Cash Money and Comfort Zones

Oil Derrick by neillharmer.Photo Credit

The News

Late Friday I heard about two brothers, founders of a major music label, who are now venturing into the oil and gas field.  The brothers are Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald”Slim” Williams, of Cash Money Records.  The company is Broland Oil and Gas, LLC.

Here’s company statement from the Bronald website reads:

“Bronald is committed to working cooperatively with governments and private enterprise to recover energy from known oil and gas reserves throughout North and Central America in an environmentally friendly manner,” and it “intends to utilize both historically successful technologies and means, as well as new innovations and technology, to recover energy resources in both and economic and environmentally efficient manner. Bronald is committed to preserving the environment, promoting worker safety and maximizing the potential output of various oil and gas assets.”

If you don’t know who they are, you’ve probably heard their artists who presently include Lil’Wayne, Drake, and Jay Sean.  Also, they are credited (for good or bad) with popularizing the phrase “bling, bling,” used in the chorus of the song “Bling, Bling

Business sense

Back to the news, my first reaction was a mix of amusement and “whuuh?”.  Upon further thought though, what the Brother’s Williams are doing is no different from Sir Richard Branson, of Virgin [You Name It].

They have it.  In 1998, Cash Money signed a $30 million pressing and distribution contract with Universal, entitling the label to 85% of its royalties, 50% of its publishing revenues and ownership of all masters.

Comparably, that would be like Google agreeing to distribute your BIG IDEA, give you most of the profits, and allowing you to retain full equity in the company.  My gut tells me Google would rather hand deliver a Nexus One with full tech specs to Apple and Microsoft, before they’d agree to such a deal.

In other words, it wouldn’t happen.

The take away

In hindsight my initial reaction was because I didn’t see the connection.  Rap music to oil and gas?  Really?  But then I remembered the post I wrote on getting out of your comfort zone.  Branching out beyond what you know, moving to spaces unfamiliar can lead to interesting, if not profitable experiences.  I’m banking on the latter being a primary focus of the brothers.  Whatever else people might say about the Williams brothers, they appear to have two things in their favor: business savvy, and most importantly, MONEY.

Is this foray into the oil and gas business a gamble?  Sure, but as Mark Cuban says, “No balls, no babies.”  If they do well they’ll be called “geniuses.”  If not Chapter 11 and on to the next one.  Also, because Broland is an LLC, i.e. a limited liability company, the Williams brothers are only liable up to their investment in the company, baring individual torts.

I wish the Williams brothers much success in this new venture!

Related posts:

Out of Your Comfort Zone, No Excuses

Plus Ultra: What A.J. and Spain Have In Common

Advertisements

Post-study Poem: Ulysses

Thunder Storm over the Aiguiiles de Chamonix by WhiteGoldWielder.

Photo Credit

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson

The above is only the final part of the poem, but it is my favorite on it’s own.  Right now, I’d say the final line is my mantra coming down the home stretch with the studies (though probably beyond that too).

//A.J.


The Bar Grind

bar by slimmer_jimmer.Photo Credit

Hello all!  If you’ve noticed a slight break in my somewhat reliable posting frequency, it’s because I’m stuffing my brain studying for the very important Texas bar exam.  In the midst of this I’m also attempting to follow through on another high priority goal.

Between these, trying to stay in decent shape at Life Time Fitness, and a quick nap here and there; I have little time to contemplate new posts, let alone draft them.  That being said, I will be posting infrequently (hopefully twice weekly).

Thankfully, this will all be over at the end of next month.

In conclusion, thanks to you all for visiting my blog, reading and leaving comments.  Please continue to do so.  I will be back to normalcy soon!

Prayers for my success on the bar, and most importantly donations to my post-bar fund (non-deductible) are welcome!

//A.J.


Placing The Pieces

still puzzled by Ro / wererabbit.Photo Credit

“I am looking at you,
You at him,
Kabir asks, how to solve
This puzzle
You, he, and I?”

Kabir

A puzzle

Like the above picture, I feel like a puzzle.  Not in the sense that I am a complex person (I am not a simple one, either), but rather that unlike Mr. Puzzle Man up top, I am not whole.  “Wholeness” meaning there are some things still left undone.  Pieces to place.  I feel like I am almost there.

