Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawn Holmes.
Shawn, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After graduating from high school in West Virginia, I moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television. I’m really a filmmaker, but it has somehow worked out that I’m better able to pay the bills with photography than filmmaking.
I began doing freelance photography in college and around Loyola Marymount’s campus. As luck would have it, I ended up landing a few gigs with Paul Mitchell (the hair company). And now I run my own studio with a location in my hometown of Martins Ferry, Ohio and shoot freelance out of my apartment in Burbank, California.
Has it been a smooth road?
I’m new in the realm of professional photography. I’m not formally trained, so I’ve learned everything that I know by just being in the trenches and teaching myself how to get the shot. The largest obstacle that I’m currently overcoming is pricing. I hear a lot of photographers having issues with it. Sometimes I’ll meet with a client and find it quite difficult to tell them my rate with a straight face.
What role has luck had in your life and career?
I don’t know who said it, but the old adage goes “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” If you’re not ready for the opportunity when it presents itself, you won’t be lucky. Not because you’re unlucky, but because you weren’t prepared. In my work, with both filmmaking and photography, I’ve had my fair share of both fortune and misfortune. I was lucky when I landed my first ad agency contract… because I happened to have just recently updated my portfolio with tons of images in the style that the agency needed. So I was able to show them that. I was prepared. I’ve also been lucky in that after exhausting all options to get my screenplay read, an acquaintance just so happened to land a job in development at Legendary Entertainment. I had an award-winning screenplay ready to show them when the opportunity presented itself. Luck is as simple as being prepared. The opportunities are there and will present themselves, but you have to have done the work. You have to be prepared to seize the opportunity.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I have a strange quality that I haven’t found in too many others: I thrive when things go wrong.
Filmmaking and photography (at least the kind that I do) are both collaborative arts. Meaning, you have to work with other people to create the finished product. If it’s the actor in film, then it’s the model in photography.
And no matter how much you prepare, you can’t predict what your collaborators are going to bring to the project. When you’re working with an incredible team and everything is going right, you get technically great work. It’s technically great because you were behaving as technicians and not as artists. The work always appears lifeless to me when everything was done according to plan. I need something to go wrong. It’s difficult and a bit oxymoronic to describe, but it’s as if I need to build something completely unbreakable and then figure out the most efficient way to break it. Because, if you’ve prepared well enough, it’s in those moments of uncertainty that you and your team stop being technicians and become artists. You become childlike and curious. You become intuitive and playful. The work only takes on life when you’ve created a situation that allows for intuitiveness, playfulness, and improvisation. That’s when you really start telling the truth.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I’m from an old blue-collar mill town in Ohio. Football is king. There’s a population of 6,000, if that. The first time I’d been this far west was when I was moving into my dorm room. I didn’t even visit my college. I just knew Los Angeles was where I needed to be.
The best thing about the city, to me, is the feeling. Never once have I stood on my balcony in London or Tokyo and felt that the city was begging me to conquer it. LA gives me that feeling.
My least favorite things are traffic, rent, and – because I’m a night owl – the fact that things basically shut down at 2:30AM.
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