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Life & Work with Ron Derrek

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ron Derrek.

Hi Ron, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
My passion of the visual arts emerged since I was a little kid. As a child, I grew up reading to books by Dr. Seuss, a childhood staple for children’s books. My parents, specifically my father, really instilled the idea that reading is important. Being so young, words wasn’t much of an interest in me, I was more fascinated in the colors and the drawings. My father would sketch this silly drawings in many of my books. Simplified drawings of animals or human faces. I gravitated towards that. Pencil and crayons were my best friends growing up. I’d spent hours throughout the day sketching and coloring things that stood out to me. I’d go through many sheets of paper, so much paper that I would sometimes use more than we used for our home printer. Many of the sketches and drawings were mostly meaningless, either out of experimentation or boredom; but for some of them, I put more effort into than usual. I accumulated so much of my drawings, many that I had stored in shoeboxes on top of shoe boxes. Middle school comes around. I find myself gravitating towards rising technology, the computer. I realize I am not coming out of my shell, but rather staying in? Many of my childhood friends have either moved someplace far or have grown up faster than me. I considered these years my roughest in terms of socializing and maintaining friendship. I didn’t want to go outside and play liked I did when I was much younger. I rather stay home and play video games all day. The computer was my best friend now. I spent hours upon hours sitting in front of my computer.

Sixth grade, 2006, my elementary school friend introduces me to Myspace. He creates a profile for me, and my friend’s list is a few of my classmates in my grade. One of the cool features of this social site is that you can customize your own home profile to your liking. To do this required simply copy and pasting. You would copy HTML code of a specific profile design to your profile code. I honestly thought I this point I was a computer whiz, but little did I know how complex the whole thing is. Throughout my middle school years, I expressed my creative freedom through my computer. Because of Myspace, I wanted to learn and create my own graphics. I was fixated in learning and perfecting. YouTube tutorials were a god-send in my eyes, and this was the age of when the word “viral” was starting to trend. I remember trying my hardest to create tutorials myself and enjoying the process that came with it. I created many graphics and color schemes to make my Myspace profile stand out. That thought stemmed of my fear of being judged by others, as I was bullied throughout my middle school years. This digital art-form was my way of expressing my emotions. I did find solace in it though, as I was grateful that many people were able to appreciate my work at the time. Besides graphical arts, video games were one of my other favorite hobbies I enjoyed. I frequented internet forums and found myself joining them.

These forums were all video game-related, where it was a place to ask questions, unwind, and meet new people. I was the person to go when it came to providing anything graphics-related. Whether it would be an updated banner, avatar, or digital signature. I enjoyed creating for others, I didn’t care how much time I spent throughout the day, as long as I know I’m creating and making something out of it, which was learning experience. I was more present in my digital life than I was in real life, and looking back, those are the things that contributed to my work ethic to this day. I managed to get through middle school and onto high school. I’m still doing much more of my work in digitally in Photoshop. Though I find myself drifting away from it and putting my time and effort in getting good grades. Which I lacked severely in middle school. I’m mentally not prepared for my future or what I want to accomplish in my life. I questioned myself if it’s destined I should enroll in a graphic design school and get a degree there or pursue the dreams my parents want for me to go into the medical field and become a nurse. High school was the years where you were taught to mold yourself and prepare for adulthood. In my head, it was either go the educational route or the creative route.

So naturally, I was drawn to the creative path. I believe it was 2010, my second semester of 10th grade. I’m watching silly videos on YouTube. This video was a group of friends on a road trip, and the cameraman was filming the entire backseat. The backseat had a couple having fun, joking and making everyone laugh. At the time, I thought the content was funny, but what stood out to me the most was the quality of the video. The quality was super detailed and crisp; especially at the time when most people only had flip-phones and 720p or 1080p wasn’t accessible to the consumer base. I wanted this camera so badly. Research upon research led me to it. It was a type of camera called a DSLR. It was a camera that had the ability to interchange lenses. I always assumed these cameras were only accessible to the “professionals”. They were in my eyes intimidating because I was stuck growing up using a simple point and shoot. The only thing I knew with my point and shoot camera was taking selfies for Myspace, now going into Facebook. I wanted it so bad and begged my father to get it for me on my birthday. We waited to look for a good deal, and we stumbled on a Memorial Day sale. The purchase wouldn’t include sales tax, which was the sign to buy it right then and there.

