The CreativeLive community is full of incredibly talented individuals, with inspirational stories of how they started doing what they’re doing. One of them is Gio Soto, a portrait/lifestyle photographer and content creator from Brooklyn, New York.
Gio is such a thoughtful, inspiring visual storyteller, so we decided to ask him some questions about who he is, how he got to where he is — and what advice he’d give to others. Here’s our interview.
Tell us your story in five sentences or less.
I got into photography towards the beginning of college, but I’ve been into art since high school. See, I was a really bad student because memorizing things to pass tests is just not the way I learn. Eventually, my art teachers noticed and basically told me that I should stay in the art room and create something instead of cutting class, so that’s exactly what I did for 4 years straight.
After high school, I figured I should go to college for graphic design and it ultimately wasn’t enough – I found it limiting to design business cards and posters and needed more, so then I found photography. The idea of having complete control of how I wanted an image, from start to finish was truly alluring to me and I’ve been in love with photography ever since.
How did you start to define your personal style?
So, I never really looked to other photographers to copy/mimic, I kinda just went within and thought about what I wanted to see, what was interesting to me. For the first year I had my camera, I would just photograph everything. I’d go for long walks in nature or even around the city and take pictures of what I was seeing, or maybe of my hand and really tried to understand what I liked about each thing I photographed and what I thought looked cool.
I then started to get interested in portraiture, so I would ask all of my friends if I could take pictures of them when we would get together and hang out, so as I got more comfortable and started posting these photos word started to spread and I reached out to people I knew less personally, like High School friends and whatnot. Eventually, I started to find people I discovered on Instagram, and I’d send them a direct message to see if they were interested in modeling. It was weird at first, but now, I get people DM’ing me all the time wanting to work together, and it’s all because I listened to my gut and was able to understand what I wanted to make, and ended up building a personal brand.
It was weird at first, but now, I get people DM’ing me all the time wanting to work together, and it’s all because I listened to my gut and was able to understand what I wanted to make, and ended up building a personal brand.
What does being creative mean to you and how do you fit it into your life?
To me, creativity is expression – it brings me oxygen. Sad, happy, angry, whatever. Its expression of the inner pushed into something brand new that now exist on the outer.
I make creativity the center point in my life and build around it. Since it is what I’m best at, I make my world fit around it and grow from there. It’s hard, but what’s the alternative?
What is your daily routine like?
My routine changes depending on what I’m needing to get done on that day, but I usually try to get up as early as I can (while still getting in 8 hours of sleep), grab something to eat and then work on my computer until I can’t anymore. I’m always editing, finding new clients and learning. Self-education is something that’s so important and accessible yet still ignored. I’ve taught myself everything I know.
If I’m not working from home, I’m running around NYC shooting portraits with people I’ve networked with via Instagram. I like to stay as busy as possible. Move forward little by little, everyday.
Tell me about your biggest challenge surrounding your work and how do you move past it?
My greatest challenge is moving forward. As a content creator, I’m chasing a dream. I’m not different than a rapper hustling his music. Going all in on yourself is one of the scariest things you can do.
I combat this by actually doing it. Every day, moving forward little by little. Fighting my fears and creating until I can’t. Actually doing it and not thinking or analyzing every step is how you overcome this. This process helps me kill fear. If you have no fear, there’s literally nothing stopping you between where you are and where you want to be. Just do, stop planning.
Who are your biggest supporters?
My biggest supporters are my Instagram followers. I know that sounds kind of weird to say, but it’s true. It’s where the majority of my creativity is poured into. Everyone who likes, comments, creates fan art and is inspired by me- those are my biggest supports. I value these people so much.
Have you had important people in your life not support you?
I mean, I tend to go very against the grain. So if I want something I’m going to chase that. When you’re young and you’re not good at school- that makes a lot of older people (almost everyone) not really “support” you. I’ve always been pushed to be traditional. Go to school, study something, this will give you success. At the end of the day, believing in myself and working my ass off to get where I want- is the only way I know. If I work every day to become the best at my craft, why should anything or anyone else matter?
Have you had any low points along your creative journey? If so, what motivates you to keep going?
My low points are relationships and getting over them. This is why I have a fire under my ass because I was in very restrictive long-term relationships for most of my adult life, and they were absorbing all my time and energy. I now use that same energy in my creativity – most of my work has an undertone of moodiness and intimacy that’s done on purpose, it’s my fuel. I’d be crippled if I didn’t use this energy constructively.
When I’m struggling, I’m motivated by two things. The first is a lack of success – I need to succeed at what I’m best at, because I know I can, and it pushes me to keep going. The second is the fact that I can’t breathe without creating. I literally NEED to express myself visually, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What does being creative mean to you and how do you fit it into your everyday life?
To me, creativity is expression – it brings me oxygen. Sad, happy, angry, whatever. Its expression of the inner pushed into something brand new that now exist on the outer. I make creativity the center point in my life and build around it. Since it is what I’m best at, I make my world fit around it and grow from there. It’s hard, but what’s the alternative?
What is your message to others people who might be in the position that you found yourself in?
My message to other creatives is to outwork everyone you know and be the best at your craft. Do what you love, every single day and be the best at it. Grow your social presence around it, lead with your content. If you’re not your favorite creative, work and learn until you are.
What does ‘success’ look like to you?
Success is getting paid to do what you love. Not getting paid enough to survive, but enough to thrive. After that, double down on your skills and grow to the highest degree. That is success for me. There’s my happiness.
What is the one thing you wish you’d have known when you first started out?
One thing I wished I’d know was to not compare myself to anyone. If someone else is doing something “better” than you, comparing yourself is poison. Everyone is on their own journey, your only goal should be being better today than you were yesterday. I promise this will grow you faster than comparing will.