Alex shares his journey as a photographer: how he infuses fun in his work, strives for authenticity, and his decision to rent rather than purchase equipment.
Leigh Lim: Hi Alex, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your Instagram page, a section (“all around goofy guy”) of your mini bio jumped out. Do you find that it helps remind people you work with that even though the work is serious they won’t be bored whenever they work with you? (Or that’s more on you outside of being a photographer…and with shoots you’re pretty serious and would like to make the turn-around for the work be as fast as you can? Or you’re just a plain fan of using profile images that you know would make people smile? Unless it’s more having to do with the platform? For example your Twitter Bio reads: “Alex Palombo is a New York City based fashion photographer with an eye for fun. Alex’s easy personality shows in his work which always exceeds expectations.” Which is quite formal.)
Alex Palombo: Hi Leigh, No problem at all. My pleasure. This is a cool thing you are doing.
“All around goofy guy” was an attempt to show that I was not just a stick in the mud photog/human. That I had personality, and like to have fun. I feel too many people take themselves way too seriously. “You just aren’t that important. It’s not about you.” I was trying to show that “hey man, I hear what you are saying, and I’m onboard let’s try to have fun while we are getting it done and make some kick ass work together.”
I try not to take too much seriously except the things that need to be taken seriously. I do my best to stay away from drama, which is hard in my profession. A lot of people think if you are not shaking your finger at someone or freaking out about something or everything isn’t on high alert than you don’t care and will do a worse job. I am on the thought process of “those things actually hurt efficiency, clear rational thought, and creativity.” I LOVE what I do when I do it, and I am good at it also-it’s not brain surgery-so lets have fun and if me being a dork at times helps with that so be it.
And yes, I do want to make people smile. I will nail what you need, so let’s enjoy it. Does it remind people who I am? Prob not, because most of them don’t know me. Does it help professionally? Who knows. Probably not, for many of the reasons I stated above. I sometimes think it works against me because people think I don’t take anything seriously and don’t care, which is 180 degrees from the truth. I care a friggin s—load, so maybe the goofy thing is really a protection thing so I don’t get hurt.
HHMM, something to think about.
The thing is I’m not that goofy just a little at the right times. I just think most people need to chill a little and if calls for me making them laugh then I am doing my part and making their day just a little brighter and that makes me happy. The world might be a little nicer if we had more of this. As for insta, yes I consider it more informal and personal than twitter, I don’t know why, however if my twitter sounds more formal I guess it is a good example of trying to find that good balance of professional and what people deem as “unprofessional”, because in this profession there is nothing written in stone. It’s a free for all, until it isn’t.
The irony is that everyone will develop their opinions of me without ever meeting me and there is nothing I can do either way. It’s all editing, I just try to be real to who I am. One thing can’t describe me, and I can’t write a profile of who I am in 14 characters. So I try to write one aspect that I like. There are so many others, even ones I don’t even notice and takes others to see and let me know.
LL: Is there a particular project that your fun-loving nature really paid off?
AP: Yes, I would say in most, however, one in particular was when I was shooting for Fitness magazine. They were a super fun group and we would basically joke around and have a lot of fun. We got great images and all the shots we needed.
Within a couple months I almost shot the cover (which is a big deal seeing how I only shot for them at that point 2 or 3 times) which is because I could do the work but more importantly I think because of my personality. One of my friends now is the former Art Director from there, I just went to her wedding in Atlanta. Not only would she hire me again but she also knows we have a friendship and enjoys working with me because of it.
LL: Why do you think you do the things you do?
AP: Everything I consciously do on this earth (and please don’t read into anything that I think I am on some other dimensional plane or anything such as that) is to make my life and those around me a little better.
Life is hard, really hard at times, and there is a lot of pain-so if I can make it any easier for myself or anyone else why wouldn’t I live for that? I’m not saying I am always successful and haven’t hurt a lot of people or done stupid and bad things, I just try to honestly make my world a better place to be in, in my own way.
People matter, they need to know that. Now if you are talking about why I do what I do in photo, it’s easy-I shoot fashion and fitness, that isn’t real life but if everything is pretty and beautiful and perfect maybe it makes the other parts of life that aren’t that a little more bearable and not as tough. Also the crew I work with becomes a mini family which is something I didn’t have growing up(emotionally), so I get to create it making beautiful images.
In addition, I get to build and control my world in the view finder of the camera. I get to control the chaos that is our world and put my creation down on paper(print). Who wouldn’t want to be able to create a beautiful world where everyone looks good and life is a dream. It’s not reality but helps us deal with it for a minute or two.
LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?
AP: BUSTING MY ASS. haha. But really. Knowing I am as good or better than most of the people working out there. And an incredible stubbornness to not quit. There are two ways I can answer this: 1. the actual steps I did. 2. Actually how I feel I got to where I am.
- Actual steps: Took a photo class in 12th grade and decided it was for me because I could not paint or draw and architecture was too much math and not creative enough. Went to art school, graduated, had odd jobs while I tried to assist. (Even was a guinea pig for a medication test-I don’t recommend that).