Though my father was hesitant because these cameras were unfortunately costly, he gave in a bought it as an early birthday present, which included a lecture about graduating high school with good grades. I remember this vividly as I consider this a trivial experience, but it’s what sets me on this path that I am on today. My first camera was a Canon Rebel T1i. It came with two kit lenses, one wide and one telephoto. The child in me is filled with excitement. The first day I’m already getting to know the controls, playing around with it and experimenting. I couldn’t believe this toy was in my hands. I took pictures of everything in my room. Many of my first pictures consisted of mirror selfies. But it was the baby steps I took into account that I hope to master in the near future. As mentioned before, I’m a huge visual learner. It is difficult for me maintained an attention span when it came to text or words. Summer vacation is here. We are told we have four months off from schooling because of issues of our school’s track system. There are students that attended school when our “track” was on vacation. The school wanted to combine all its tracks into one; a traditional semester in the fall, then winter break, and semester in the spring then summer vacation.

In my entire school life, from elementary to that point, I never had four months off. I used these four months to study and experiment photography intensively. I was striving to learn the different settings on my camera. Once again YouTube was my lifesaver. All the advices, tips, and tutorials I’ve learned online I applied to my photography. The technical side of things I maintained, but now was the experimentation. The only way to experiment was to have the camera physically with you. So in that case, I brought the camera EVERYWHERE I went. Whether it was for a family gathering or a simple hangout with my friends. I brought it was me no matter what. I captured pictures no matter what, and I made mistakes along the way. But these mistakes were necessary in order for to learn and find the solution to the. Going out and capturing photographs was such a fun experience, but the learning process is something I truly cherish at the time. What I most cherished was the people I’ve met because of photography. My middle school years were one of my most roughest years, and I lacked developing many friendships. Many of the people I’ve connected and developed friendships with in high school was due in part because I was that “camera guy”.

Though I was a shy person growing up, introverted, photography allowed me to open up once again. This was a medium I can express creatively, but also at the same time allowed me to take a step forward out of my shell and socialize and get in tune with the world around me. Over the years in high school, I start to develop my passion my photography as well as my character. My senior year of high school, I am involved with our school’s council and yearbook. We are responsible for capturing our school’s life events and have them recorded for the end of the year culmination in the form of our yearbook. I’ve never been involved in club activities, so yearbook felt right at home. I can finally lend and contribute my knowledge and passion for photography and apply it in school. At this point, I knew I wanted to go to college in the arts. Pursue some sort of art degree and hopefully do this for a living. Majority of my fellow classmates in my senior class were planning to go to higher education to get the “big” degrees. Such degrees like engineering, medical, or business. At the time, I realize I wasn’t a fit for school. Schooling wasn’t for me. I endured school my whole life, and now I have to go to school once again after high school?

As stubborn as I was at the time, I didn’t want to think and assume those conclusions. The idea of junior college or post-secondary education was intriguing. I believe it somewhat eliminated the pressures of enrolling into a university with no clear path or goal in mind for a degree I wasn’t set for. Enrolling in a community college allowed me to set my own pace with an intended goal ahead of me. A degree in Business was broad yet versatile, so I studied for that. Stubbornness has gone into full circle. I was on and off when it came to school. The classes were manageable, but nothing stuck to me. While I’m going off and on from school, I’m freelancing on the side. I’m gravitating once again to my calling. Instagram is the trending platform of choice to showcase my work. This platform allows me quickly showcase my work but also network with other like-minded creatives. It was eye-opening, I realize there’s so much more now in terms of elevating and progressing towards my career path. I’m learning the term “client expectations”. This is not taught in my high school days or was I ever searching for. But now, I am faced with it. If I client wishes to have a finishing product in mind, it is up to me to delivery that to the best of their standards.

