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Meet Sherman Oaks Photographer: Brooke Lewis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brooke Lewis.

Brooke, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I took my first photography class in high school and the teacher had us enter a competition and my photograph won second place and was hung up on a museum wall. From that day on I was hooked and I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I worked as a waitress as I put myself through Santa Monica Colleges photography program, it took me 6 years to get my associates degree because I was going to school part time and working full time. Once I got my AA I decided I wanted to get my Bachelors Degree as well and I applied to The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. It was the only school I applied to because it was the only school I wanted to go to. In 2006 I transferred there as a junior and continued my studies. At SVA I began to network and start putting together TFP shoots with models, wardrobe stylists, makeup artist and hair stylists. My focus was on Fashion Photography, I loved clothes and makeup and I loved collaborating with others to create a narrative for the consumer. I graduated in 2008 when the country was entering another recession. I was accepted to be an assistant for Annie Leibowitz but found out while I was in Europe celebrating my graduation. I was due to return from my trip two days after I was supposed to start so I lost out on that opportunity which at the time was heartbreaking. Unfortunately due to my very high student loan payments and the fact that my grandma cosigned for them, after ten months of looking for a job indent finding one I had to leave NYC and give up my dreams of being a working photographer so I could move back home to Los Angeles and hopefully get a consistent job to pay the bills. The life of an artist can be difficult and not financially consistent. Luckily I got back to Los Angeles and found a job at one of the big studios doing post production work. I worked for the studio for almost six years and got myself out of debt and started paying my student loans down. Now I feel like I’m at a place in my life where I can get back to my true passion, photography. I am excited for what the future holds.

Has it been a smooth road?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. I decided to get my Bachelors degree because no one in my family had graduated from college and I thought it would be smart to have something to fall back on. If I could have done it all over again I probably would not have gone on to get my BFA. My teachers at SMC told me I was equipped to start working after I finished their photography program but I had it in my head that I needed a degree. After graduation I had $135,000 in student loans, private art school is not cheap and living in NYC isn’t cheap either. I often look back on my missed opportunity to assist for Annie Liebowitz, why didn’t I speak up and say I would get back to the states sooner? I wonder how different my life would be if I had. My parents did not prepare for my education and both were not in the position to support me any longer which is why it took me 8 years to get my BFA because I had to work full time and sometimes two jobs to support myself. I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 16 and was on my own financially from that day forward. My student loan debt forced me to walk away from my dream. I didn’t care about my credit but I did not want them taking my grandmother’s house since she had cosigned for all of the loans. I had to get a job, any job and fast, which is what I did. Unfortunately, since then I hardly use my camera except when I shoot the occasional head shot, family portrait or wedding. I would love to be able to get my business going again and make a living doing something I am truly passionate about.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and career?
Although hard work and determination are always key to have when chasing your dreams I believe luck can also play an important role. Getting a job today in the current state our economy is in, can be really tough! The assistant position with Annie Liebowits didn’t materialize because I was in Europe when they wanted me to start, although I often look back and think, what if, I still had an amazing month long adventure in Europe and really grew as a person. When I got back to NYC though I was finding it really difficult to find a job. I was living in one of the most expensive cities in the world and towards the end, I was taking cash advances on my credit card to pay for my rent and food. I stayed as long as I could but eventually had to cut my losses and move back to Los Angeles. Right before I moved back I started getting call backs from all the companies to which I had applied but it was too late, I was too far down the rabbit hole of debt. I was not lucky enough to have parents or family to financially assist me. Moving back to Los Angeles was also tough because we were in a recession. I went back to waitressing for a while and struggled with paying my student loans and life got in the way. A lot of Los Angeles is all about who you know and eventually I was lucky enough to have a long time family friend of mine get me an interview at Warner Bros. and I got the job. I was blessed to have a job with them for almost six years but I also felt like a bit like a caged animal. I am a creative person and sitting at a desk job forty plus hours a week was getting to me. I left there and have been trying to figure things out ever since. I had almost come to terms with the fact that my dreams may never be realized and just when I was really feeling hopeless your magazine reached out to me. Looking through my pictures and answering these questions has really renewed my passion and got me excited again. Maybe I have bad luck in the past or maybe I am exactly where I am supposed to be and have gone through what I have to prepare me for an exciting future? Good luck or bad luck, in the end, I think it’s the journey that counts.

Do you feel like there are certain traits that increase the likelihood of success?
Hard work and integrity.

Tell us about your favorite and least favorites things about our city.
I love that in LA nothing is too far a drive. Whether you want to go surfing, rock climbing, snowboarding, hiking camping, go to the zoo, symphony or whatever. There is never a shortage of things to do or good food to eat. The worst thing about LA though has to be the traffic, it can be brutal.

Contact Info:

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