Eventually interned for free at a prominent photo studio in NYC, got hired full time, got fired, started working at another prominent photo studio part time while also working at a prominent EQ rental company as I tried to photo assist. Eventual left those and photo and production assisted for a while (long while), did odd other things that all were in the industry (ie be a driver for talent etc.), eventually made a living assisting photogs, always test shooting, watching and learning, and trying to meet people.
Pounded the pavement, got a break here and there and got hired here and there. And repeated that, until I was just shooting. And got a buttload of help along the way.
- How I feel I got there: Again believing in myself and my talent, being stubborn as hell to persist when everything else said no. (including myself). Trying to be the best person I can be and ALWAYS working on myself. Do my best to get out of the way of myself (I have been my biggest hindrance —- ah the irony…..ha). Accept help, try to stay positive and live a healthy life. And most importantly, accept who I am and use my strengths to get around my weaknesses and turn some of those perceived weaknesses in to strengths. For me and I can’t stress this enough, always work to be better while being a good person. And have fun doing it. If you no longer are loving it, what’s the point?
I don’t have any mentors (which has made my path a little harder), however if there was one person that I owe so much to (and I prob could have asked him to be a mentor, but my pride is one of those things that not only works for me but that sometimes gets in my way as in this case), is the celebrity photographer Timothy White. I assisted him for a number of years and what I learned from him from assisting, working, and being my friend is immeasurable, from every aspect of learning about being a photog.
Of course I did all this by observing because I didn’t have the courage to just ask for him to be my mentor. (Which in itself is another great lesson-ASK FOR HELP). It is so not just about taking a picture or knowing lighting. Anyone can get that. Let’s put it this way, I still use his advice, incorporate his process, and think about his perspective every day and not just in my career.
LL: You mentioned that you constantly were trying to be the best person you can be as well as working on yourself. Were there specific areas that you really struggled getting together?
AP: Haha. Yes, always trying to be better. There are many areas that I have (and still do) struggle with. But before I answer the next part I want to add, and this is important: is that everything has a plus and minus, a positive and a negative, and that it is really just how the thing is being applied that determines that.
I will give an example. My hard time asking people for help. It makes my life harder as I am doing everything on my own — however the positive in other aspects of my life is that it teaches me to be self-sufficient and if things fall apart I am confident in knowing how to get things done and am not helpless because I am used to having to learn and do all things on my own.
I’m competent. So knowing that not everything is a negative and even our perceived negatives are positives also, we can accept them, work on them, and use them to our advantage. It also stops us from putting ourselves down.
Now as for areas that I really struggled? Yes, many —- and there continues to be — it’s part of what makes me, me. However, being aware of them and trying to accept and get on top of them and use them — that’s all I can do. One example of an area that I have struggled with and have made great progress with and still need to is my habit of having to do things the hard way. I can’t just do the easy thing, I have to “earn” it. An example would be during my football game even though my team had way more talent than the other team, we had to keep them tied with us so we could win in double overtime. It didn’t have to be that hard, but it being my team, and I the QB I made it harder.
This is a pain in the butt because it uses more energy, time, and keeps you under the radar which in photography is definitely not beneficial. Why reinvent the wheel when you can just make it better and be on your way? Life is generally better when it is easier. Not always, but most of the time. I think most people can agree they wouldn’t want a hard life. Working on this makes my life easier and more importantly more conducive to have a win. Whether it be football games, jobs, relationships, anything. And people want to be with winners which makes more opportunity for more winning which creates more opportunities. Winning also brings more confidence, which people also respond to and directly serves clients better. Of course I still struggle with this, however I am sooo much better with it.
To follow up about the asking for help, yes I am so much better at it. Do I still struggle with it at times, most definitely and a lot of times it is not easy, however I am finally smart enough now to say to myself: “Alex if you want what you want, you need to let go and get some help”.
Of course saying something and doing something are two separate things altogether. You just try to push yourself into that uncomfortable place and do it and hope the next time it comes easier. Again, easier said than done…ha!
LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?
AP: I do not have any particular photo books I refer to. I have a few books I have gotten much inspiration from, (ie Robert Franks “The Americans”, Bruce Davidson’s “Subway”, and Henry Cartier Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment”) however I tend to not know a ton about other photogs and/or familiar with their work and rarely buy photo books. But I def have my favs.
Bruce Weber, Avedon, Herb Ritz, Mario Testino, Ben Watts, etc. I find it is a rare book that you keep going back to. Outside of photobooks there are a few that I like to reread-mostly as a relaxation and for ‘me time’.
Two books I highly recommend to change the way you think and feel, Body for Life by Bill Phillips, and The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Both of these have nothing to do with photography in a literal sense, one is how to get in physical shape, and the other is to get in mental shape-however both pertains to success in changing your body and mind to better prepare you for this wild ride called life.
LL: Were there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?
AP: There are frequently challenges in the process. At least for me. Some may have had it easy, and I wish that on everyone. It wasn’t my path.
