It takes hard work to be a photographer. Here’s one story; what’s yours?
“Dropped out of high school aged 16, got my own apartment in Sparks,
Nevada, in parking lot behind hourly motel that hookers and crackheads
Applied to Parsons School of Design in NYC, but could not raise the funds to go.
Moved to Minneapolis with girlfriend whose lifelong absent mother had
resurfaced offering to make amends by sending her to college. Showed
portfolio of paintings to Minneapolis College Of Art And Design, only
to have portfolio reviewer close it in disgust, saying it was
misogynistic. Girlfriend’s mother reneged on college offer. Screwed.
Picked up first camera at the age of 22, as research tool to aid
paintings: a used Nikon FG with 50mm f1.8 and rubber lens hood. $250.
All my money.
Intrigued with the alchemy of photography, began photo education with
books. Taught myself Zone System with Ansel Adam’s “The Negative” and
“The Print”. Begged and borrowed time in other photographer’s darkrooms
to practice technique. Bought Minolta Digital Spot Meter F, brand new,
to perfect Zone System. $500. All my money again.
Got job in one-hour mini lab in Saint Paul to teach myself color
printing and get discount on film. Saved all my money and bought a
darkroom through mail order in NYC. Beseler 23CII with Dual Dichro
color head, and supporting trays, timers, easels, etc. $2500. More than
my car at the time.
Got job at Ritz Camera to learn different cameras and maintain film
discount. Began teaching myself color printing at home. First home
studio consisted of a raw basement space, lighting was cheap plastic
architect lamps from Target strapped to the ceiling supports. Backdrop
was a black army surplus tarp.
Got a job at West Photo, a pro camera store in Minneapolis, to teach
myself pro equipment and get a discount on high-end gear and darkroom
materials. Took advantage of the “Employees rent free on weekends”
policy and took out a studio full of gear each weekend to do test
shoots and learn what everything did. Owner, claiming overuse,
cancelled benefit. Bought my first “pro” cameras, a Nikon N90s and
Mamiya RZ67, used. Bought first studio strobes, an ancient Norman
Got fired from West Photo for absenteeism, lateness, and bad attitude when they tried to make me wear a uniform and name tag.
Began custom printing for photographers in Minneapolis, BW and color.
Began assisting. Began shooting model agency portfolios every winter in
Miami. Began shooting small local advertising and design jobs in
Moved to New York. Assisted for “big” photographers. Shot small gigs
here and there, mostly editorial. Got my “break” when I was hired as
Seventeen Magazine’s staff photographer. Never assisted again.”
photo and text by Clayton Cubitt.