Today we’d like to introduce you to Mallury Patrick Pollard.
Mallury Patrick, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in southwest Connecticut and from a very young age, I desired to become an architect. I held on to that through childhood, high school and eventually college where I earned a Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Tennessee. I made the decision not to continue to pursue an internship and professional license in Architecture after earning my degree (all those drawings require more patience than my energy can handle). I eventually returned to Stamford, CT where I would work in Hospitality for a local Marriott hotel. I was on a track towards Hotel Management when something hit me right before age 25. I needed to be creative again.
Over the previous years, even going back to college, I had loved to go to the movies. It was a good break from Architecture work. My friends, screenwriter, Kelly Rothberger, and architect, Michael Walton, and I would constantly escape to a movie together. We went so frequently we started to call ourselves the Mod Squad. Not an original or creative moniker by any means, be we had the right genders and races for it to work.
As more years passed, I found myself continuing to watch films in my free time. I would also start to take the time to explore deleted scenes, watch behind the scenes featurettes, or listen to director’s commentaries. I did not realize I was feeding a passion that would eventually influence my professional life.
Again, as my 25th birthday approached, a passionate call to be creative was very present. There was something inside that was saying, “it’s time to step up, and give yourself more.” I felt as if being a creative professional was more than just a fun desire, but that it was my true identity; I had known it since childhood with Architecture and it was time to stop running from it and let it become a reality. It all began in March 2009; I really can’t explain it, it all just washed over me. I’m a faithful and spiritual person, so I have to mention God at this point. There was a clear path and long-term vision that I could see and feel. It was big and “dreamy” at the time, being a young hotel employee living in southwest CT, but the vision involved moving to California and becoming a professional filmmaker, in particular, eventually becoming a Director of Photography.
Not having any experience, other than being a movie fan, it seemed to make sense to begin the journey as a still photographer. “Still images are the foundation of film, and motion pictures, so do that first.” was the initial thought. I literally pulled out a Mead notebook, went to Wikipedia and typed in the word, “photography.” I scrolled through the article and started to take notes. Along the way I realized how many of the terms I already knew and understood; things like “focal distance” and “focal length.” Eventually, I found myself on Nikon’s website and I was falling in love with the camera bodies and lenses.
Nikon likes to advertise and promote photographers on their site, whom they commission to test out new equipment, so I started to click on links to the work of great professional digital photographers. I learned the names and works of Joe McNally, Ami Vitale, Vincent Munier, LA-based photographer, Cherie Stienberg Cote and other great Nikon photographers. I would start to search for myself and learn about more professionals: Nick Onken, Chase Jarvis, Vincent LaForet. There were countless others but in the beginning I was into wedding photography so I must also mention Cliff Maunter and California-based photographers, Apertura.
I was enthralled, studying every shot in their portfolio constantly trying to reverse engineer their images “How did they…?” I would read their blogs and take notes on their work and soak in the tales of their professional journeys. In about a month, I was giving myself a very quick, crash course in professional digital photography. I could read and study more blogs, but I realized it was time to step up and just go. I purchased a Nikon D90 in late April 2009, and it all blew up from there.
I started photographing friends for fun and for free. I would share the images on Facebook and get a very positive response. I had a small business plan in mind living in southwest CT that I would be a wedding, event and portrait photographer, and thankfully that’s exactly the type of business that would come along.
At the time I was still working in my hotel job with Marriott, but on the side, I started to build my photography portfolio. Within the first six months of shooting, I started to receive inquiries for wedding and event photography and it grew from there.
How did I get to where I am today? I can say I’ve had three solid mentors along the way so far, and I am thankful for each of them, but my first gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever received. Of the three mentors, she’s the only one that’s not a professional artist, though she has the heart and soul to be one. My manager/boss at the Marriott, Erika Sanchez, saw that I was starting to become passionate about photography even while working on a hotel management track.
