt more and more "trapped."
This led me to finally making a decision I had been thinking about for awhile. Looking at job postings in New York City versus Miami it was very clear that the market was completely different. Floods of opportunity and positions that, at the time, seemed like a dream to me. I could never be taken seriously as a legitimate photographer without the real life experiences of being in a studio, working in the industry, shooting actual designer looks and not just stuff I (or a friend) threw together. I wanted this experience, I needed this experience, I had to become a professional and not just a hobbiest that happened to be paid for it from time to time. My mind was set, I was moving to The Big Apple.
Quitting a career of five years, selling most of my belongings, packing the rest and booking a one way flight ticket to NYC all happened in a flash. I hit the ground running upon arrival, applying to jobs everywhere, redesigning my image and attempting to set myself apart from the rest. The anxiety of not truly having professional work in my book was just fuel to be as outgoing, likable and passionate as possible. I remember the day that I got a phone call about a photographer position at Barneys New York. I was half paying attention and half losing my mind internally as the HR woman continued to talk about the job. "Holy shit, is this real? Barneys New York is interested in me? BARNEYS NEW YORK!?" I remember frantically thinking to myself. I had to pull myself together to focus on the words she was speaking. Of course I told her I was interested in the position and she set up an interview for the following day and told me to bring in my portfolio, but to be sure that it focused on my product work. Uhhhh, ut oh.
I remember staying up all night with the studio lights that I had and began to just photograph things I had around the apartment. I had a wardrobe stylist friend come bring over some merchandise for me also later in the eve. I shot half the night and came up with some half baked imagery as I had never shot a product in my life. I used my background in digital arts and retouched the hell out of them until they looked like somewhat perfect eCommerce images with a solid white background. I went to the interview on zero sleep. The HR lady whose name I cannot remember clearly liked me, as she asked me to meet with the studio manager right after. Enter Frank Krumrie, studio manager at the time for Barneys New York and the man that would give me the opportunity that I had desperately sought. This moment changed my life forever. (I love you Frank.) I freelanced at Barneys for about eight months before I became full time. I learned eCommerce, product, look book photography and proper studio lighting. It was everything I wanted and needed. I was shooting for luxury designers every day of my life. I learned a significant amount more in my two years at Barneys than I had in my five years of playing around by myself. It was the experience that had to be had.
This eventually led to me landing a better position with Thrillist Media Group where I was the sole client facing photographer for all ad campaigns. This job also challenged me as marketing materials, events, food & drink all became a huge part of what I was responsible for shooting. I wasn't just photographing for designers anymore, but massive brand names like GE, Jaguar, Kia, Diageo, Samsung, Corona, Ice Breakers, Char-Broil, Esquire, Hard Rock, Gillette, Bacardi, Belvedere, and many others. I was the only photographer so there was nobody to learn from. Thankfully I had the knowledge I needed now to tackle the job full force. I was savvy enough to figure it out on my own and the pressure to produce for these super-brands drove me to only one option: success. I created custom imagery for these brands that were paying huge amounts of money for this custom content. I had made it. I came, I saw, I conquered.
...Now what? I'm a professional. I've shot for an abundance of luxury fashion houses and massive brands falling under every category on planet Earth. Where do I go from here? I love New York City. But I also love Miami. Why do I love them both? Breakdowns begin racing through my head. Do I love NYC because of the success it has brought me? Well of course. Have I built strong relationships and friends that I know I will have for life like I did in Miami? Check. Are there limitless possibilities in the city that never sleeps? Without a doubt. Was Miami as good to me career-wise? An easy "no." Was I as talented or knowledgable living in Miami? A absolute "no." Clearly just from this blog post you can guess that I am very career focused. I know this of myself, so suddenly I decided to gauge the two cities against one another without focusing on my career. I asked myself "Where would you prefer to live if your professional experiences were not a factor?" I didn't have to weigh the pros or cons, the answer was Miami. Being as I am, I quickly added career back into the factor asking myself "Has Miami been given the proper chance as the creative you are today?" The answer again was "no" which led me back to the decision to move back to what I consider home. Beautiful Miami.
Again, this first blog entry has heavily reflected on my growth as a professional. Clearly it is not the only thing that New York City offered me. While being determined to further my career and evolve my trade, I also grew tremendously as a person. This is something that happens indirectly as life experiences make you who you are and with risk of sounding lame - New York City is responsible for me finally understanding myself. It was hard for me to leave my best friends and family back in Miami to chase after some void that I was unsure of. I didn't know if I would be successful, if I could be successful, or if I could find life-long relationships like I knew I had in Florida. I didn't know if I could be thrown into city madness and just "make it work" professionally or otherwise. I just didn't know in every sense of what "not knowing" means. It was the scariest decision I had ever made. But what I do know now...
Lasting, life-long relationships that you know are such before you book it across the country are just what you thought them to be. Lasting, life-long relationships. The people that were there for you when you were near will be there for you when you are miles away. If you can build such amazing relationships in one place, you can begin to build them in another. Any insecurities I had about being unable to make new friends has completely diminished. I can now conquer the world and do so with confidence. I am a lover, I am a fighter, I am passionate, I am driven, I am creative, and I love being around others that inspire me. I leave NYC with these life-long inspirational friends just as I left Miami. Renzo, Wyle, Rithi, Frank, Adrienne, Andrew, Richard, Jahmel, Lynne, & Jenn - I love you all to pieces. Brendon you are the one life-long friend from Miami that transcended to New York...of course will miss you too. Obviously there are many more I could mention but the list would go on for too long. Anyone that has been a part of my life the past four years that has positively influenced me, thank you with all of my heart! All of you helped me look towards the light and see how positivity and true friendship can overcome the most negative of situations. One word of kindness, it can save me.
Not everything in NYC has been skipping down the street holding hands and climbing the skyscraper called success. NYC has also given me some of the darkest, hardest, and most painful situations of my life that I simply do not wish to share in detail. But I am mentioning it as I am speaking of learning and growing. What does not kill us makes us stronger, right? I'd never take back a single instance of my time here, as it has made me the strong and confident individual that I am today. Not everything or everyone is always as it/they seem but even so I'd never advise building a wall for the sake of protection. Be unguarded. Be honest. Let go of past negativities and do not let them destroy you or your character. Be yourself, speak your mind, do what makes you happy, continue onward and be genuine to YOURSELF as you will effectively be genuine to the rest of your surroundings. Never let anyone dictate who you are, you are uniquely you and don't ever change that. Life is short, surround yourself with nothing but amazing people that think you are incredible. Anything or anyone that makes you feel otherwise is not worth it. Not worth YOU.
I sit here with a glass of wine at hand completely amazed that I've written this far. It is a long entry, I know, but thank you for reading. It is nice to clear my head with my thoughts by writing it down and puts me a little more at ease with the next exciting chapter of my book called Life. I return to Miami on Friday, February 26, 2016 with new life, new ambition, new focus, and a new me. I absolutely cannot wait to see my mom and grandma, my best friends on this beautiful Earth, the gorgeous beaches, and the inspiration that will come from within. I hope you phenomenal Florida folk are ready to help me write the next part of this story. You know who you are.
The time has come to really focus on what it is that makes me happy. Being creative makes me happy. Photography makes me happy. Miami makes me happy. My family and friends (that are all over the place now) make me happy. Driving a car listening to obnoxiously loud music makes me happy. Crystal clear blue water, warm weather and (almost) snow white sand make me happy. And above all else, doing what I do, on my own terms, makes me happy. Live. Love. Inspire. Create.
Thank you New York City and see you soon Miami,