It has been quite some time since I began or completed a puzzle (unless Legos count), but I remember getting in that “zone” as a child, where my total focus was on putting the pieces together.  I built my frame and then went to work on the middle, pushing towards the center.  An accurate view of my post-college life.

Broadly I view my life as a bunch of puzzles.  A series, building to an image still hard to make out.  Visually I imagine boxes of puzzles representing different parts of your development.  So maybe birth to toddler years, the elementary years, middle school (if you had it) through high school, and then college, and on (law school and my early 20’s).  However it is you view your life in retrospect, starting from today.

In any event, I’m not writing to lament about what I have NOT done, but rather to share my love of the process–in trying to get “there” (this being entirely subjective to the person).  To love the inevitable bumps in the road, the set-backs, and re-adjustments that life throws at you.  This is not a recent development.  Looking back on my life I have always been a planner–not the Type-A, exact detail planner–more generalized, and with bullet points. I knew goals were best achieved by steps.  Things more often than not had to occur a certain way.  And I had an appreciation–begrudgingly so–for it.

The process

It was only during law school (age 23 to 25), where I believe my professional self was refined, that I fell in love with the process of getting there.  This was largely due to gaining a solid sense of direction… which was a result of my continued maturity and developing a deep understanding of my own capabilities.  Also, I cannot discount that effect of being exposed to people that were “there” and establishing relationships with them.  They can offer the prospective of someone who has made mistakes, who has had uncontrollable set-backs–most likely ones similar to you–and made it.  This is especially so when we tackle those critical life or career objectives.

Here’s a personal anecdote:

During October of 2008 I learned that I had not passed the Texas bar.  For anyone who has taken any bar exam, or known someone who has, the process to prepare was not what I would call fun.  Still it was necessary, and when I got negative results I was understandably disappointed.  I had reached a major road block, and I was down.

Nothing my parents said could shake the feeling of failure in my mind.  The previous spring I had began developing a relationship with an attorney, a partner at a large law firm in Austin, whose practice area I wished to enter.  He knew I had taken the bar, and the results were public, so there was no use in hiding.  I emailed him to share the news, and within the hour I got an unexpected response.

In short–he stated that he understood what I was going through, and that he had also not passed the first time around.  Almost immediately I felt the feelings I had been carrying dissipate, replaced with a renewed drive.  This was not the end of the road.  I would push on.

Placing the pieces

True love, as I have been fortunate enough to see first hand, takes commitment, patience, and understanding.  The same applies with your own life and the process of getting where you want to go.  With the latter element–understanding–especially.  It is an understanding not only that all things do not come when we desire them to, but that the experiences that drive us to our goals are in and of themselves what the process is about.

Put another way: it is the journey, not the conclusion that should be relished.  Because once you reach the end, all you will have are the memories–good and bad.  And time has a way of merging both into experience.

Learn to love the process, and the rest with fall into place.

//A.J.


Interview Series: Jonathan Allen

“Being in the mindset of a freelancer, you have to hustle constantly, and being around others becomes infectious.”

The other day I spoke with a friend from high school (Go Jags), Jonathan Allen.  A freelance photographer, Jonathan is steadily increasing his body of work on the local and national level.  In this first interview of 2010, Jonathan talks about the joys of freelancing, Craigslist ads, networking, skill-building,  career uncertainty and staying focused.

Bio: Jonathan Allen

I was born and raised here in Austin.  I’ve actually never left.  I guess I’m part of a rare breed now, as people constantly point out to me.  After graduating high school here in 2001, I went to UT for a couple years studying various things, and ended up taking photography courses at ACC.  I studied there for almost four years before breaking off into the field in 2006.
 

When did you first know you were interested in photography as a profession?
 

When I took my first photography class at UT, it really was just a minor interest for me, and my primary motivation for taking the class was to use my camera and compare the quality of my work against others.  I did pretty well in the class and really enjoyed the act of using my camera.  I was also really bored with my other studies and kind of fed up with the big university mentality.  That style of learning just wasn’t for me.

I learned that ACC had a great photography program, and I had been tinkering with the idea of leaving UT; so I quit and enrolled in classes at ACC, which I thought at the time would be temporary.  I spent the next three and a half years immersed in classes in the photography department.  I took every class I could sign up for, and worked on every area of my technical skills that I could.   It was through my many great teachers that I learned exactly what could be achieved with photography as a profession.  By the time I was done with school there, I had a really good idea of what steps I would need to take to achieve my goals.