She did not take offense but realized I was young, and she actually encouraged me to explore the new passion. She talked with me one day, trying to gauge how serious I was about Photography. In the middle of my answer, she respectfully interrupted me saying, “Mallury, I can tell what kind of person you are. If you think that you’re going to save up $10,000 first so that you can get all the things you want, the right camera…and then go and be a photographer, you’re never going to do it. Do what you can do. If you can buy a flash, buy a flash, if you can get that new lens, get that new lens. Do what you can do.”
Those five words are how I’ve gotten this far. Do what you can do. That was seven years ago and it’s the best piece of advice, and it still works. I’ve come this far, now to Los Angeles, by doing what I can do. Little by little. If I can take on that shoot, wedding or event, I do it. I shoot what I can shoot. I earn what I can earn. I share the images I can share and I keep building it. Image by image my reputation changes, my life changes and I keep getting closer to the next goal and the ability to do more.
Every once in a while I look back at the portfolio and can’t believe the names and faces that are in it, but I’m supremely thankful and I just keep going.
Has it been a smooth road?
Definitely not. In 2011, almost two years into shooting and building a business, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. My mom was a real friend, confidant and incredibly supportive of my creative passion. Our family went through the battle together for about a year and in March 2012 we said goodbye.
A year later, I decided it was time to relocate from Connecticut to Los Angeles. That presents a set of struggles all it’s own; just finding your bearings and place within this massive city.
In general, I’ve faced the common artist struggle of raising my value and worth to transition into completely being a full-time artist. Some months present more work and opportunities than others, and there’s usually a non-artist job or fall back that helps fill in financial gaps.
Lastly, I guess it’s a playful struggle: defining myself or setting my niche as a photographer is always a fun challenge. I want to shoot everything and tell every story, but my bank account wants me to find one thing to shoot really well and get paid for it. Right now.
Keep your head up, keep shooting. Remain. Don’t quit, don’t take your light away from the world once you’ve discovered it. That’s what I believe. I have a responsibility to keep creating images and telling stories. It’s my purpose, so riding the waves of struggles is not a big deal in the end.
What are your plans for the future?
I currently see two main paths for my future:
The first would be to continue to grow and change my photography portfolio. I always set goals to increase my image quality with new cameras and lenses, but I am also thinking of simply having a richer life experience through world travel. I can see a new portfolio of work that involves much more travel, photojournalism, and fine art portrait photography. To create more images and stories from places I’ve never been, and people I’ve never met, that would be a very rewarding goal and a path to pursue. This year, I was able to travel to Europe for the first time and I am now hooked on reaching new continents. Next year (2017) I plan to travel to South America.
The second part is to start creating film/cinematography. I always thought of still photography as a step in the process of eventually involving myself in film and cinematography. I purchased a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera at the end of 2015, and I look forward to learning its intricacies and establishing a workflow with it and other necessary equipment and software . Much like I did with still photography, I look forward to creating work, and sharing it with the world and see what kind of energy I receive in return. In this case, it will be sharing short films as opposed to still photographs.
Let’s go backward a bit – can you tell us about the most trying time in your career?
As far as my mother’s illness and eventual passing; the timing was pretty odd and foretelling of how the next 12 months would progress. There’s never a good time to hear that a loved one has stage 4 cancer, but in my particular case, I was living with my parents at the time of her diagnosis. Side note: I like to think that a lot of the best entrepreneurs and artists have found themselves in that situation at some point; living at home. (At least that’s what I tell myself to feel better.)
Fate, destiny, God had it that I was living with my parents right at this moment. I was still shooting and building my portfolio at the time. In March of 2011, I was shooting weddings and in particular, I had the good fortune of shooting a destination wedding in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I was flown down to Jamaica for about 48 hours, shot the wedding and then returned to Stamford, CT. I’ll never forget the timing of this: I returned from Jamaica on Saturday, March 5th, and six days later on March 11th, 2011, my father would ask me to come to my parent’s room. We started a phone call with my older brother who was living in Atlanta at the time. My father was kneeling at the side of their bed, close to my mom, who was lying down, and with my brother on speaker phone he said the four words that would change everything:
“Your mom’s got cancer.”
