What country are you from and where do you live?
I AM CANADIAN! And proud of it. I currently work and reside in Toronto.
Title of what you do and what company do you work with?
Commercial portrait photographer that works primarily in entertainment, fashion and beauty. I am very fortunate enough to say that I work for myself – studioBE Photography (www.studioBEphotography.com).
Education background (art school, photography classes, self taught)?
For me – it’s all three. I initially went to art school for illustration; however, I took an ‘Introduction to Photography’ as an elective class which caused me to take another, and then another, until I decided that I wanted to pursue it full time. I attended Sheridan College and graduated from the Applied Photography program in 2008. From that point onwards I have been teaching myself through the various work experiences, always finding new ways to learn.
What is your signature style/artistic expression to your work?
I don’t believe that I have a signature style per se; generally, I just want to make my subjects look cool! My work has heavy influences of American and European pop culture, showcasing ‘raw attitude mixed with refined style’…or at least that is how I would like to describe it. Overall, I like things to be minimalistic and clean because it helps to guide the viewers focus onto the subject details.
What type of images / people do you like to shoot?
Something I learned from Nick Knight, was that a successful image does the following… 1) stops you in your tracks, 2) engages you and makes you think 3) leaves you asking questions. So, with that in mind, I like to find subtle ways to engage my audience by using pop culture references like a lyric or song title and apply it to the project whether its beauty, fashion, product or portraiture. Hopefully, in the end, the viewer can connect most of the dots.
As for the type of people I like to work with, anyone who is committed and confident, that isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty or make themselves look silly for the sake of the project. That’s why it’s always good to connect and be friendly to your talent because they are usually more willing to commit to the project if they feel your sense of passion, and above all, they like you.
Do you have a career turning point or big break that has helped your career?
The career turning point would definitely be working for Rankin…the reason being is that in order to do so I had to go through hell and back (almost literally) – I spent 4 nights in an immigration holding cell, took three Atlantic flights, lost thousands of dollars in the process, slept on floors of mice infested flats, worked multiple 100 hour weeks all for free just to get an unpaid internship with the legendary photographer.
This quickly turned into a full time position in which I brushed shoulders with some incredibly talented industry professionals; I was learning from everyone – the assistants, producers, stylists, digital tech’s, editors, managers and even the chef. I ultimately had an incredible overall experience, knowing all of what I had to go through to make it happen is what gives me the confidence that I can do anything I set my mind to.
What was your scariest & proudest moment in your career?
The job I was most nervous about was with Justin Bieber. There was very little information to go on because there was no real contact between myself, the client and him. At the same time, this was technically my first shoot with a celebrity and I wanted it to go perfect for all the obvious reasons. At the end of the day, Justin was really easy going and seemed like a regular dude. Everything went better than I could have imagined. It was a great day!
My proudest moment was when I was interviewed by Nick Knight for Mastered: Photography. Nick Knight hand selected my project amongst several thousand submissions and flew me to London to meet with him to discuss my work. I can easily say that I was quite nervous because he is an idol of mine and is known to be quite intense, but he was incredibly kind and insightful. Overall, it was a surreal experience to discuss fashion photography with a living legend.
What is next for your career goals?
1) CONNECTING TO MY ROOTS – Many of my career goals are centred around the ideology that ‘the world needs more Canada’, so I want to make that happen whichever way I can. It is a very exciting time for Canadians, especially in the industry of fashion and entertainment because we have been commanding a global audience and the world is taking notice. Whether it’s in music, sports, fashion or film, Canadians have managed to have leaders in all categories.
I am currently trying to build & develop relationships with people & brands that have a strong Canadian identity – Canada Goose, OVO / Drake, Roots, MLSE / Raptors; as well, have the chance to work directly with Canadian designers such as Greta Constantine, Michael Kale, Christopher Bates, Sid Neigum, Beaufille…there is just so many talented Canadians that I would like to work with.
2) SHARING IS CARING – I discovered a couple years back that I absolutely love to teach. It is an incredible feeling that you get when you see the excitement in your students faces as they are discovering something new. I absolutely love creating images and I am happy to share that passion with others in hopes that they are inspired to continue pushing the industry forward. I strongly believe that through collaboration we ultimately make things better for everyone.
In order to do that, I am developing my own YouTube channel that will focus on ‘How to make it’ in the creative industry. It will mostly be a ‘behind the scenes’ process of upcoming projects, as well feature tips on getting started, developing the portfolio, building a team, establishing a brand, as well as interviews with industry professionals and much, much more.
3) MAKING MY MARK – I would like to establish my commitment to excellence by being recognized by the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards. It would simply be nice to have something that could physically represent the +10,000 hrs. put into developing the career. In all honesty, it would be more for my mum to have because she was the one & only that always supported and believed in me, even when I didn’t. She definitely deserves an award for all that she has done for me.
What advice would you give someone starting out in your business?
Did I mention that I will be producing a YouTube series on this very subject? I think the best advice that I can give to anyone starting out, is to apprentice someone that you look up to that is currently doing the work that you aspire to do in your own career. If you choose a large studio, you will most likely be involved in larger budget productions giving you experience that you simply can’t get anywhere else.
On the flip side, if you are able to intern at a smaller studio, or apprentice a photographer directly, you will be exposed to the inner workings of how to operate a small business and most likely make direct contacts that you will be able to use to network etc. In both cases, and everything in between, if you make it difficult for them to let you go then there is also the opportunity for work afterwards. I personally believe it’s the best way to choose who to surround yourself with and get a jumpstart on your career.