What was the process you took to arrive where you are today?
 

The first step was the academic part.  Again, I took every class I could and tried to make the absolute most out of the education I was provided.  After that, I decided I wanted to assist other photographers in the field, which is generally one of the steps to becoming a photographer.  It pays pretty well, and you learn a ton of skills not provided in a formal education.  It’s very much a trade, and a lot of the  craft is learned from someone who is a working professional.  In order to start assisting, I emailed every photographer I could in Austin to see if they had any work available. I got a few hits and worked some one off jobs.

I had two good friends who were working assistants at the time, and they referred lots of work to me.  One of those referrals landed me as a regular assisting with someone I still work with today.  I also responded to one Craigslist ad I saw with my resume, which turned out to be an absolutely lucky find, because it’s turned into friendships with two great people who’ve helped me out in many ways and taught me a lot.  That ad eventually turned into an extremely profitable client which allows me to this day to travel to Chicago and a few other great cities regularly.  For the record, I generally loathe craigslist for jobs postings because people offer way too little compensation, and it’s also very clogged up with people responding.  But, I did get very lucky with that one find, so I guess it’s not all bad.
 

Did you have any mentors along the way?

Several of them.   A couple of my friends, Brandon Barron and Lance Holt, who I went to school with, and who helped me become a good assistant.  Casey Dunn, an architectural photographer who’s become a good friend and the person I still work with regularly.  He’s taught me a lot about technique and attention to detail, loaned me his equipment when I needed it, and helped with the retouching and business side of the field.

He’s also hooked me up with some local clients that I still shoot with on occasion.  Angie West, who was one of the girls I met through the Craigslist connection.  I worked with her briefly in Austin, and then she moved to Chicago to take over as marketing director for an upscale furniture company.  I helped her with retouching a giant catalogue for them, which transitioned into me helping her with photo shoots, which turned into me taking over as photographer for a portion of them when she moved into another department. We still work together regularly, and help each other out.

How did you arrive at Public School?

At the end of 2007, Casey was sharing a studio with a friend who was running an art gallery out of it.  His friend decided to leave, so Casey wanted to find others to move into the studio with him to share rent.  I was doing a ton of retouching at the time, and I loathed working from home.  So I moved in along with a couple others.  Eventually we expanded, others came in and left, we consolidated, it finally got to the correct number of people who were all interested in working together in a kind of shared space.  We tinkered with the idea of being a co-op, and eventually the name Public School was thrown out earlier this year.

The branding came shortly after, we setup a blog, and it really took off.  Now it’s a pretty well known collective, and we get thousands of hits on the web site each month.  We moved into a new studio space last June, which has become a really great work environment.

Y’all are located on Austin’s Eastside, right?  That seems to be the creative hub in town.

It’s a great place to be — I love working out of a studio in such a great location.  I’m able to walk to lunch or to pick up coffee. And it’s a great place to have clients over. We throw networking parties fairly regularly at our place, and the turn out is always really great.

Can you describe how the collective is set up? (Ex. Formalized agreement)

We really have no formal agreements. It’s just a space where a bunch of friends can work together, collaborate on occasion, and help each other out with their work.  Bounce ideas around.  It’s also a really cheap way to have office space.  We are trying to become more formal with the way we work, and we’re starting to have regular meetings to come up with ideas for ways to push and promote our collective better.

What kind of support and expectations does Public School have?

We really want everyone to be working on their own projects regularly and be working a freelance career.  Being in the mindset of a freelancer, you have to hustle constantly, and being around others becomes infectious.  When other people I’m working side by side with are doing things like networking, promoting themselves, updating their web site with new work, blogging, etc., it makes me want to do all that stuff as well as I don’t want to get left behind.

What’s been one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had as a photographer?

I’ve love being able to travel for work.  I get to go to Chicago pretty regularly to shoot, and have met some great friends up there and experienced one of the most amazing cities.  At times it feels like I’ve lived there.  I’ve also been to Miami, New York, Aspen, Ruidoso, Omaha, and some smaller places close by.  It can be really hard work and stressful at times, but it’s still the best! I was also really excited the first time I saw photographs I shot printed in a magazine.  And the first cover I got… what a rush! Lastly, hanging my work on a wall.  So much of my work is viewed on a screen these days, that when I actually get a chance to print it, frame it and hang it, it’s really amazing.