Now saying that did I struggle every day and have it as hard as some? No, definitely not. The thing here is that every individual has his or her own challenges and they could be a simple as English not being their first language, or they were born with a deformed hand. Or even as unfortunate and basic as being ugly (and that is a real thing).
The on-set stuff is trying to figure out something such as one time I forgot a stand for the seamless (paper background) when I was on location and had to figure out how to get by without it. That stuff is problem solving and I actually take great pleasure from problem solving both in photography and outside it. So things such as getting creative on how to make a go around or rig something up-to me that is fun. I love that challenge.
My biggest challenges and this is still to today is myself. Getting out of the way of myself. I know I said this before and I will again. I am the biggest challenge to myself. Any issues I have from when I was small to aspects of my personality that help me in other situations and hinder me in my career — those are the biggest challenges.
Look, photo is pretty simple: practice lighting, shoot a lot, and you will develop your style and talent. That isn’t what makes a photographer. You do. Everything you bring to the table from every experience you have had, who you are, what you are, that is what determines what you do. And sometimes, just sometimes, s— luck.
So for me that has been the biggest challenge of my career. For example, because of the tape recorder in my head (we all have one), my issues prevented me from asking Timothy to be my mentor. Now would it have mattered? Maybe. Maybe not.
You can never play the “what if” game, however I do believe I missed an opportunity to make things go a little faster for my career. Another example is when I was brand new to NYC and knew no one while working at the photo studio, David Lachapelle personally asked me to come with his entourage to his premier screening of his first film. I turned it down because I had to work and didn’t want to just leave. Was that an opportunity? Of course!
However I realize now I turned it down because I was afraid to just go for it. Of course at that time I used the excuse “I can’t bail out of my responsibilities”, when there could have been another solution.
The challenge for me has always been pushing out of my comfort zone and taking calculated risks. And I am someone that does take risks!
And the motivation to keep pushing? Easy, I had no choice, nor do I still. I have to live my life this way (until I don’t anymore) the 9-5 corporate thing or whatever else is out there is death for me. An average life, that at the end of the day, knowing I could have tried to do photo and didn’t give it a fair shot, or gave up, is plenty of motivation to keep me going. Even when it is hard. And also please remember, there is nothing wrong with doing anything else — only for me it is. And even that could change by the time you guys read this (hopefully not).
LL: Speaking of ‘risks’, I remember seeing on your Twitter profile photo a motorbike. Is that an aspect of your life that has been ‘riskier’ than most?
AP: Risk is interesting because it is so individual. Not only is it individual, it also can fluctuate between yourself. Using the asking for help example, that is a risk for me in business and other things I do. Rejection, fear of someone thinking I am not skilled enough to do it, etc. — those are my perceived risks. However, if I would decide to take up pole vaulting, I would have no issue at all asking for help. Not one bit. although that isn’t entirely true,
I have no idea how to pole vault —- I would try to figure it out on my own first —- however I would right away get over that and then ask for help. Ha!). So what makes one scary and another totally not? I also have no problem asking people for directions (most men do-haha). That is asking for help though. We can speculate why that is and I have my ideas, however that is another blog….
But as for your question about my motorcycle and risk there. To me I feel no risk. Do I know there is a risk, yes, I am not ignorant to the fact they do present risk, however I feel no risk (meaning I am not scared when I ride — and I love riding). Are there times when I can feel risk? Of course (ie. ice, idiot drivers, metal grates over bridges) but overall I feel no risk. I could compare my perceived risk of riding a bike to people feeling driving a small car is riskier than a big one. It really is an individual thing of what you are comfortable with. There are two types of risk, calculated risk and uncalculated, and one is def smarter than the other. In fact, the latter isn’t where you really want to be most of the time.
That being said, I would argue (and this is soooo under appreciated) every artist that is consistently and honestly pushing and trying to put themselves out there and succeed, are significantly more comfortable with risk than the average person. To put your heart out there, day in and day out with the odds and everything else against you, with all the blowback, to bet your life on that, that is risk. And for us artists that do it, our tolerance for risk has to be higher from the start.
LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or ‘practice pack’ for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like? (Would you want them to go through the same journey as you did?)
AP: This is easy to write, well maybe not, again what comes easy to me is not true for all.
My learning pack from my experiences is quite simple:
- Learn how a camera works — film not digital. 35mm, medium, and large format.
- Find and look at photographs and photogs that you like and want to emulate. look at the pics and take notes on what you see. Try to recreate those pics.
- Shoot as much as you can what YOU have fun shooting, (usually what comes easy is what you have fun with, but not always). This is a biggie and hard: take pictures based on what you think is great, not about what you think others will think is great. THIS IS HUGE (it is what will create your style and what people will respond to), and have fun. If it’s not fun what is the point?
- And then and this is as important as knowing how to shoot (and maybe even even more sometimes), get to know EVERYBODY. It is all about building relationships. Think of it this way, most people choose their doctor based on someone’s recommendation — that is life —why would the photo world be any different?
LL: Artists are known to be very protective for their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?