In the deeper side of things, I realize that many clients are entrusting you to fulfill their ideas because they like your work or have heard about you through word of mouth. With this in mind, I’m learning to be more appreciative and grateful for the opportunities that were presented to me. I wouldn’t have become the person I am today if it wasn’t for the networking, opportunities, and the amazing people that I’ve come across over the last couple of years. Today I’m still on the path of learning and becoming a better person both creatively and just life in general. Currently on the path to be a “jack of all trades” and work for upcoming or established brands, from music to fashion, both photography and videography. I do suffer from social anxiety, but portrait photography has allowed me to open up and improve on social interactions. In this line of work, specifically portraiture and videography, interactions are just as important as delivering the product. Many of the people I’ve worked with come from all walks of life, and this world is just so vast, how can you not learn from other people through organic interaction?

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road has not been smooth sailing. One of the struggles I’ve faced along the way was my social anxiety. I grew up being very soft-spoken, nonconfrontational, and overall just a shy person. I shy away and minimize as much social interactions since I can remember being a young child. It was usually a case of myself hiding behind either my mom or dad whenever we were at a gathering. Comparable, I would only linger and gravitate to someone I know best whenever there is a social gathering of people I’ve never met before. Overtime as I’ve gotten older, I realize that I have control of my choices. Those experiences of social anxiety, I had a choice to either let it get worse or make it better. And most of the time, it was the former. But now as I’m older, I’m starting to realize that what people think of you at that moment of time is meaningless as it’s just a dust in the wind, and they will go about their day. The more I think about that, the more it was easier just to be me. Those thoughts that were provoking my anxiety, I tried my best to not let them linger any longer that I need it to. When it comes to my work, where interactions are important, often face to face, this was a tough challenge I had to deal with. Meeting with strangers or someone who you haven’t was something I wasn’t used to. What helped me the most in dealing with this challenge is to realize they are in the same shoes as you, as they never met you in person themselves, this is a first interaction. Once that foundation of something both of us can relate to has been established, it’s a smooth road from that point on. Every person is different, and every interaction is different, but the foundation is the same. I am thankful and grateful to have learn from many different personalities, careers, and walks of life through this. This help me conclude that we are not the center of attention and that there’s so much to learn and explore in our life.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Currently, I am both a videographer and portrait photographer. Most of my current work is done on film or is filmed inspired/influenced. I am a huge lover of movies shot on film as medium, and it that reflects on most if not all of my work. I specialize in portraiture work. As mentioned earlier, what I’m best known for is my portraiture work; which is shot on both 35mm and medium format film. I use film as a medium because it allows me to capture the natural essence of the subject. Their state of natural beauty and what encapsulates their personality, character, and emotions in one picture. With film, you only have one chance to photograph the frame. The knowledge of what is learned such as exposure, time, and lighting comes to play. There is no going back once an image on film is capture. At that point of time, it is recorded. My Mamiya RZ67 is my workhorse of a camera. It shoots medium format film. The negative size on the RZ67 is many times bigger than your traditional 35mm film negatives. Because of this, insane detail can be found on an image taken with a medium format camera. This helps me isolate a subject from their environment and capture the little intricacies on a subject’s face or outfit.

I am most proud of the fact that I’ve been able to capture a wide array of diversity in my portraiture work. I’ve met many people who are not from here, whether it’s out of state or even out of the country. It’s eye-opening because it allows me to understand, be more aware, and open-minded with different cultures than my own. I think what sets me apart from others is that I move in silence. To me, there is a start and a finish. Anything in between should be coordinated and planned in order to deliver the best results possible. I am huge on attention to detail and perfecting my work. If I’m off track because of a few imperfections, I tend to stop right on my tracks. I backtrack and assess for anything in between the contributed to those results. Unwanted attention to your goals can be a major distraction. I keep my head down and remove any sort of pride or comparison that can cause issues down the road.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
Books are such an underrated resource that help me with work the most. I’m a visual learner, and books have a plethora of inspiration that can be applied to my work. Many of my books were either gathered from a local thrift store or a library. I have these placed in different parts of my home, so when I am searching for inspiration, I can just easily grab a book within reach. There’s no specific book I can recommend, but almost 99% of my books are visual heavy. Meaning majority of them have full pages of just pictures with very little text. It helps in my case, as I rely tons on visual cues for direction. Aside from books, I do like to destress and unwind through cleaning, cooking, making a cup of coffee, or home DIYs.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

@itsvalentinacy @thisonegirll_ @ashyaworldwide @ca.vaillancourt @joedanrodriguez @soy_nomad @mikanakano @aleahxs

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