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My love for anything "art" started when I was a student at North Canton Middle School. Drawing, painting, all the traditional stuff. Then, in high school, I was fortunate enough to have amazing art teachers who helped me develop a style and eye for fine art. High school was also where I discovered graphic design. I took a course, loved it. Digital was the way to go for me.
I applied to schools like the Ringling College of Art and Design, Columbus College of Art and Design, and the Art Institute of Miami. My portfolio was garbage but I was accepted to all of them. Unfortunately, I could not afford the cost of attending a legitimate art university. So, I went to a local community college in Canton, Ohio where I majored in design and minored in photography. Two semesters, double assignments, Dean's List, and a paid internship later, I decided to drop out. I found myself feeling unfulfilled and as if I wasn't learning anything.
Thankfully, my parents had gifted me a small DSLR to use in the photography classes while I was in school. I started to play around with it a little more and before I knew it, that little Rebel XSI and I were off and running. Over the next few years, I taught myself how to use manual settings and slowly acquired every piece of equipment I could get my hands for under $40. Obsessed. That is how I felt about photography. But a creative obsession doesn't pay the bills. Feeling the pressure of being unemployed, I took various odd jobs during the day (landscaping, warehouse jobs, foreclosure maintenance) and spent every night hunched over my laptop learning and figuring out how I could make photography my career.
From 2009 to 2014, I freelanced and took any gig I could find—designing logos, retouch, shooting weddings, and senior portraits and so on. Then, in February of 2014, I started a graphic design job at ECS Tuning, a large European automotive parts company near Akron, Ohio. Within my first two months on the job, the videographer/second photographer left the company and I was asked if I wanted to fill the position. Without hesitation, I said yes. A few months later the second photographer left the company. This left me as the only photographer for a while. Very inexperienced and in over my head, I dug in and gave myself a crash course on studio lighting. My design background enabled me to pick up high-end retouching skills quickly.
A few months later, a photographer was hired. Then another and another. Now finding myself to be the senior photographer of the bunch, it was my responsibility to show these new guys the ropes. Over time I started distributing workloads, communicating with Senior Management, and coordinating the day-to-day photography operations. Along the way, the marketing team created a new mid-level management position for a Photography Supervisor. I was promoted to the new position. I now reported directly to the VP of Marketing. WHAAATTTT!? I immediately fell in love with the position. What I enjoyed most was that I was still able to create but could help develop my team as well. I hadn't realized how many skills I had picked up over the last 7 years or so until I needed to teach it. I quickly found myself wanting to do everything I could to continue not only my development but to develop my team as well. I loved being a leader and problem solver.
In July of 2016, I applied for a position with a company in Columbus, Ohio by the name of zulily. I was offered a job as an Editorial Photographer. Packing up what little bit I owned, selling my car and cashing out a 401k to cover moving costs, I relocated. It is now 2018 and I am still working as full-time photographer with zulily, as well as freelancing. Working with zulily has provided me with so many opportunities to continue my growth as a professional photographer by way of mentorship, equipment and simply being surrounded by other top professionals in their respective creative fields.
Today, I continue to develop myself any way I can by utilizing the resources I have available. Still spending countless hours trying new techniques and seeing where trends are going within the industry. My goal has been and continues to be for me to be a leader in my field.
As professional creatives, we are the fortunate few.