Have you ever had a life-altering moment that changed the course of your world? I didn’t have just one of those but instead had a series of occurrences that, when linked together, have shaped my life’s work.
By high school I had discovered the camera’s energizing capabilities, whether in the darkroom or out in the world. This is also when I got my first taste of travel, and having the camera at my side gave me a sense of purpose that felt meaningfully involved with the places I visited. It also offered me a license to explore using a creative mindset and the uninhibited sense of independence I so desperately craved. Yet, in those days it never occurred to me that this passion of mine could turn into a career.
However, after a college internship, I had an epiphany and realized I could make a career out of photography. Although I was acutely aware that it would not be an easy journey, from that moment on I became laser-focused on doing whatever it was I needed to do to make my professional photography career happen.
But first, I knew I needed to learn a lot more – so I moved to New York.
For the next 6 years, I became the apprentice to some of the most recognizable names in the fashion industry of downtown NYC. I had the privilege of working with Mark Seliger, Steven Klein, Annie Leibovitz and many more.
I was awestruck by the amount of time that went into each shoot and the level of production that went into each image. As assistants, we were tasked with finding solutions to creative problems. We had every studio resource available to us, and our job was to make a vision come to life.
On location in Spain for W Magazine shoot with David and Victoria Beckman
I soaked up everything around me while crisscrossing the globe on photoshoots to capture celebrities, musicians, and models. As a photo assistant, you often lose track of what day it is – even what time zone you are in. Working on set with Madonna, Desmond Tutu, President Obama, and countless other celebrities was exhilarating, stressful, and incredibly rewarding all at the same time.
FINDING CREATIVE CLARITY
In the rare moments of time to myself, I started to formulate my own photographic ideas for the future. How would I forge a creative place in an already crowded photography world? In my mind, the work I wanted to make was timeless, featured unpredictable iterations of beauty, highlighted form and composition, and had a depth and complexity of subject matter.
I wanted to use my camera to preserve parts of the world that may be unsung or at risk and I wanted to foster a connection with far away locations where globally shared human interests could be revealed. I felt that if I stuck to my core belief system, I could make something unique and with integrity.
Most of all, I wanted to tell stories.
THE HIMALAYAS: A TURNING POINT
In 2009, as I sat on the tarmac in New York ready to take off on my first solo expedition to Nepal, I remember calling a friend and asking him if I had made a mistake. I was risking it all leaving the comfort of the studio – not to mention steady work – yet I felt something pulling me away, and nothing felt more important than seeing this idea in my mind through.
High in the Himalayas during a brief respite from an intense, unexpected snow storm, I had the most pivotal, game-changing moment of my career yet.
Weather made finishing my journey impossible, but somehow, I did not feel defeated. I looked at the sherpas who had helped me on my trip and how they had forged a unique relationship with the difficult territory around them, and I was humbled by their immense bravery in the face of the tallest mountains in the world. I owed them my life, quite literally, but to them it was all in a day’s work.
I promised myself that from that point on, my career would be about telling stories like those of the sherpas and the Humla people of Nepal who were the perfect mix of grit and warmth, humility and pride, and innocence and wisdom.
Images are, in a sense, immortal, and I aim to create a portrait of our world that allows for a moment of mindfulness as well as recognition of shared human interest.