Can you describe a moment of uncertainty in the path you had chosen?

Right after school, I got a job as a retoucher in a local photographer’s studio.  I became extremely bored with it and quit after six months, deciding I wanted to start assisting.  It was really slow at first, and I was really broke for awhile.  I was having a hard time getting by living at my parents house, so I was worried about how things were going to pan out.  But, things picked up slowly and I started making money regularly and it was starting to work out.  Nevertheless, to this day I still become uncertain about my future every once in awhile.  Working a freelance career is always uncertain, especially in a field that is so competitive, and sometimes you worry about where your next check will come from.  Still, I got over it, as there is no way I could go back to having a regular job!

Alternatively what about a moment when you felt you were moving in the right direction?

When I started doing my first gigs as a photographer. I often got really bored on photo shoots as an assistant, but when I’m the working photographer, time races by, and I get in the zone and work really, really hard. It’s such a great feeling.  Plus the paycheck are much larger, so it’s much more of a confidence booster.  It’s really nice not to have scrape by.

How important has networking been for you?

Easily the most important part of the work, in my experience.  Unfortunately, I’m not the best at it, but I’m trying more and more each day, and becoming much better.  Every job I’ve done that I can think of has been through some connection, at least the first opportunity to work with someone.  The repeat work comes with being good and delivering according to their expectations.  I’m currently in the midst of trying to retool myself and tie up loose ends to, hopefully, hit the pavement hard in the coming months.  I’m simultaneously terrified and excited at the possibilities.

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, and 20 years?

I’d like to be at the top of the Austin market in the next five years.  I’m really banking on the fact that Austin’s growth will provide a much better photo market over time.  Right now, it’s not the greatest city to be in to be shooting great work.  But I love living here, and would be happy enough shooting smaller jobs if I could live comfortably.  Within the next 10 years, I want to be shooting on a national level, higher profile stuff — possibly be living in a larger city.  Twenty years is pretty far off, but I’d love to have a well established name.  Have my work carried throughout various galleries. And to still be making money off photography.

What keeps you hungry?

The thought of being the best.  That’s my ultimate goal, I believe.  I want to produce work of the same caliber as the great photographers of our time!  Also the thought of failing and having to get a real job.  I just don’t see myself as being able to work on a regular schedule that I don’t make.  I love having my time be my time, and the ability to use it for whatever I want.

Definitely.  Thanks for sharing.  Best of luck in 2010!

Contact Jonathan:

W. jonathanallenstudio.com
P. 512. 785.8341
E. chromaticstyle@gmail.com

//A.J.

