The Making of a Photographer
I must start off by stating that it’s a huge honor to be writing for Scott’s blog, given that I picked up my first Kelby-authored book back in 2003 while learning to use Photoshop 7. I should also note that I’ve been reading and envying the talented guest bloggers on Scott’s site for years, so it’s quite humbling to join the roster. I must admit it’s also a bit intimidating … because that very roster includes many of the photographers who inspired me when I picked up my first DSLR three years ago. However, as I reflect on my current work as a commercial photographer, I realize that my journey into photography started long before I ever picked up a camera. I can clearly recall key milestone events, as bizarre and trivial as they may seem, that helped to move me further along a path in the world of visual arts.
The first key moment in my journey took place within the first few days of elementary school when I got my first big art assignment. The teacher asked each of us to draw a picture of our family’s house. As expected, all of my classmates turned in the standard drawing of a square with a triangle on top. Now, I’m not sure if this was because they weren’t pumped about the assignment or if they each lived in a box with a parking cone on top… but I saw this assignment as an opportunity to get the creative juices flowing while busting out my new pack of colored pencils that my mother packed in my school bag. While my finished rendering was no Picasso, the teacher was thoroughly impressed with the amount of detail I captured in my first real art project. This was my first experience of turning a visual thought into a real creation and receiving accolades from another person. In other words, I just pleased my first client! This was something that really provided me with personal pleasure and was the first time I really discovered the joy of art.
My second milestone event took place in 3rd grade when my art teacher took notice of my work and asked me to do a drawing demo at the upcoming art fair. The demo consisted of me sitting awkwardly at a table while drawing ninja turtles as people walked by. It was a bit bizarre but it was a real confidence booster at the same time. There’s a saying that goes something like this, “You’re not an artist until an artist tells you so.” I never considered my own artwork to be anything special but that changed upon receiving praise from an artist with some credibility. It was the confidence booster that I needed to keep doodling, and that’s exactly what I did.
I never put down the colored pencils, and the doodling never stopped. Yet another notable incident occurred in middle school when I sold my first drawing. It was a full-color rendering of Beavis & Butthead for which a fellow classmate offered a whopping ten bucks! That was no chump change in middle school but the dollar amount wasn’t the key significance, it was the realization that art could be more than just a hobby. Shortly after, I started getting requests from more and more peers as I was beginning to see the business potential in my craft.
In high school, I took years of drafting class because architecture seemed like a great career choice that would take advantage of my passion for drawing. It was almost déjà vu when I was assigned to draw my family’s house once again, but this time a few rectangles and green blobs (trees) weren’t going to cut the mustard. I was to create detailed blue prints and even produced a scale model made of foam board. I didn’t end up fully pursuing architecture because it turned out to be a bit more technical and less creative than I had hoped. Nonetheless, the experience certainly helped sharpen my sense of detail. To this day, I am haunted by flashbacks of the T-square every time I create a new guide in Photoshop!
Now entering college with architecture out of the picture, I was back to doodling and wondering where I could direct my artistic capabilities. I still wanted to pursue a creative career but I didn’t want to end up a starving artist. Just as I hit this roadblock in my creative career path, I was introduced to the world of computer aided design. I was working at a small office on campus at my community college when I met the in-house graphic artist. I found myself constantly sneaking out of my office to see what he was creating with computer software that resembled science fiction to me. Either way, I knew it was time to merge my traditional art skills with technology and that’s exactly what I did. I started learning about computers and shortly after, I was building my first custom PC and getting enrolled into the Digital Media program at UCF.
Although my decision to get into graphic design was a bit spontaneous and not completely based on traditional career planning, I knew it was the right decision. I was soon learning about all aspects of digital media including computer illustration, game design, web design, 3d animation, photography, and video & music production. I continued focusing most heavily on graphic design and started freelancing before I finished college. Once I completed my degree program, I set out into the job market and landed my first gigs as a graphic artist which included work at a print shop, a small publishing company and a global accounting firm. I finally made it! Or so I thought…
After working in the graphic design field for several years, there was a problem. I wasn’t completely fulfilled and I needed another creative outlet. Up until that point, I had very little experience with photography with the exception of borrowing my Dad’s film cameras to record weekend rollerblade sessions with my friends back in middle school. In mid-2008, I made a purchase that turned out to be the biggest milestone of my life: I purchased my first DSLR, a Nikon D80.
I bought a camera because I was doing a lot of wake boarding at the time and wanted to capture our sessions just like I did in my skating days. After having my camera for a couple weeks, I met a photographer out on my friend’s boat who showed me some pics he took earlier that day during a fashion shoot. I was intrigued to say the least. He proceeded to tell me about a local Photography Meet & Greet that was two weeks away and I told him to count me in. I attended, snapped some photos of the models who showed up, and the rest was history. It’s been a little over three years since that event and I haven’t put down my camera ever since.
Becoming a commercial photographer was never my intended plan… but I can now see that it was life’s plan for me. The journey that started within my first week of grade school eventually led to developing a craft as well as a passion. With that said, it’s hard to imagine that I may have never discovered what makes me happiest had I missed any of those key moments. Either way, I couldn’t be happier with the way things unfolded and the best part is—this is only the beginning!
Joey Wright is an Orlando-based photographer specializing in swimsuit, beauty, and commercial fashion photography. You can see more of his work at JoeyWrightPhotography.com