The Early YearsEntrepreneurial Spirit: Risk & Reward
Entrepreneurial spirit. Risk versus reward, or risk and reward. How about that even? So, fast forward a little bit in my career. I'm shooting. I was testing in Paris, in Milan, in London. I came to New York, and I'm like, okay, this is 1996, '97, I am going to stop modeling completely. I'm gonna 100% become a photographer. I'm gonna take that risk. This is what I'm gonna do. I'm hoping I'm gonna make some money. I think I was charging $200 for a test. And I was sometimes doing up to three tests a day so I was actually able to make like 600 bucks in a day. Well, that's not make 'cause you still gotta buy your film. So, I was making about 300 bucks a day which seemed like a small fortune when I was sort of in my early 20s, but of course, it wasn't. It was doing what you can, paying your rent. I decided to do something kinda risky. Open my own studio. That was something for me which I wanted an environment where I could create my own magic. A sort of Andy Warhol factory, if you like. And ...
it was a huge financial burden. I actually shared it with a few other people originally to help pay for it. But I also knew that when I was working as a model, when I went to a photographer's studio, if they had a studio, it was always quite impressive for them to have a studio. It was, oh, well, they must be doing quite well. They have a studio. And I thought to myself, well, that's not a bad idea, right? Maybe if I want people to take me seriously here, and I want to change things up, I've gotta do something so that people take me seriously. Now, whether it's you opening a studio, like this one which was my first one, Studio NB. And there's the other angle of it. You can see there's a kitchen, and my office was down the back. It was all very makeshift. I bought all the furniture in secondhand markets, flea markets, and all that have you, and did what I could. And it doesn't look particularly luxurious, but it was home for me, and it was, at that point, a place where I could bring clients, and it changed the way I worked because I didn't just do test shoots anymore. I could now do bigger shoots. I could now have clients come in, and we could do little proper shoots without actually having to rent a big studio, or I could rent my studio to them. So, it changed the way I could do business and allowed people to take me a little bit more seriously. And I think you all have to look for opportunities like that where you take a risk on yourself. Is this next move gonna effect not just the way I shoot but how people think of you. And so, whether it's buying more equipment, or buying special equipment, or buying a bigger camera, or getting the gear together that really is gonna make sense for you as a photographer. I'm always about taking that risk. You know, not saying, okay... I won't do that, I'm gonna sort of half-ass it, and maybe it'll work. So, risk is incredibly important. Click Silver. So, this was kind of a test shoot, but it was one of the biggest risks I'd done because I decided to pitch. I wanted to sort of end the test photography aspect of my career. I had done it for three or four years. I'd got this studio. I'm like, okay, I've gotta move into the next level. I've gotta start doing projects. I've gotta start trying to shoot for magazines. I was always trying, but I didn't have the contacts. You're kind of, how do I get noticed? How do I get people to see my work? I was beginning to get people taking notice of me through these pictures on these cards, these comp cards. The next step was I'm like, okay, I'm gonna do a really big project, with all these models. And I went to an agency called Click that had represented me back in the day. And I like, I'd like to shoot all the models for one book. One series of pictures, and it won't cost them. It'll just be the cost of the film. Just pay for the film. And okay, so that's one thing. But then I wanted to make it, you know, consistent and series and have a look and a feel 'cause I knew that was important. And so I painted every single model, whatever showed on them, in silver. I then used only things that were black and white 'cause I was shooting in black and white. And I created a whole series of pictures, and there were, I don't know, 70 or 80 pictures. Each model had one image. And I had an exhibition in New York City. My first one. It was in a nightclub. It wasn't in a real exhibition hall, but I knew guys in nightclubs, and a guy in the nightclub said I could put my pictures in there. But it was an exhibition for me. And I printed each picture on metal, and I had a friend who was doing that for the very first time. I look at the prints now, and they're not anything like metal prints today. So, it was this idea. It was this concept, from shooting a whole agency, painting everyone silver, shooting in black and white, printing on metal, and that's something metallic, and then exposing it to the world and saying, come judge me. You know, I hope you like it. It was interesting because actually that evening, when I had the exhibition, and the people came around, my friends and all the models. Luckily, because there were so many models in it, they brought their friends. You know, this is me in this picture, this guy shot it, and you know, I was no one. I was the test photographer. I was one of them, actually, you know. These were my peers. I was the same age as they were. We were all in our early 20s. But word got out, and the very next day, I got a call from Paper Magazine asking me if I would do my first editorial photo shoot. And that very first shoot, as well, was only meant to be, I think, one or two pages, but as I always do, I went 100%, 150% into the job and decided to shoot 14 pages. And I'm like, okay, I'm gonna present them with huge thing, but they only had two pages for me. When I presented them the whole thing and said, here's all 14 shots. They first of all were slightly irritated with me, you know. What is all of this? This is not what we asked for. But they were like, oh, that's really good. I like that. Well, that's really nice. And they ran all 14 pages. So, my very first editorial shoot was a 14-page story. I had my exhibition for Click Silver. My next shoot was this editorial shoot which went from being a one to two page gig to a 14-page spread in Paper Magazine. And it was partly because I took the risk on way over shooting. The models stayed later, the stylist stayed later because, too, even if it hadn't worked, I would have had this body of work. I would have had these photographs. I was building up my portfolio, but I was taking risks on myself. And thinking, okay, this might cost me more money. I may not ever see this back. There may not be a return, but I've gotta go for it. And I kind of do that now all the time. And I'll talk a bit more about that later, but you'll see when I'm shooting, even in shoots that I do, so much of what I do is very personal to me because it's a personal business. It's an interesting thing. You know, you can be working sort of corporately, and I work for big clients that are very sort of impersonal, but I take it all very personally. These are my photographs, these are my pictures, this is my image, this is my heart and soul I'm pouring into it.