AP: Artists by nature are insecure, we all are — it is part of what fuels the creative process. Heck most humans are, however artists are maybe more so-coupled with the fact they lay it on the line when they present their work. That can be extremely scary. Or amazingly exciting. It takes true courage.
Look, some people look at skydiving as something they would be terrified at while others love it. With that said, yes artists are protective of their work for the most part. There are a ton of reasons for this which I can go into later if needed.
How would I try to get someone to let go? First I would say, we all need help. NO ONE and I mean NO ONE did it by themselves. You can’t. No one can.
Then I would try to make them understand that the past does not dictate the future and that in life there will be times you are the hammer and times when you will be the nail. You have to put yourself out there as an artist and know that you will get hurt. To try to understand that is a chance you take and have to if you want it.
It is similar to joining the military, you join because it is a good way to get structure, a way out, etc, etc., however you have to know you may go to war and die or worse. If you can’t or don’t want to deal with that don’t go into the military. You will be hurt pursuing the arts, you prob will be taken advantage of — heck I still am now and then (and laugh about it after the pain goes away), but that is just how it is.
Think of it this way: if you have a car you know you will prob be taken advantage of by the mechanic, are you not going to drive anymore because of it? I know this is a silly example and not as painful as things that happen pursuing the arts, but it is true for all things.
It is not if you get knocked down. You will get knocked down. When I was starting out I had a photo agent look at my portfolio, she told me straight to my face I should shoot weddings because I will never be a fashion photographer. (Talk about being crushed…). It is how you get up and get back out there. And if one day it’s not for you anymore that’s fine also — in the meantime try to enjoy the ride.
There are good and bad people out there-and you won’t know which is which until you learn which is which. It’s called experience.
LL: Yikes! I’m not going to even imagine how much that stung. Do you still remember how you reacted?
AP: Yes, you don’t forget those types of things, although sometimes you are better off if you can. It was like finding out someone you love is not going to be with you anymore. First its disbelief, then it’s anger, and then feeling that “I’ll prove you wrong”(which I think is part of anger), and then the hurt sets in. That is the hardest part — it is like getting punched in the face and you didn’t even see it coming.
The best way I can describe it is that you feel hollow. As if there is nothing inside you and you are kind of Zombielike, just empty but still walking. I remember going up to my then girlfriends appartment and she opened the door and saw my face, and not knowing what had happened she thought I looked like I was going to cry. (I can only imagine what I looked like).
For me, luckily, I knew I had my girlfriend there to support me (which is why I headed to her appartment), so what I did was talk about it and share how much it hurt and what I was feeling. I had learned earlier in my life, through 2 other personal non-photo situations in my life that the best and only way to make the pain lesson and move on is to talk about my feelings and the pain. You can’t keep it inside, it will always be there and it will find a way out at inopportune times or you will have to numb it away through some vice. (Hence how addiction comes about).
I am also competitive so after about 2 or so days after coming back to life from being a zombie, my competitiveness kicked in and I got pissed and told myself, “who the hell is she — I’ll show her!!!!”. “She won’t beat me”. It’s cliche, however I am not a quitter. (Again, stubbornness-and as I was saying in the previous question in this situation my stubbornness, which can be detrimental to my success, worked for me). And then you go on with your life.
I don’t know if it ever goes away, you use it as motivation, although you accept it move forward. It may take a little time, however the worst thing you can ever do is sit and lament and feel sorry for yourself and say “woe is me”. Life doesn’t end, nor should you. Some competitors use it for motivation when they need it, and that is another way to turn it into a positive. Just don’t let it consume or define you.
LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique? (I’m hoping you’d be able to share an example or two, relating to either a mentor, or someone who was invested in your learning. The issue you had to get past, and how they guided you and made it easier for you to learn/understand and find the best approach. You can talk about how you ended up going for specific techniques. You can go for a group or a partner you turn to when you need someone to bounce off thoughts.)
AP: As I stated above, one of the things I would recommend to aspiring photogs or anyone is don’t follow my example of trying to do it without help. I had to learn the hard way to let go and understand that you cannot do it on your own. And maybe this goes back to your other question about how to get over hurt and trust people.
I was always afraid to let anyone in because of trust issues from when I was small and my family life. It is something I realized later to really work on including working with a professional psychiatrist about some of these things. I still have a hard time opening up to people I feel are not 100% invested, however I am learning to get over that.
An example is even now, a girl I am dating who is an UX designer for a big e-commerce company took a look at my website and was like “your website stinks” in not so many words (and a lot nicer) and offered to completely remake it. That is a hard thing to hear, because I thought it was good, even though she was 1000% right.
And it was hard to let go and say “okay, I trust you, you know what you are doing — I will go with what you think is best, and put my feedback in when it is needed”. So for me, I let her deal with it and am doing my best to stay out of her way except when needed. It is hard because everyone thinks they know what to do, but a lot of them don’t. For example, my father is a very successful businessman building his own company, however he has no clue how to navigate my world because his rules don’t apply to mine.
As for people to bounce things off of, I have usually used girlfriends although that has had mixed results (some people have their own agendas). If you are in college though, you are at an advantage because your art department/school should have people there that are there for the same reasons you are. Use them. It might be the safest environment you will have, to be totally free. The trick is to just find the right people.