That was life: one day I was in Jamaica, laughing and enjoying balmy weather and doing what I loved, and six days later my world, as I knew it, was coming to and end.
The rest of 2011 would progress with those two main themes; photography and family. My parents pushed forward as if life would go on, and that all was “fine.” They went to work, and kept up the house, saw friends, etc. I admit, I did not know where to land and how to feel. I understood and felt the gravity of the words “stage four cancer.” Life and death. This could be the end, however, the way my parents continued on, I did not have much of a choice but to focus on myself, “How do I build this business? I’m booking more weddings! I’m happy…I think.”
It ripped me apart. The only word that describes getting through it, though I don’t feel like I got through it gracefully, is “faith.” I am ever thankful for my church home and family in Stamford, CT: Union Baptist Church. While shooting, and watching my mother go through treatment, I was deeply involved in our church’s men’s choir, faithfully attended Sunday services and Wednesday night Bible study classes. I clung to my faith and my church. That carried me through the difficult time.
As I mentioned before, my mother battled cancer for about 12 months and would pass away on March 17th , 2012. What followed was beyond difficult. There’s barely words to describe grief like that or the loss of a parent at age 27. There’s just a huge hole. Everywhere. In your heart and mind. It’s just a hole. You run out of tears to cry. Literally. My body would physically act as if I was crying, but no tears would come out. It was purely the lowest. I didn’t know I could hurt in so many places. Pain crept into crevices in my bones and muscles I didn’t know existed. It was the most physically demanding, spiritually exhaustive time of my life.
But again, to get through it, there was faith. There was also my father. By no means had my father and I ever been adversaries, but he was just a concerned father. He saw that I took a huge chance in leaving Hospitality work, work that I was doing very well, to pursue Photography without much of a plan. That lack of a plan eventually led to me sheepishly having to return to his house. It was understandable that he’d want to know my future outlook and plans. I was not sure, to be honest. While my mother was the voice support and promotion, my father was a voice of practicality and “show me.”
But this is all before we knew what we were about to face. The dynamic changed once cancer showed up. During and after my mother’s illness, my father and I became a team. We had to painfully bridge the gap that she left. It was not easy, but over time and much communication (some of it, I’ll just say it, was very loud communication…) we started to understand one another better.
The reset button had been hit on life. We were now two men that needed to find ourselves and our purpose again. Early after my mother’s passing, my father would share something he had read about grieving and life after losing a loved one. It was a very simple idea. He would share, “don’t make any major life decisions within the first year…” That made perfect sense. Don’t get remarried, don’t sell a house…For me, it meant, don’t move across the country. There was a burning spirit inside of me…well plainly, to get the hell out of there. Though I loved my father, I saw my mother’s passing as a time to renew, redefine my life, and most importantly to progress. Moving would fit exactly into those ideas. But I would abide by the advice and take one year to really make sure my mind and body were in the right place.
All of that actually leads up to 2013 when I decided to relocate from Connecticut to Los Angeles, which I cited as being another struggle in my career.
The challenge in Los Angeles has essentially been starting from square one. I was doing really well in the northeast. I started to have third tier clients; the friend I shot for free——> that referred me to their friend that paid me ——>that referred me their friend that wanted to work with me also. I started to have a name, brand, and reputation. I felt really terrible, but I actually had to turn down work in the year that I decided to move to Los Angeles. Wonderful people and great opportunities that I had to say no to (for whatever it’s worth, there’s an image of a couple I submitted; close to a kiss in a city setting. That’s one of the weddings I turned down. Sylvia and Josh; the sweetest couple and I loved our vibe and chemistry from the moment go, but I made the hard choice that it was time to leave).
