When I was younger I always heard that time never seems to slow down in life, it only seems to speed up as you get older. Well, the last year of my life is a great example of that. It seems like yesterday that I stepped foot back on U.S soil after living abroad for nearly two years. Prior to the last nine months, I was living in South America, mainly in Montevideo, Uruguay teaching English. I also spent an extended period of time in Colombia working and traveling. Now I am currently working on the next chapter of life here in Boise, Idaho. So far, the long and winding path has lead me back to where I was born, to Thrive Web Designs, and to Thrive Product Studio where I am currently working as a product photographer.
At Thrive Product Studio, which is a new venture for Thrive Web Designs, I have been able to use my prior knowledge and experience in photography to work on something that I am truly passionate about. Here we focus on product photography for e-commerce websites including Amazon and eBay. For those who don’t know, there is a set of strict guidelines that need to be followed to add images to Amazon and sell your products, including photography on an isolated white background and resolution minimums. It is well documented that the better the images, the more likely your sales will go up while making a bigger profit.
Check out the TPS blog on Amazon guidelines: https://www.thriveproductstudio.com/ebay-amazon-product-photography-requirements/
From an early age, I knew photography would be my lifelong passion. That passion started as a photographer for the high school yearbook and some early photography completions. A local gallery and workshop series also helped fuel my passion. I spent countless hours in the dark rooms at Cole Marr in the 8th street Marketplace, now known as BoDo. David Marr guided my experience and is a huge part of my success today. He also showed me a way that I could take a hobby that I was passionate about and turn it into a career. That’s when I started looking into the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.
I first studied at Boise State University for a few years before transferring to the Rochester Institute of Technology to finish my Bachelor’s degree. I arrived at the start of another muggy upstate summer and took a summer transfer course, nicknamed photo boot camp. It was a year worth of photo classes in less than 3 months. Every day was all about photography, most evenings and night as well. Often it was required to take chemistry home from our chemistry bar where there were taps in the wall that dispensed developer, fixer and stop bath. It was quite a sight to see me taking all my photo supplies home on the city bus as my car broke down right before leaving for the East Coast, that car never made it out of Boise.
Even with the unique experience of being back East for the first time, I made it all work and graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in Fine Art Photography. Don’t let that fool you because I take pride in the fact that I took many studio and advertising photography classes. I wanted a well-rounded photography education. My passion lies in art, but I wanted to be experienced in all walks of photography so I that I would stand out in the job market. I think that was a smart and different approach than most of my fellow fine art photography majors. I wasn’t scared of the studio equipment, the different set of challenging advertising poses, and the struggles of working in a studio. I am a better photographer because of it and I am proud of the fact. I even had the Dean of the photography department, Bill Dubois, as a teacher in my final semester at RIT. He was surprised that I was so multi-faceted. The work I was producing in his class was very different and unique, yet he was shocked to see my name attached to a purchase prize recipient in the honors show. It was a very different vein of work that I did for my Fine Art class and Dean Dubois was very taken back by me that final semester.
After RIT the natural progression of students wanting to pursue a serious career in advertising photography was to move 8 hours west of Rochester to New York City. I arrived in the fall of 2006 and continued my education by working as a freelance photographer assistant. This is really when the photography education began. To do this, one is required to contact and meet photographers in hopes that they will hire you for a photo shoot. It can be tough to get jobs at first, especially being very green to a very different world called, New York City. One needed to meet as many photographers and other assistants as possible in hopes that one day they may call you out of the blue. Timing and luck are very crucial to get going as a freelance assistant and RIT alumni are some of the best resources for doing that. It is really what allowed me to survive those first 6 months in NYC.
As I was gaining experience and becoming more acquainted with a major metropolitan area, I assisted photographers for about a year in New York City. This time was some of the most educational of my life. I was allowed access to some of New York’s most famous buildings including 30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th floor overlooking Time Square, and many other unique, restricted areas. I even set up light hanging out of a window 12 stories above a bustling New York City street. I also meet a few famous people like Steve Buscemi along the way. It was a very exciting time in my life and I grew greatly as a persona and as a photographer.
After freelancing, another RIT fine Art Photography alumni offered me a job at Duggal Visual Solutions, a printing, and film developing giant in New York City. There I refined another set of skills I learned at RIT, color management. The T in RIT stands for technology and because of that it was a very technical school. It is what RIT photographers are known for, being very technical sound photographers. While attending RIT I worked at the on-campus photo lab and took a few color management classes. Kodak employees were common place because of the close proximity of Kodak’s Headquarters, about a mile from campus. They also used our school for an offsite quality control testing lab. There, I was able to learn many aspects of quality control and color management that I was able to put to use at Duggal in NYC.
I started at Duggal with the broad goal of creating a color management workflow for the oversized solvent and UV printers in a Brooklyn warehouse. I was very naive at this process and struggled mightily at first. It took many phone calls to more RIT alumnus and hundreds of test color swatches. I also had to print the tests at night when the printers were available but to do this, I had to teach myself how to run the many different printers. It was an uphill battle, but I was able to improve the printing over time and even became a reliable printer operator to run production work as needed. Once again New York proved to be a very educational place for me and I still use many of these skills today in my photography.
Once on a set of a New York photoshoot, I mentioned I missed the mountains and nature. Someone responded to me that I needed to move to Brooklyn next to the park. At that moment I knew I need to return home and go west where nature refers to more than just a 10-city block park surrounded by large buildings. I missed Idaho and in 2008 I moved back to home to Boise, Idaho. There I tried many different jobs and many different directions in my life and career. Photography has and will always be part of my life. It was very hard to stay away from the place that I call home and love so much.
Once back in Idaho, I tried many things to get a photography business off the ground. I even went back to school to improve my business skills. What I focused on was 2 different aspects of photography, one being commercial and one personal. The commercial aspect of EO Photographic was pet photography, mainly cute, adorable dogs. I traveled around doing pet photography at Petcos, dog shows, and at Christmas time I did holiday events at local dog businesses around the Treasure Valley. There was also a couple of years that I had a photography studio in downtown Boise where I would do portrait, product photography, and other personal projects.
The second area of photography that I focused on is my Idaho Panoramic project that I exclusively do here in Idaho, my home, where I was born and raised. With this project, the photographic process is more about the experience and the mind-set photography takes me too. The photograph is the only remaining evidence of my experiences and my travels. It is a visual record of where I have been and how I saw it.
First, I try to find the right place for what I think would be a great photograph; good enough isn’t in my vocabulary. It would have to be great. Then I think to myself, “how do I get the best possible photograph of this scenery?” A lot of time at this point I write down in a notebook the time, place, a sunrise or sunset photo, the way the light looks, and when it might be the best season of the year for that location. Sometimes, I never make it back, but other times when I do; it is worth the wait. I often visit the same place multiple times or watch multiple sunrises or sunsets from various locations. Sounds rough huh?
During this process of taking panoramas, a self-narrative starts to form. The result is that every panoramic that makes up on the wall has a story and a history to it. Very similar to my life, I have a story and history too all interwoven with photography. A history and path that is less taken, but it once again has lead me to this point and Thrive Product Studio.