One last thing, in spite of my best efforts to sabotage myself, I had soooo many people help me. I was lucky in the fact that I have met some great people that really believed or liked me enough to try to help me succeed. If you can let yourself be helped you are ahead of the game.
LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a photographer?
AP: For me discipline, drive, ambition, and hustle has gotten me to where I am. Discipline not in the sense of creating one lighting and only doing one thing over and over again (although maybe this would have been helpful) but discipline as in staying the course even through the hard times, when I am feeling low and doing things that I really don’t want to.
An example now (which is easy to decide) is I have a trip planned to Montreal this weekend. I have never been and am visiting my friend’s new lake house. I am sure it is beautiful. I just got called to hold for a potential job shooting Under Armour. If it happens it may be some of the dates I am supposed to be in Montreal. So it looks as if I am leaving Montreal early if the job happens. That’s the discipline.
If you want to be a photog you compromise (which is different than sacrificing-although sometimes you have to do that as well). I always get bored doing the same thing over and over again, so I am always trying and experimenting with new approaches. That is one of the things I love about photo, that even though you are shooting one job after the next it changes. Doing the same thing every day would kill me. I never want to stop learning. The day you stop learning is the day you start dying, because at that point you are just passing time.
LL: What are your guidelines to joining artist societies? (Or would you focus more on ways to connect to the kind of people you’d be excited to work on projects that combine fashion and fitness? And maybe a collective that focuses on photography based niches like The Licensing Project?)
AP: As for joining artist societies, it is all trial and error. Some may really help you, some may be a waste of time. And these same ones may be both at different times in your career. You only will know unfortunately by checking them out and learning yourself.
However with that said, you should ALWAYS put the most emphasis on connecting with the people who are in the fields you want to shoot in. You can be the greatest Photog in the world, if no one knows you, you will still wait tables. If you can join a stock agency such as The Licensing Project, I highly recommend it. It helps you gain exposure, a little money, and to be out there.
In fact, thinking now, I need to be better at updating that. I have been lazy and undisciplined in doing that. (again my issues are coming in to effect why I haven’t).
Basically if a group or something can give you more exposure that is a good thing whatever it is.
LL: Favourite time of the day to work?
AP: My favorite time of day to work is early afternoon right after 12 noon. That’s when I am alert and have my most energy. I’m not a morning person however I am trying to be more disciplined to start early because getting to bed earlier really is helpful for me, I have found. Plus it feels good to have a lot of things done by noon.
LL: How much do you plan before you start a project?
AP: I like to know as much of what I am doing, (direction) before I even step foot in the studio or meeting. I like to have as much covered as I can because I know NOTHING will go exactly as planned, and that is part of the fun of it. There will always be the things you can’t control so to minimize the time to improvise, know the things you can. On the outside it prob looks like I just make it up as I go, but I do not.
I have numerous scenarios going through my head all the time to which I can fall back on. Think of it like contingency plans. The reason why on the outside it may seem as if I am pulling it out my ass is because of my dislike for drama and freaking out about things. It may be madness but there is a method.
Of course every now and then there are times when you do pull it out of your ass, however that is not a good way to approach a shoot. I am not the kind of person who does a bunch of things then waits and sees what sticks. I prepare, make a plan, execute, improvise, be efficient, then get the hell out. That said, even with that amount of effort sometimes it is for nothing, so I am ready if that happens too.
The challenge is the fun part. I never understood those photogs that go in without a clue and have to figure it out as they go, while you change EQ set ups 8 times only to go back to the original one. Then again, that is their process. Definitely not mine.
LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete a photo?
AP: There is no rhyme or reason to the amount of time a shoot takes. Some are hours, some are days, some are months. And sometimes a job that once took 5 hours takes 10 the next time or 30 minutes.
For example I shoot for JP Morgan with some regularity. Every now and then I shoot Jamie Dimon, the CEO. One of the most impactful CEO’s on earth because of the effect JP Morgan has on the banking world and economy. When I shoot him I have 15 seconds. Literally 15 seconds, I better be prepared.
However, that shoot is short, the prep is basic so that’s prob 20 minutes total. The post is generally an hour or so, so that is pretty chill. Another example, from my Instagram is the shot of the guy with the orange tank top on the turf doing lunges with the shadow cutting across half the pic. Setting up that shoot took a long time to prep. We planned it for months, literally. Then it took a number of weeks to get it all together, get the location, had to change models last minute, and all day shooting for that and the other shots we were shooting that day. Then it took a couple weeks to collaborate with the art director editing, and a couple weeks to retouch. All in all that shoot took almost a year to complete.
Every picture and shoot is different. I’ve been called the day before and weeks in advance. There is no rhyme or reason to it.
LL: How would you describe your style of Photography?
AP: I would describe my style as fun, beautiful, and strong. I feel I tend to focus on the subject very much, and really like colors popping however I have found recently I have focused more on monochromatic. I am more interested however on what others interpret my style to be. That I always find interesting.
LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a photographer?
AP: HA! I could go on and on about this one. That all I want to do is bang models and party. That I am homosexual, that I am not a real man. That I am lazy, and don’t want to work. That I am not intelligent. That I am not a real artist (I have gotten this from other artists because I am a photographer instead of painter, illustrator, fine artist…etc., and even from other photogs because I shoot fashion).
That what I do is easy, and that I don’t do “real” work. That I have no direction in life and that I am not serious about my life. That I have no discipline. (That last one was from my father.) Many of these misconceptions cover both being a photog and an artist.
In addition to this, I am a unique case because I am an athlete also. I grew up playing hockey and other sports until I went to art school. So I lived in two worlds, one being an artist and the other being an athlete as sports are still a huge part of my life still. So I have gotten a lot of sh– from so called “artists” about this before they even knew me. Williamsburg in Brooklyn is notorious for this.
I have learned as “open minded” artists like to claim they are, they can be some of the most closed minded ones out there.
LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?
AP: As I tried to emphasis above, I ALWAYS want to learn new things and never stop. I really do believe the moment you stop learning your existence is minimized. Even if it is just what elephants eat, it doesn’t matter. Be amazed, see, and always ask why.
At the moment I am completely half-assing learning French because the girl I am dating is French-Canadian. And being aware of what I do and how to be better at life is totally learning. If you are truly applying your experiences to making yourself a better photog, man, woman, brother, sister or whatever just in that you have enough to learn.
I am also at the moment trying to learn how to overcome my weaknesses and use my strengths (this is a never ending process).
LL: Can you share three approaches you take that helped you become a better artist?
AP: 1. Dealing with my issues that don’t help me (insecurities-becoming confident in myself and my work), 2. realizing that accepting help is okay and no one can do it alone, 3. accepting the process and all its hardships and understanding my path is my path and that is okay (having faith that I am making progress and that it will come with patience and hard work), and 4. having fun along the way.
If you aren’t having fun find something else — this doesn’t mean you will have a blast all the time, (what I mean is if you really enjoy your life when you really stop and think about it). Of course these are always a work in progress.
LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that a photo is finished?
AP: Unfortunately everyone thinks editing is retouching probably because of Instagram. Editing is a skill all it’s own as is retouching. However I will try to answer what I think you are looking for. The first step is seeing that you got the shot in camera. This you know when you see it, I can’t explain it (or prob could if I had all the pics in front of me) but you know when you got it. Then comes editing and that usually is the art directors job. As I said that is a skill to find the best one of what you shot. Usually there are 5 or 6 that could be winners, and you narrow it down to 1 or 2. Then you go to post production and if you have artistic control, for me I like a natural look, so it looks as if there wasn’t any retouching. When do you know you have done enough? For me when there is nothing I can be critical about it with. When there is nothing I see and say, “that needs….”. I can be a perfectionist so when I am satisfied, I know that is when I am done.
LL: What’s your go-to set-up?
AP: My go-to set-up when I had no money was seamless, 1 strobe, umbrella with umbrella sock, and bounce. When I’m on shoots, it usually is some variation of an octabank umbrella with a profoto head, maybe some fill cards/V-flats, some heads with grids, and probably heads on trees (light stands-two heads per stand) and a seamless or on a white cyclorama. Ideally since I prefer natural light and location photography my go to is the sun with bounce, usually a flex fill.
LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?
AP: No, most of everything I learned and used was based out of necessity (and affordability and what I was able to get access to with no money) and what I could get that could work for me professionally. Its not about the equipment however you do need equipment that can get the job done.
I have seen all sorts of stuff used that has produced great work — it is just, what will make your life easier? And that is what professional equipment does. Just makes your life easier. There is always more than one way to skin a cat. (and I like cats..haha)
LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?
AP: Really all I own is my camera, 2 lenses, Tripod, monopod, some maxi stands, umbrellas, seamless, on camera flash, monopod strobe, a flexfill, light meter, and then my digital stuff. Computer, cards, card readers, harddrives, adobe photoshop, capture one, etc. I don’t own much equipment, on shoots it’s either provided for me or I rent it and client picks up the expense. There is usually a budget for equipment.
LL: Have any of your equipment undergone customisation?
AP: Nope, I’m not really a techie. Again I don’t feel it is about the equipment. You can make amazing stuff on a pin hole camera. The latest gizmo’s and all that is super fun for a little, and as I said it can make life easier, however if I need it I rent it. For me I’d rather spend my money on other things-such as a lens that I do need.
LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?
AP: My film cameras were great buys at the time especially my 503 hassellblad. (it’s an awesome piece of machinery), however now they are useless as I don’t shoot film. I haven’t got rid of them, although they do take up space. (I have a bad habit of not throwing things away).
However, as I was saying I am pretty minimal (a large part of that is because I live in NYC where there is no place to put anything) so most of the stuff I have I use, except the film cameras….
LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot? (Are there specific things you’ve done over the years to make sure that you are taking care of your posture and not putting unnecessary stress on your body? Is this the reason you chose specific equipment in your set-up, like laptop stands, tables, chairs? Or is it more about making sure you exercise regularly, and you’d be able to handle anything that gets thrown at you?)
AP: This is a good question because photography is a hard job on the body. It really is a manual labor job. Now saying that, it isn’t like digging ditches, but there is wear and tear on the body.
I also feel there isn’t enough awareness about this issue. With that said, posture and being in shape has always been a priority for me since after college. As a was saying I was an athlete, and still think I am (haha). So being in shape has always been important to me. Also being healthy is extremely important to me. The mind and body are the same thing and if one suffers as does the other and vice versa. And also, posture conotates confidence and people respond to people that look strong and healthy better than people who are schlumped over or overweight.
One of the reasons I like shooting is because you are active, so being in shape gives me an advantage over most photgs that aren’t. And when I was assisting being strong gave me an advantage because I could carry equipment. Also there are a lot of photgs that now have what I call the S body-the forward head, curved midsection, and legs behind them. The look like the letter S from the side. ahha. It creeps me out, so I never want to get that way-even when I am old if I am no longer shooting.
I don’t buy anything specific gearwise, I work out 6 days a week, and play sports. That is the best way to take care of yourself. One day I may buy the knee pads because my knees are shot from growing up playing hockey but hopefully that would be it.
LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage? (Is there a specific part of your kit that you are extra careful in transporting and handling? If you own a Mac, there is a saying that Mac users tend to clean their computers more often…so it’ll be interesting to hear your response about that! And of course your view about wanting to spend time at the beach as frequently as possible while being able to take good care of your gear.)
AP: Again I don’t own a lot of equipment, however what I do own I am very careful with. It is electronics so you have to be careful, same thing with storage, I am careful with it. I also like my things to look and work new so I am careful with them.
With that said I am only going to do so much. Things will happen and I try to keep them out of situations in which they could get damaged, but in the end I am not going to obsess over it. I mean obviously I will be more careful with my laptop than my light stands but that is kind of common sense. I had my iPhone 4 for 4 years never once put a cover on it and never cracked either side so I just try to be careful.
About the Mac saying, I have never heard that, interesting….
I don’t think it is true as I have seen people from both ends of the spectrum. Nut jobs that treat their equipment as if it is baby Jesus and then idiots that rest their coffee full to the brim on their Macbook. I like people that are respectful and care about keeping their stuff nice and in good shape as I try to do.
The beach haha — yes, the beach is not a friend to electronics especially cameras with moving glass. Seriously though, I try to not use my EQ as much as possible-meaning whenever I work and can rent equipment especially my computer. I do everything I can to not use my personal computer ever shooting a job. The exception sometimes is my camera.
But if I am shooting on the beach then I do try to rent instead of use mine, but a lot of times I do shoot with my camera on the beach and do try to be a little more careful. Sand does get everywhere and salt water will eat anything. I am respectful when I rent though. But I am respectful of anybodies property anywhere, whatever it is. That is just part of who I am as a person.
LL: Any learnings you’ve picked up through the years when transporting your work?
AP: Hmmm, getting help or paying someone to do it that is competent is usually a much better way to go. And if the budget isn’t there for that, give yourself enough time and don’t procrastinate. It is usually going to be a pain in the butt. ha!
LL: Do you keep prints of your photos? (Or maybe if there is a request for a print, what size format would you usually have it made?)
AP: I do keep some prints of my photos usually if it really speaks to me I will frame it and put it on my wall. That is usually rare though because I know me and I usually fall in love with something I have shot and then don’t think it is a big deal once I shot something new and fall in love with that new work.
There are a few that stick with me, however I have found I am more impressed with things I do on other mediums that are mine than I have done photowise. Maybe it is the challenge of the other mediums I respond to or the fact I feel I accomplished more because I don’t feel as strong in that medium, I don’t know why.
If there is a request for a print, I usually ask them for a size that they want. 8×10 or 11×14 is usually the norm though.
LL: I notice you don’t put watermarks on the photos you share of your work. Is that because you’re just trusting that people are inherently honest? (and if someone does try to pass your work as their own — it would be quite difficult to do?)
AP: I have found people who use watermarks are not usually shooting the type of work I am shooting. There are a few reasons I don’t do it. 1, Every shot I make by law is instantly copyrighted. 2, I’m not big enough yet (or maybe just haven’t run in to a situation yet) where the court costs of taking someone to court would be worth it. 3, Everything has been done, you know how hard it is to prove you did it first. 4. Unless they are going to make oodles of money on that image is it that big of an issue. (the exception to this if it is the same players doing it repeatedly, then they should be beaten down. Really. Cowards.)
I have seen work that has resembled something I did, you also run the risk of retaliation in my field. That isn’t saying don’t stick up for yourself. Definitely do. However, understand actions have consequences.
What drives me insane are people that get jobs that are copying my stuff. It’s like just friggin hire me — that’s what irks me.
LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your pictures came about?