So Los Angeles didn’t know who “Mallury Patrick Pollard” was. There are TONS of photographers here. TONS. You’re good with a camera? Yeah so are all these other people. Who cares? So that’s the challenge of LA. How to you crack your way in? As always, faith, but I’ve done okay so far and I’m getting through the haze by saying yes. I’ve kept saying yes. The original advice still holds up today: do what you can do. Also, I have not been completely alone. I have some extended family in Long Beach who run a photo and video studio that have offered me some work. Thankful. I have friends from the east coast who have referred me to friends here in LA for various shoots. Thankful. I made a few contacts through a part-time job I had when I first moved here and through some rideshare passengers. I drive Uber and Lyft and happened to meet the Director of Performing Arts and Community Engagement for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Alison De La Cruz, and I’ve been able to work with them throughout 2016. Very thankful.
So the solution has been to keep grinding. Get out there, talk, meet people and when an opportunity comes along, say yes and shoot, shoot, shoot.
What about “Wow-moments” – any moments that stick out? Any moments when you felt like you had made it?
I certainly believe that you never “make it,” as an artist but I will admit I’ve been incredibly surprised when celebrities have been at events that I am photographing.
I just shared this story not too long ago after we lost the beloved actor, Gene Wilder. The shorter version of the story is that he and his wife at the time, Karen Boyer, were being honored at a local event in my hometown in Stamford, CT. He had lived in Stamford for years and had done some great work with our town’s local arboretum, the Bartlett Arboretum. I had met someone connected with their board a few weeks prior and absolutely lucked into the job.
That was my very first “wow” moment. I got to meet and photograph Gene Wilder on a day that I basically had no idea of what I was doing. That event was the first event I had ever photographed; I had only owned the camera for about 5 months. I didn’t even own an external flash until an hour before the event. That was a big wow.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve been lucky enough to have three great mentors along the way, and I serendipitously met my second mentor at an event in my hometown. His name is Michael Beneville. He’s a phenomenal artist, philanthropist and more. He kindly took me under his wing for a while and I ended up being able to do some great work in New York City, with much thanks to him. I had a second wow moment in July of 2012. Michael had professionally introduced me to the organization, Innovative Philanthropy, and I had the good fortune of working with them on a few occasions. On the third occasion, I went to the IAC building in the heart of Manhattan. I met with the event coordinator I had worked with previously, Jayme, and she handed me the event rundown saying, “okay here’s our guest list for the day…”
The sheet listed the names of oh…Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Katie Couric, Ivanka Trump, fashion designers Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Diane Von Furstenberg. Jayme was all business and kept a straight face about it. I had an internal mind explosion.
Wow. For sure. That event was not, “I’ve made it,” but it was certainly a defining moment of clarity. “Okay, Mallury, three years ago, you didn’t even own a camera and you didn’t know what you were doing, and now you’re standing in the same room as all these people and you’re actually GETTING PAID to photograph them. You’re doing something right with your life.”
Lastly, here in LA, I lucked into meeting two really great guys, Ben Del Guercio and Alex Davis of Pentatonic Productions LLC. In May 2015, I had worked with them on a small project in downtown LA. I delivered the images to them and Ben thanked me. A few months later he sent me a message out of nowhere and I quote, “Hey buddy. We are shooting a Gladys Knight music video next Tuesday. Interested in doing some BTS?”
Uhh…yeah. I’m in. Gladys. Knight. A few days later, I got to listen to the Empress of Soul sing a little bit, watch her dance a little bit, photograph her all day, and even get a picture with her before it was all said and done. “Wow” (being) all over the place.
I don’t know if this all counts as “making it.” I’m just thrilled. I still get excited and geek out and fan out over actors, musicians or celebrities at events. I just like my camera and images, and thankfully I have an eye and passion for them. I never ever imagined that it would lead to being in the same room as celebrities and world leaders.
- Event pricing is pretty solid and consistent – usually $75-100/hr
- Other types of sets – portraits or special projects are determined on a case by case basis
- Website: www.mallurypatrick.com
- Phone: 323-400-7429
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @mallurypatrickpollard
- Facebook: Mallury Patrick Pollard