First off, can you give me a brief bio?
I was born and raised here in Austin. I’ve actually never left. I guess I’m part of a rare breed now, as people constantly point out to me. After graduating high school here in 2001, I went to UT for a couple years studying various things, and ended up taking photography courses at ACC. I studied there for almost four years before breaking off into the field in 2006.
When did you first know you were interested in photography as a profession?
When I took my first photography class at UT, it really was just a minor interest for me, and my primary motivation for taking the class was to use my camera and compare the quality of my work against others. I did pretty well in the class and really enjoyed the act of using my camera. I was also really bored with my other studies and kind of fed up with the big university mentality. That style of learning just wasn’t for me. I learned that ACC had a really good photography program, and had been tinkering with the idea of leaving UT, so I quit UT and enrolled in classes at ACC, which I thought at the time would be temporarily. I spent the next three and a half years immersed in classes in the photography department. I took every class I could sign up for, and worked on every area of my technical skills that I could. It was through my many great teachers that I learned exactly what could be achieved with photography as a profession. By the time I was done with school there, I had a really good idea of what steps I would need to take to achieve my goals.
What was the process you took to arrive where you are today?
The first step was the academic part. Again, I took every class I could and tried to make the absolute most out of the education I was provided. After that, I decided I wanted to assist other photographers in the field, which is generally one of the steps to becoming a photographer. It pays pretty well, and you learn a ton of skills not provided in a formal education. It’s very much a trade, and a lot of the  craft is learned from someone who is a working professional. In order to start assisting, I emailed every photographer I could in Austin to see if they had any work available. I got a few hits and worked some one off jobs. I also had two good friends who were working assistants at the time, and they referred lots of work to me. One of those referrals landed me as a regular assisting with someone I still work with today. I also responded to one craigslist ad I saw with my resume, which turned out to be an absolutely lucky find, because it’s turned into friendships with two great people who’ve helped me out in many ways and taught me a lot. It also eventually turned into an extremely profitable client which allows me to this day to travel to Chicago and a few other great cities regularly. For the record, I generally loathe craigslist for jobs postings because people offer way to little as compensation and it’s also very clogged up with people responding. But I did get very lucky with that one find, so I guess it’s not all bad.
Did you have any mentors along the way?
Several of them. A couple of my friends, Brandon Barron and Lance Holt, who I went to school with and who helped me become a good assistant. Casey Dunn, an architectural photographer who’s become a good friend and the person I still work with regularly. He’s taught me a lot about technique and attention to detail, loaned me his equipment when I needed it, and helped with the retouching and business side of the field. He’s also hooked me up with some local clients that I still shoot with on occasion. Angie West, who was one of the girls I met through the craigslist connection. I worked with her briefly in Austin, and then she moved to Chicago to take over as marketing director for an upscale furniture company. I helped her with retouching a giant catalogue for them, which transitioned into me helping her with photoshoots, which turned into me taking over as photographer for a portion of them when she moved into another department. We still work together regularly, and help each other out.
How did you arrive at Public School?
At the end of 2007, Casey was sharing a studio with a friend who was running an art gallery out of it. His friend decided to leave, so Casey wanted to find others to move into the studio with him to share rent. I was doing a ton of retouching at the time, and I loathed working from home. So I moved in along with a couple others. Eventually we expanded, others came in and left, we consolidated, it finally got to the correct number of people who were all interested in working together in a kind of shared space. We tinkered with the idea of being a coop, and eventually the name Public School was thrown out earlier this year. The branding came shortly after, we setup a blog, and it really took off. Now it’s a pretty well known collective, and we get thousands of hits on the web site each month. We moved into a new studio space last June, which has become a really great work environment.
Can you describe how your collective is set up? (Ex. Formalized agreement)
We really have no formal agreements. It’s just a space where a bunch of friends can work together, collaborate on occasion, and help each other out with their work. Bounce ideas around. It’s also a really cheap way to have office space. We are trying to become more formal with the way we work, and we’re starting to have regular meetings to come up with ideas for ways to push and promote our collective better.
What, if any, are the expectations of Public School members?
We really want everyone to be working on their own projects regularly and be working a freelance career. Being in the mindset of a freelancer, you have to hustle constantly, and being around others becomes infectious. When other people I’m working side by side with are doing things like networking, promoting themselves, updating their web site with new work, blogging, etc., it makes me want to do all that stuff as well as I don’t want to get left behind.
What’s been one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had as a photographer?
I’ve love being able to travel for work. I get to go to Chicago pretty regularly to shoot, and have met some great friends up there and experienced one of the most amazing cities. At times it feels like I’ve lived there. I’ve also been to Miami, New York, Aspen, Ruidoso, Omaha, and some smaller places close by. I can be really hard work and stressful at times, but it’s still the best!
I was also really excited the first time I saw photographs I shot printed in a magazine. And the first cover I got… what a rush!
Lastly, hanging my work on a wall. So much of my work is viewed on a screen these days, that when I actually get a chance to print it, frame it and hang it, it’s really amazing.
Can you describe a moment of uncertainty in the path you had chosen?
Right after school, I got a job as a retoucher in a local photographer’s studio. I became extremely bored with it and quit after six months, deciding I wanted to start assisting. It was really slow at first, and I was really broke for awhile. I was having a hard time getting by living at my parents house, so I was worried about how things were going to pan out. But, things picked up slowly and I started making money regularly and it was starting to work out. Nevertheless, to this day I still become uncertain about my future every once in awhile. Working a freelance career is always uncertain, especially in a field that is so competitive, and sometimes you worry about where your next check will come from. Still, I get over it, as there is no way I could go back to having a regular job!
Alternatively what about a moment when you felt you were moving in the right direction?
When I started doing my first gigs as a photographer. I often got really bored on photo shoots as an assistant, but when I’m the working photographer, time races by, and I get in the zone and work really, really hard. It’s such a great feeling. Plus the paycheck are much larger, so it’s much more of a confidence booster. It’s really nice not to have scrape by.
How important has networking been for you?
Easily the most important part of the work, in my experience. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at it, but I’m trying more and more each day, and becoming much better. Every job I’ve done that I can think of has been through some connection, at least the first opportunity to work with someone. The repeat work comes with being good and delivering according to their expectations. I’m currently in the midst of trying to retool myself and tie up the loose ends I need to, to hopefully hit the pavement hard in the coming months. I’m simultaneously terrified and excited at the possibilities.
What has been your experience in current downtown?
It’s a great place to be — I love working out of a studio in such a great location. I’m able to walk to lunch or to pick up coffee. And it’s a great place to have clients over. We throw networking parties fairly regularly at our place, and the turn out is always really great.
Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, and 20 years?
I’d like to be at the top of the Austin market in the next five years. I’m really banking on the fact that Austin’s growth will provide a much better photo market over time. Right now, it’s not the greatest city to be in to be shooting great work. But I love living here, and would be happy enough shooting smaller jobs if I could live comfortably. Within the next 10 years, I want to be shooting on a national level, higher profile stuff — possibly be living in a larger city. 20 years is pretty far off, but I’d love to have a well established name. Have my work carried throughout various galleries. And to still be making money off photography.
What keeps you hungry?
The thought of being the best. That’s my ultimate goal I believe. I want to produce work of the same caliber as the great photographers of our time! Also the thought of failing and having to get a real job. I just don’t see myself as being able to work on a regular schedule that I don’t make. I love having my time be my time, and the ability to use it for whatever I want.
Reply
 
