Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Thompson.
Megan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a photographer and director based in Silver Lake, hailing from Helena, Montana. I originally majored in Equestrian Science and graphic design. A riding accident my sophomore year led to a forced semester off. While recovering, I occupied my time with my friends in the local punk scene, documenting them with an old film camera, and a camcorder. After a couple months on crutches, I had found a new passion in photography and videography. In the spring of 2003, I made the move to Montana State University and continued to document the Montana music scene in my spare time. I graduated in 2008 with a BA in Media and Theater Arts and Photography and moved to Los Angeles shortly after.
Once settled in Los Angeles, I parlayed my connections made in Montana into a freelance career working with musicians in southern California. My clientele has grown through word of mouth from small local bands to include artists such as Rick Springfield, and Blink 182. In 2013 I began working for independent record label Hopeless Records as a content creator. I’m now the Creative Marketing Manager, commissioning up and coming directors to create music videos for the Hopeless roster, and directing some myself.
In my spare time, I photograph portraits for a personal project with my Polaroid 600se and discontinued peel-apart instant film.
Has it been a smooth road?
I think the biggest struggle any freelance creative struggles with in LA is maintaining a steady amount of work to keep up with the cost of living. I was incredibly lucky early on to find a great home and haven’t needed to move in 8 years. LA is nothing if not expensive and competitive.
Early on I dealt with my fair share of sexism working within a mostly male dominated industry. It’s difficult to find a space in a touring world that’s made up of mostly male performers and crew, without someone questioning your motives for being there. When I was getting my start it was pretty unheard of for a band to have a full-time photographer or content person on the road with them. Making a case for why I deserved to be paid a living wage doing a job no one really considered to be a necessity was frustrating. That’s thankfully changed quite a bit with the rise of social media and a handful of some great photographers emerging in the scene. Collectively everyone has really stepped up the quality of content that comes out of a tour, and fans now expect their favorite bands to have professional creatives on the road with them.
What were you like growing up?
I’m significantly younger than my sisters so I had an interesting childhood in that respect. My mom likes to say that she didn’t know I could talk until I was 10, and when my sisters left home I became chatty, and never shut up. From 10-18 I was essentially an only child for most of the year while my sisters were away at college. My parents have always been incredibly supportive of all my interests, from horses to ceramics to photography. I was unfortunately never talented at traditional sports, and despite my parents mounting a basketball hoop to the front of the house when the doctor told them I’d likely be 6′ tall, practice did not make perfect.
From about age 6, I was obsessed with horses and started occasionally taking lessons when I was 10 after begging my parents constantly. My mom finagled me a job cleaning stalls when I was 12 in an effort to show me that horses were too much work. She figured that one sub-zero winter spending my afternoons cleaning up manure would kill the horse bug, but she couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d shovel for four hours, just to then ask if I could brush a horse for another hour as a reward. The women running that barn hit the free child labor jackpot with me. Eventually, the reward became regular riding lessons with a wonderful instructor named Marilyn. A couple years later I somehow convinced my parents to lease me a horse of my own for a couple years. When I was 15, a close friend passed away, and her father generously gifted her horse to me until I went to college. I would go to school from 7am until 2:30, head to work at the barn until 6:30, and then go home and do homework. I wasn’t a great student academically, and if I wasn’t so focussed on riding and all of the responsibility that came with it, I’m sure I would have been getting into trouble like many of my friends. Instead, I was a pretty traditional gawky awkward kid. I tried out for cheerleading, which was the closest I’ve ever come to trying to do what was deemed “cool” in high school, but then dropped out at the last minute to do speech and debate instead. Looking back, I’m actually pretty amazed at how completely oblivious I was to how weird and uncool I was.
When I was 16 I started to listen to a lot of bands who expanded my worldview outside of Montana. My friends were in a Blink 182 cover band and were the first “band” I ever photographed. I then pasted them into a fake Rolling Stone cover for an art class assignment that was supposed to teach us about graphic design. I started going to local shows around town every weekend with my friends. Most of the bands in Helena were ska bands because the only kids who could play their instruments well enough actually form a band at 16 were the kids from band class. Those friends showed me bands like Sugarcult, Yellowcard, Jimmy Eat World, Sum 41, and when I went off to college in Missouri and was only a short drive from St Louis, I finally got to see them live. From there, my interests became pretty evenly split between riding and rock music. When I broke my ankle my sophomore year and was forced to take time away from riding, the interest in music took over completely and led me to where I am today.
Is there a specific memory from when you were younger that you really miss?
I think my favorite memory was winning my first blue ribbon riding Keya the horse gifted to me after my friend Lindsey passed away. That horse show was really amazing, because when we were setting up in the stable, and settling Keya into his stall, so many people came by to introduce themselves as people who’d had some part in his life. They were either past owners, trainers, or friends of Lindsey and her family. He’d touched a lot of people’s lives before coming into mine. The next day I was really nervous about competing with him for the first time and got disqualified in a jumping class for a dumb technicality that was my fault so I was feeling fairly sorry for myself. Our next class was an equitation class where the rider is judged on their skill, and I’d never placed in that event with my other horse so I was feeling less than optimistic about my chances . When we lined up at the end of the class and they began announcing the ribbons, I felt really down because they didn’t call my name. The class was pretty huge, and I wasn’t expecting to do the best, but I definitely felt like I rode well enough to place. I was patting Keya and telling him he’d done a good job as they announced the winner and everyone who we’d met the night before began yelling and applauding in the stands. It took me a good 10 seconds to realize that they’d called my name in first place. I collected my ribbon, did a victory lap, and then promptly forgot to duck under a low beam on my exit from the arena and whacked my head on it. Other than that, it was a pretty wonderful memory.
So, what should we be on the lookout for, what’s next in store for you?
I don’t have any major plans at the moment. I’ll be a panelist at SxSw in March with several other female entrepreneurs from the music industry, and I’m looking forward to that. It will be my first time attending SxSw as a panelist and not as stow away in a band’s van. I’m hoping to do some overseas traveling next summer to visit friends in Italy and Norway, but that’s about all that I have planned. I generally do things by the seat of my pants and last minute. I’m absolutely terrible at planning ahead.
Hopeless Records is nearing its 25th anniversary and as a label, we have a lot of amazing things lining up for our bands in 2017 which will keep us very busy! I’m working on a few new photography projects and relearning some of the nonsilver processes I did in college.
In the very long term, I’d like to live in a few different places before I think about settling somewhere for good. Not sure where I’ll end up, but I’m not sure LA feels like home and I’m getting a bit stir crazy.
- Website: www.meganthompson.com
- Phone: 406-461-5129
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @meganpicturetaker
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meganpicturetakerthompson
- Other: twitter @meganthompson