Master at telling visual stories of people and places in nature. While his style has been adopted by millions, his work still stands apart and inspires.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF AND THE WORK THAT YOU CREATE.
Well, I think maybe my wife can give a better assessment. I would say that I am very passionate about many things, yet I am an easy going, laid back person. I love capturing and creating moments that other people might not see. I love people and telling their stories. I really love to travel and see new places. I desire to create work that people can be impacted by. I love creating photos that make others feel some sort of emotion.
WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH AND WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE ASSIGNMENT?
I’ve worked with Mercedes, Ford, Turkish Airlines, Apple, Samsung, Germany Tourism, Canadian Tourism, 24HRRecords, The U.S. Army, Visit Philly, Straight Talk Wireless, Ploom and Finlandia Vodka. My favorite is a close tie between two assignments. Both for different reasons. One of my favorites was for Turkish Airlines because Turkey is simply a beautiful place and I love the culture and landscape there. My second favorite was for Mercedes because it was the first of it’s kind. It was the first major ad campaign on Instagram. I loved it because it was both challenging and exciting to be driving around NYC in a car that hadn’t been released in the U.S. while trying to create good images with it. No pressure, right?!
RECOUNT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ARTIST.
My journey started while assisting my wife photographing weddings. I second shot for her and I really enjoyed it. It was exciting to get a shot that I loved and it felt great to create with a camera. Fast forward a couple of years and I was really enjoying social media. I became a social media junky on twitter. I was meeting new people there and tweeting about mobile tech. Then Instagram came around. It combined social media with photography. Two things I loved! I signed up and began taking photos with the iPhone. My iPhone was the main camera I used during that time. My job required me to travel around Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. I would stop at various places during my travels and take pictures of landscapes that I thought were beautiful. Before long, I was getting a lot of positive feedback on my work. I guess people liked what I was doing. I was really feeling alive when I was creating images. Not long after that, my work was featured on Instagram and I was interviewed by The Huffington Post. It all seemed to happen so naturally. A few months later, I was approached by Nike to help them launch their Nike Running account in SF. Shortly after that, I was asked to be represented by Tinker Street. After working a 9-5 job for years and finding time to photograph whenever I could on the side; I was finally able to quit my day job this past August and go full-time with my photography. I am loving it!
YOU'VE TAKEN A LOT OF RISKS ALONG THE WAY, BUT WHAT WAS YOUR DEFINING ONE WHERE EVERYTHING WAS ON THE LINE?
That’s a tough one. I feel as though my last seven years have been a constant flux of risk taking. My family and I have moved quite a few times into 3 different states where I worked a few different jobs. But there are two moments that really stand out. One life changing risk I took was moving my family from Pennsylvania, where I grew up, to Wisconsin without having a job secured prior to our move. Yet, it was in Wisconsin that Instagram started for me. The second great risk for me would be the risk I took this past August. I quit my 9-5 job, while having a family of five to support, to start working for myself doing freelance photography. Ultimately, I am taking a risk everyday.
HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS SUPPORTED YOU THROUGHOUT IT ALL?
I have had nothing but encouragement from those around me and many people telling me things about myself that I didn’t necessarily recognize on my own. I had friends telling me that I should go freelance and many gave me the push to do it. But mostly, it has been my wife Staci. Her constant belief and trust in me and for me; that I can do what I truly am passionate about has been an incredible encouragement and support to me. She has encouraged me in so many ways and I am recognizing that there is a bigger picture to all that I am doing than just taking photos. I feel that I need be living in a way that is going to impact others in a positive way.
LOOKING BACK ON ALL THAT HAS UNFOLDED, WHAT NUGGETS OF WISDOM HAVE YOU LEARNED AND EMBRACED?
I really believe that it’s important to remain humble. I believe it is important to stay curious. I came across an Albert Einstein quote recently that sums up what I’ve been feeling inside for a long time. “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” I feel that this quote is a mix of humility with the driving force to learn more, get better, and stay curious!
IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
When I completed high school, I simply chose what was there for me. I decided to take a year off before going to college and I had plans to then study video or cinema. But instead, I took a decent paying job working for my dad and never fulfilled those plans. My advice would be to go after what you love, what you are gifted with, and don’t take the easy street. Work hard and don’t settle for easy. Don’t settle for something that is “there” while sacrificing what you “love”. I may have been able to fast forward my career a few years if I hadn’t settled for what was “there” vs. following my interests and passions.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS ALLOWED YOU TO BREAK THROUGH AND SUCCEED, PARTICULARLY AMONGST YOUR PEERS?
I really believe that it is important to be passionate about what you do. People can see that. Don’t just check the box. Photography is so competitive these days. It feels like everyone is shooting everything, in the most amazing locations, with the brands they love. I truly believe that your own work has to be personal. It has to mean something to you personally. If it doesn’t, it won’t stand out and it won’t be something that is lasting and meaningful.a
WHO ARE THE MENTORS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED AND INSPIRED YOUR LIFE?
My wife! Hands down! Staci is so wise in life. Spiritually, mentally and physically. She blows me away by the way she sees life and if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to spend time with her, then you know exactly what I mean.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD GIVE A YOUNG PERSON FOLLOWING THEIR PASSION AS AN ARTIST?
I’ve been asked this question several times by many young people. My answer is pretty consistent every time. Learn the basic skills of photography and do them well! Learn and practice everything you can about composition and light. Learn how your camera works, (whatever camera it is), and shoot what you love! Do the best you can. Because most likely, someone before you has photographed what you’re going to photograph. However, the passion behind your photos is what will stand out and what will be most impactful.
WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CREATIVITY, WHAT DO YOU FIND YOURSELF CONSTANTLY SEARCHING FOR?
Something that makes me feel all the feels. Exploring new places, people that are interesting, curiosity, and telling stories. I love hearing people’s life stories. Especially if they have redeeming qualities. I love to hear stories of redemption.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT KEEP YOU CREATIVELY INSPIRED AND CONSISTENTLY INNOVATING?
That’s a tough question. But, if I could choose one thing, I would say that I am really inspired by spending time with my kids. Watching how creative they can be and even learning new things from them everyday is inspiring. It is amazing what you can learn from kids. Especially your own. They go after life without all the concerns and worries that we have as adults. Plus, they keep me young and hip. Or I’d like to think so.
LOOKING AT OUR WORLD, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN IMPACT AND CHANGE ABOUT IT?
I believe that we can do a great deal in life without having a whole lot. Simplicity is valuable and possible. My family and I live those truths every day. I believe that there is hope. I believe that every one has a story worth telling and hearing. I am confident that I can and will impact the world by what I believe, how I live, and by loving others in tangible, practical ways.
WE ALL DREAM OF LEAVING A LEGACY. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR, AND WHY?
I want to be remembered by the way that I loved. Not just how I loved the lovable, but how I loved the unloveable. That is what I believe I’ve been called to do. I try to model my life after the one who left the greatest legacy of all; Jesus. He came to love the unlovable and to serve others. He knew His mission and he was passionate about it!
ANY CURRENT ALBUMS, ARTISTS OR SONGS ON REPEAT?
Vitals by Mutemath is a current favorite. Coldplay is always a tried and true favorite for me as well.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MOVIE OR TV SHOW?
I have a few favorites and many that I like out of a bit of nostalgia. However, to be honest, I’m not a huge movie fan nowadays. My wife and I have been into watching documentaries the past few years which I enjoy doing. As far as a movie? I really liked Gladiator. For tv shows, I’m currently into The Blacklist. And for me, The Office and King of Queens never get old.
I don’t read as much as I’d like to, but I’d have to say Crazy Love by Francis Chan is one favorite that really impacted me.
Well, I’m from Philadelphia, so I’m a huge fan of all the east coast favorites. Pizza, cheesesteaks, hoagies, etc. However, if I had to narrow it down to one? I’d have to say the Roast Pork Sandwich with Broccoli Rabe from Dinic’s in Philly. If you ever find yourself in Philly, head on over to the Reading Terminal Market and stop by Dinic’s and try that sandwich!!
STAR WARS OR STAR TREK?
Star Wars for sure!
WHAT IMPORTANT TRUTH DO VERY FEW PEOPLE AGREE WITH YOU ON?
Be quick to hear and slow to speak and slow to anger. Maybe most people wouldn’t disagree with that statement, but it’s definitely a truth that is much harder to practice.