Forward
 
Invite Jonathan Allen to chat
   
Reply
|

Alfred L. Bingham Jr.

to Jonathan

show details Jan 11 (3 days ago)
 
Jonathan,

Awesome, thanks!  We’ll have to catch up at Thunderbird this month.

Peace.

//A.J. Bingham

Connect with me on…
Blog: readaj.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/aj_bingham
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ajbingham

– Show quoted text –
On Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 6:08 PM, Jonathan Allen <chromaticstyle@gmail.com> wrote:
Hey man,
Sorry this took so long. I had it 90% done, then got busy, and I guess I just forgot about it. But here it is, nicely completed. Let me know if you think the wording on anything sounds spotty. Thanks for the opportunity!
All the best,
Jonathan
—–
First off, can you give me a brief bio?
I was born and raised here in Austin. I’ve actually never left. I guess I’m part of a rare breed now, as people constantly point out to me. After graduating high school here in 2001, I went to UT for a couple years studying various things, and ended up taking photography courses at ACC. I studied there for almost four years before breaking off into the field in 2006.
When did you first know you were interested in photography as a profession?
When I took my first photography class at UT, it really was just a minor interest for me, and my primary motivation for taking the class was to use my camera and compare the quality of my work against others. I did pretty well in the class and really enjoyed the act of using my camera. I was also really bored with my other studies and kind of fed up with the big university mentality. That style of learning just wasn’t for me. I learned that ACC had a really good photography program, and had been tinkering with the idea of leaving UT, so I quit UT and enrolled in classes at ACC, which I thought at the time would be temporarily. I spent the next three and a half years immersed in classes in the photography department. I took every class I could sign up for, and worked on every area of my technical skills that I could. It was through my many great teachers that I learned exactly what could be achieved with photography as a profession. By the time I was done with school there, I had a really good idea of what steps I would need to take to achieve my goals.
What was the process you took to arrive where you are today?
The first step was the academic part. Again, I took every class I could and tried to make the absolute most out of the education I was provided. After that, I decided I wanted to assist other photographers in the field, which is generally one of the steps to becoming a photographer. It pays pretty well, and you learn a ton of skills not provided in a formal education. It’s very much a trade, and a lot of the  craft is learned from someone who is a working professional. In order to start assisting, I emailed every photographer I could in Austin to see if they had any work available. I got a few hits and worked some one off jobs. I also had two good friends who were working assistants at the time, and they referred lots of work to me. One of those referrals landed me as a regular assisting with someone I still work with today. I also responded to one craigslist ad I saw with my resume, which turned out to be an absolutely lucky find, because it’s turned into friendships with two great people who’ve helped me out in many ways and taught me a lot. It also eventually turned into an extremely profitable client which allows me to this day to travel to Chicago and a few other great cities regularly. For the record, I generally loathe craigslist for jobs postings because people offer way to little as compensation and it’s also very clogged up with people responding. But I did get very lucky with that one find, so I guess it’s not all bad.
Did you have any mentors along the way?
Several of them. A couple of my friends, Brandon Barron and Lance Holt, who I went to school with and who helped me become a good assistant. Casey Dunn, an architectural photographer who’s become a good friend and the person I still work with regularly. He’s taught me a lot about technique and attention to detail, loaned me his equipment when I needed it, and helped with the retouching and business side of the field. He’s also hooked me up with some local clients that I still shoot with on occasion. Angie West, who was one of the girls I met through the craigslist connection. I worked with her briefly in Austin, and then she moved to Chicago to take over as marketing director for an upscale furniture company. I helped her with retouching a giant catalogue for them, which transitioned into me helping her with photoshoots, which turned into me taking over as photographer for a portion of them when she moved into another department. We still work together regularly, and help each other out.
How did you arrive at Public School?
At the end of 2007, Casey was sharing a studio with a friend who was running an art gallery out of it. His friend decided to leave, so Casey wanted to find others to move into the studio with him to share rent. I was doing a ton of retouching at the time, and I loathed working from home. So I moved in along with a couple others. Eventually we expanded, others came in and left, we consolidated, it finally got to the correct number of people who were all interested in working together in a kind of shared space. We tinkered with the idea of being a coop, and eventually the name Public School was thrown out earlier this year. The branding came shortly after, we setup a blog, and it really took off. Now it’s a pretty well known collective, and we get thousands of hits on the web site each month. We moved into a new studio space last June, which has become a really great work environment.
