Joseph, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today? Hello, I am a fashion photographer who likes to model from time to time as well. I am also a military veteran from San Jose, CA but am currently based in Los Angeles, CA. My journey in photography all started about seven years ago while on an RV road trip with my family. We visited some beautiful places like the Grand Canyon, the Hot Springs, Four Corners, and my favorite Zion National Park, just to name a few. I was able to capture it all with just some clicks here and some clicks there on an iPhone 4s. My family loved the pictures, but unfortunately the quality was so bad on the iPhone then that they couldn’t enlarge the pictures to frame them.
So fast forward a couple months later to when my friend purchased a Nikon D5300. He convinced me to go around downtown San Diego so we could test out his new camera. Surprisingly, I took some really good pictures of him. I ended up loving the entire process of creating a photo and finding the right light that I went on Amazon that night and bought my first camera; a bright red Nikon D5300. I don’t know why but I will never buy a red camera like that again!
I spent one month watching YouTube videos on photography and building a website/Instagram with pictures of friends, family, and landscapes around San Diego County. Once I finished photographing all my friends and family who allowed me to I reached out to my first model, Morgan. She had a whopping 1200 followers! We shot swimwear at Torrey Pines State Beach. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but we were so happy with the photos that we wanted to submit them to a magazine. I was told about a magazine called Snap Matter Magazine from a family friend, and they took my very first submission and featured it in their magazine. That’s when my entire world changed. After that, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I sold all my gear and upgraded to a Nikon D800 and started to reach out to every model I could on Instagram so that I could continue to grow and gain exposure.
Six months later, after I was promoted in the military, I was told that I would be getting stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Yah, who knows where that is…I’m a California guy. Although I felt like this was moving me further away from my passion, I knew I had to make the best of it.
The first model I shot in North Carolina was Amanda. It was a beach shoot at Topsail Island on a cold 50-degree day. Even though she was freezing on that chilly afternoon, she was still committed to getting the shots. She had loved the photos so much that she helped me land my first big interview, which was for a photography position for Wilmington Fashion week. Little did I know that I was actually going to end up being the head photographer for the fashion show. I never shot a fashion show before, and it was a 3-day event. The first day everyone loved the photos, but I felt that I didn’t produce the quality of work they deserved. So when I got home that evening, I read articles and watched YouTube videos all night long in order to further teach myself how to shoot a fashion show. The following two nights were a great success and I was pleased with the level of work I produced.
After the fashion show, that’s when things started heating up and my work started to get noticed. Though due to my active duty status in the Marines I was only able to shoot on the weekends. I would drive an hour-and-a-half at a minimum, to do collaborations. Then I would come home, work 10-12 hour days Monday thru Friday, then stay up all night editing so that I could be ready to do it all again the following week. But I loved it and it never felt burdensome.
During my final years in the military, I underwent a shoulder surgery that would lead to the end of my time in the Marines. I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life because my plan was always to do 20-years and then retire from the military but my body had different plans. My brother started school at the New York Film Academy in Burbank, CA, for their Film program. I knew I wanted to go back to school, so I applied and was accepted to start in September 2018. So after completing ten years of honorable service in the Marines I started my next chapter at NYFA to pursue a career in fashion photography.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I definitely have not had a smooth road when it comes to photography. I don’t think anyone in the creative industry has. I spent ten years in the Marines where I had conformed to the military lifestyle. To pursue a successful career in fashion photography, I knew I had to move to Los Angeles or New York. I picked Los Angeles because I had been accepted to the New York Film Academy in Burbank, CA. I moved on June 1, 2018, and two months later, I was having the worst luck of my life. I couldn’t find work in Los Angeles and I was living at my younger brother’s house because I didn’t have a place to stay. All in the month of August: my car was totaled right after I had just paid it off, my wallet was stolen twice, my cell phone was also stolen from a Veterans Hospital, and to top it all off I was hit by cars while riding my skateboard and bicycle. This started to have me question, was pursuing a career in photography and moving to LA really worth it? With all that said, it was definitely all worth it. I thank God and my family because without them during that time in my life I wouldn’t be where I am at today.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Gifted Mindset Photography story. Tell us more about the business.
The name of my company is Gifted Mindset Photography. I want to specialize in beauty and fashion, but I’m mostly known for my fashion work, low angles, and color-grading. I think what sets me apart from other photographers is the experience models get when they work with me. I still approach each shoot with the excitement and passion I did when I first started. And that’s actually easy for me because the excitement and passion is still there. I also ensure my models feel comfortable because I understand how daunting it can be when you’re the one in front of the camera. I want them to be free to showcase who they truly are and I do my best to capture that within them. It’s truly a collaboration between my models and myself and it’s important to me that they know and feel that.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I wouldn’t say luck, but more so drive and a lot of hard work. But I also firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and, through God, anything is possible.