Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Graves.
Amy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started in photography when I was a kid. I had an interest in photography and would go out with my small camera and capture images of relatives, other kids in the neighborhood and my pets. At summer camp one year when I was about 12 I had a camp counselor ask me what hobby I was interested in and he loaned me a camera where I was able to document the other kids at the camp. In high school and college I was taking photos for the yearbooks and newspapers. After college and traveling abroad for a couple of years, I pursued my dream of going to Art School and got a grant and a student loan to cover it. I studied painting and drawing and fine art photography. During that time I started looking at and appreciating fine art photography more. I went to galleries and museums routinely, looked at photography and studied it and art history as much as I could. What I liked ran the gamut from Cartier-Bresson to Aaron Siskend and Sally Mann. I realized I had a passion for portrait, fashion and black and white fine art photography. During that time I started working on a collection of fine art black and white abstract found images that reminded me of abstract expressionist paintings from the middle of the last century that I loved. I kept adding to this collection over the years. I showed some in Chicago, NY and then after I moved to LA in 1996 for a few years. In LA I showed for a few years at a number of galleries and a museum. I had a solo show at a gallery in West Hollywood, a write-up in the LA Times and acquired a number of collectors. However, I wanted to expand my photography career to encompass commercial photography which I’ve done since 2000. Since then I’ve been working as a commercial photographer full time and unfortunately have not found the time to do fine art projects but hope to resume it part time in the future. As a commercial photographer, I’ve jokingly had to tell people that I shoot pretty much everything except sports and cars because I have little interest in either one of those. I’ve developed more skills over the years to include portraits, head shots, lifestyle, fashion and interiors. I’ve found that a number of clients have needs for more than one type of photography so it was necessary for me to diversify.
Has it been a smooth road?
No, definitely not smooth. Photography is a challenging business. It’s extremely competitive and with the rise of consumer digital cameras and better quality cameras on devices that everyone has now, hey, everyone’s a photographer! Diversification, flexibility, a sense of humor and growing up around lawyers and being able to defend myself and actions eloquently has saved me. And the expenses of the business are very high. New equipment, lenses, and cameras are always coming out and are always more expensive. Especially since the financial crash in 2008 clients and companies want to pay less and are more money conscious than ever before. Budgets overall have dropped. In the last 9 years, my 2 main employers were purchased by media conglomerates and they restructured me out in both cases. The sad reality and my perception is that a lot of people try to take advantage of photographers because they think they can. It’s so competitive they can always find another photographer to do the job for less. Another personal challenge is that I’m more of an extroverted introvert and photographers that do better in the business tend to be more extroverted. I see it repeatedly. I think that to be more successful in photography it requires you to be a good networker, friendly, social, likable and out around a lot of different types of people. I am that somewhat on the outside but my true nature is that I’m more comfortable as an introvert. I’m more sensitive, intuitive, reflective, intellectual, visual and spiritual, for example. So I routinely have to find balance with this. I think many very successful photographers are a combination of being extroverted, great with people and good at business. Their work can be redundant and not particularly interesting but if they are popular with people then they have a career. Fortunately, however, over the years, I’ve had a number of very kind people who have liked me and my work and have hired and referred me. I’m very grateful to them and also attribute any career success to regular meditation and LOL to occasional prayers.
Any predictions for the industry over the next few years?
The trends that I’m observing now are definitely in multimedia where photographers and videographers are merging and many photographers are learning and doing both. In some cases, they’re directors and photographers. All the newer professional cameras have both photo and video formats. There’s also a trend toward more CGI. Ironically, I took a film production course years ago only to learn that I really didn’t like production that much. But I love certain 2-dimensional images and writing. So I guess I’m destined to write and produce photo books. Lol. I hope I can achieve that in my remaining years.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge for you over the course of your career?
The biggest challenge I have is that I wasn’t born rich. Lol. Photography is an expensive business. I have dreams of doing a few projects that require time and money and it’s been very challenging and frustrating that I haven’t been able to achieve them. It’s partially my own fault for not being as focused as I should be too. I like to hang out with my friends and love to watch selected movies, tv shows, and read. But to continue, yes my biggest challenge is financial. This year I had several jobs fall through mainly because clients wanted to save money and hire someone to do the jobs for less money. It was a financial setback. But I have to look on the bright side. At least I wasn’t hired by Donald Trump.
Let’s change gears – is there any advice you’d like to give?
Be social. Shoot what you like and volunteer to take photos for nonprofits that you’re interested in. Shoot events if you can and like it. I think LA could be the event capital of the world. Lol. There are a plethora of them and you can meet lots of people and make work contacts through them.
- Website: www.amygravesphotography.com
- Phone: 3105924175
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: amygravesphoto
- Facebook: Amy Graves Photography
- Other: twitter- amygravesphotos, pinterest- amygravesphoto, tumblr- amygravesphoto
Portrait/Amy Graves Photography