Can you describe how your collective is set up? (Ex. Formalized agreement)
We really have no formal agreements. It’s just a space where a bunch of friends can work together, collaborate on occasion, and help each other out with their work. Bounce ideas around. It’s also a really cheap way to have office space. We are trying to become more formal with the way we work, and we’re starting to have regular meetings to come up with ideas for ways to push and promote our collective better.
What, if any, are the expectations of Public School members?
We really want everyone to be working on their own projects regularly and be working a freelance career. Being in the mindset of a freelancer, you have to hustle constantly, and being around others becomes infectious. When other people I’m working side by side with are doing things like networking, promoting themselves, updating their web site with new work, blogging, etc., it makes me want to do all that stuff as well as I don’t want to get left behind.
What’s been one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had as a photographer?
I’ve love being able to travel for work. I get to go to Chicago pretty regularly to shoot, and have met some great friends up there and experienced one of the most amazing cities. At times it feels like I’ve lived there. I’ve also been to Miami, New York, Aspen, Ruidoso, Omaha, and some smaller places close by. I can be really hard work and stressful at times, but it’s still the best!
I was also really excited the first time I saw photographs I shot printed in a magazine. And the first cover I got… what a rush!
Lastly, hanging my work on a wall. So much of my work is viewed on a screen these days, that when I actually get a chance to print it, frame it and hang it, it’s really amazing.
Can you describe a moment of uncertainty in the path you had chosen?
Right after school, I got a job as a retoucher in a local photographer’s studio. I became extremely bored with it and quit after six months, deciding I wanted to start assisting. It was really slow at first, and I was really broke for awhile. I was having a hard time getting by living at my parents house, so I was worried about how things were going to pan out. But, things picked up slowly and I started making money regularly and it was starting to work out. Nevertheless, to this day I still become uncertain about my future every once in awhile. Working a freelance career is always uncertain, especially in a field that is so competitive, and sometimes you worry about where your next check will come from. Still, I get over it, as there is no way I could go back to having a regular job!
Alternatively what about a moment when you felt you were moving in the right direction?
When I started doing my first gigs as a photographer. I often got really bored on photo shoots as an assistant, but when I’m the working photographer, time races by, and I get in the zone and work really, really hard. It’s such a great feeling. Plus the paycheck are much larger, so it’s much more of a confidence booster. It’s really nice not to have scrape by.
How important has networking been for you?
Easily the most important part of the work, in my experience. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at it, but I’m trying more and more each day, and becoming much better. Every job I’ve done that I can think of has been through some connection, at least the first opportunity to work with someone. The repeat work comes with being good and delivering according to their expectations. I’m currently in the midst of trying to retool myself and tie up the loose ends I need to, to hopefully hit the pavement hard in the coming months. I’m simultaneously terrified and excited at the possibilities.
What has been your experience in current downtown?
It’s a great place to be — I love working out of a studio in such a great location. I’m able to walk to lunch or to pick up coffee. And it’s a great place to have clients over. We throw networking parties fairly regularly at our place, and the turn out is always really great.
Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, and 20 years?
I’d like to be at the top of the Austin market in the next five years. I’m really banking on the fact that Austin’s growth will provide a much better photo market over time. Right now, it’s not the greatest city to be in to be shooting great work. But I love living here, and would be happy enough shooting smaller jobs if I could live comfortably. Within the next 10 years, I want to be shooting on a national level, higher profile stuff — possibly be living in a larger city. 20 years is pretty far off, but I’d love to have a well established name. Have my work carried throughout various galleries. And to still be making money off photography.
What keeps you hungry?
The thought of being the best. That’s my ultimate goal I believe. I want to produce work of the same caliber as the great photographers of our time! Also the thought of failing and having to get a real job. I just don’t see myself as being able to work on a regular schedule that I don’t make. I love having my time be my time, and the ability to use it for whatever I want.
Reply
 
Forward
       

Hati, Thoughts and Prayers

Pray by frozenminds.Photo Credit

Whatever your beliefs, or non-beliefs; witnessing human suffering cuts to the core of us all.  While we each deal with our own daily struggles, great and small, take sometime to think, pray, etc., about those affected by the devastation that occurred yesterday in Hati.

//A.J.


TEDxAustin is coming!

TEDx Lake Como - Como 04.11.09 by Andrea  Perotti.

(From TEDxLake Como)  Photo Credit

It’s like SXSW without the commitment

Does a week of SXSW “Industry” panels and discussions put a strain on your attention span, and your bank account?  Not a problem.  Enter TEDxAustin.

TEDxAustin is a harbinger of the many conferences and panel discussions set for the 2010 SXSW, in March.  Scheduled for February 20, 2010, TEDxAustin (think SXSW’s Music, Film, and Interactive week of panels rolled into a day) will, “unite 300 of our community’s progressive, positive, and passionate thinker and doers to Play Big.”

TED was founded in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.  It’s a nonprofit self-proclaimed to be devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” Invited speakers share ideas, limited to 18 minutes (at most), ranging from the globalized nature of modern terrorism, to political satire, to artistic performances, amongst others.  Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, there is the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford.  TEDx is the newest incarnation.

Whereas TED tends to focus on global issues, TEDx focuses on local communities, organizations and people, giving them the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences.

Hosted at the Austin City Limits studio at KLRU on UT’s (the real UT) campus, TEDxAustin will be the city’s first official TEDx experience (thought I predict not the last).

The theme of this inaugural TEDxAustin is to “Play Big.”  Play Big how? Apparently that’s up to you to decide.  For me it conjures up visions of Austin’s future.  Whether for good or bad, our city is changing.  For long-term residents like myself (well, since the 3rd grade) and recent transplants alike, the future of Austin—and of what Austin will continue to contribute to the world–should be a concern for us all.

While speakers have not yet been announced, given the depth of talented people across many fields calling Austin home, TEDxAustin isn’t likely to disappoint.

Here’s to expect:

  • TED’s celebrated format: A suite of short, carefully prepared talks, demonstrations and performances on a wide range of subjects to foster learning, inspiration and wonder — and to provoke conversations that matter.
  • TEDTalks videos: A minimum of two pre-recorded talks from the acclaimed TEDTalks video series will be shown (these talks are available free on TED.com).
  • Bias-free programming: Lack of any commercial, religious or political agenda (Again, something for EVERYONE).

There’s just one catch to attending TEDxAustin. You must apply, and be accepted, before you can register. TEDxAustin is limited to 300 attendees, so folks interested in attending should register online here. While they promise not to select attendees on resume alone, they are looking to handpick an influential and diverse audience.

Applications must be received no later than January 15, 2010 at 11pm CST. Invitations to register for TEDxAustin will then be sent via email on January 25, 2010.

The cost at registration is $50.

//A.J.

p.s. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Charles!