AP: Sure, first it is worth saying that there are many different things that inspire me when making a photo. But 2 big ones are location and clothing. With that said, I’ll go on…
The Jump – I wanted something dynamic because I had this really cool location. We had all these dirt hills and all that, and because I am an 8 year old at heart and love running and jumping on them and I knew there was a cool shot in there. The funny thing is, is that the jump perception in most pics is usually false in this case it was actually pretty high. I just picked a dirt hill where there was another dirt pile that he could jump into, (you can see the dirt on the bottom of his shoes) or he would have messed himself up pretty good after one landing.
Because the sun was just about over head I had to be careful on how I shot it or the light would be not the most interesting and exposure would be a nightmare as I didn’t want to use flash. So I positioned myself so that I would have the overpass creating a natural element to show depth and create lines and negative space and all that, but also to block out the sun. The lens flare I kept to give it a little something — a little light play that makes it a little more fun.
I also wanted to be under him a little to give a much more dynamic angle for the viewer, so as to make it look more dramatic. I actually shot this from two different angles and distances and edited it down to two pics and let my art director choose the most impactful one. (Here’s an example of getting help, letting go, and trusting another with my work and process-and looking back now at the two finals, she was right in deciding on this one)
Vanilla Star Jeans – haha no posing. I actually try to get my subjects to not pose at all. I feel it looks stiff most of the time and ‘posey’. Plus I am not great at it (most likely because I don’t like it), some photogs are amazing at this, I am not. I like natural and movement and energy. I LOVE energy. This is something I always have to work on with myself giving energy and not being afraid to put it out there.
That said, the model was fantastic and because it was a total 80’s hip hop vibe, we wanted something that gave energy and recollected the old school hip hop movements and more importantly attitude. So it was a mix of having her move, directing her to give that attitude and feeling and her being a great model. Trying to capture a moment. It’s the in-between moments that are the magic.
The Kiss – This was a personal shoot I did with my cousin (who is an aspiring actress) and her then fiancé, now husband. They were coming to NYC to propose (well she didn’t know it) and we decided to do a photoshoot. I’m close to my cousin and don’t get to see her a lot so this was a fun excuse to hang out. It is actually a part of a story we did based on the movie “breakfast at tiffanies”.
There is a scene where Holly goes and lightly kisses her beau in the hallway. I decided to do it outside as around the corner from where I live are all these nice brownstones and would give it a more olden day look. I had them stand where they were and told Matt (her husband-then fiancé) to grab her and kiss her passionately. Which he totally nailed.
The light was going down so I was at a slow shutter speed which is why its a little soft, which does bug me, however that bike in the foreground was just chance and luck and makes the picture. I knew the red coat would pop and it contrasted perfectly against his jacket. Now if this was a paid shoot those cars in the back wouldn’t be there but over all this was a planned shot that exceeded my expectations because of Matt and Rachel and the unknown biker.
As I was saying before you can plan as much as you want sometimes things just happen. In this case it all came together. The soft focus still does bug me though. Stupid light (or dumb photographer, you decide)…haha. This story I did is a perfect example of what I mean by you gotta have fun.
Audrey Hepburn was stupidly gorgeous and there were so many great scenes in that movie, and it was such a classic —- it was something I had wanted to do for a long time. And we had fun. My cousin and her fiancé were totally into it and we got amazing shots. It was just for us and we had a blast shooting all day. You gotta love what you do, and especially do some stuff for yourself, because it’s yours.
Eyes Closed – This was another personal project. I started out in college doing what I call expressive portraits. I love psychology and love to read what is in people’s heads and try to get it out in their image. Who they are. When you nail it a lot of times they don’t even see themselves that way. It’s connecting on a human level that is so beautiful and human even if it is not “pretty”. So this was a series (always in progress) of portraits that I started doing of my friends that I play football with. We took about 40 shots (give or take-to remind me of my film days, 36 exposures) and for me I just sit and watch and let them have their personality come out. And then try to capture it.
With Sean this was him, or at least one aspect of him. He is an orthopedic doctor, you would never see him with his eyes closed or smiling this way at work, being relaxed and light-but this is him. As much as I prefer eyes open, this spoke to me the most. Sometimes it is just a feeling. And again this was a shoot I did for fun.
LL: What are the kind of goofy things that you think defines you as a person? (Is it that you enjoy certain kind of jokes? Or more often you poke fun at yourself and rarely make others the butt of your jokes?)
AP: Haha, I am a big dork. I’m not cool, which makes me cool. Haha. I make a retard out of myself and I tell dad jokes. (even before it was a thing). I do make fun of myself a lot. I rarely do make others the butt of jokes. I don’t find that funny as I know firsthand how it feels to be made fun of.
Unless of course they deserve it….heh, heh…
LL: Was how you built your client base linear? Or are there times that there is a burst of referrals…then sometimes not? (Or was it just about finding the connector?)
AP: For me, my client base has never been linear and there is no rhyme or reason to it. I have met people because I bumped into them out in the street. I have had a burst of referrals from one person. I have found a connector, and I have gotten jobs by just pounding the pavement. The hard sell is not something I like or do so my clients have mostly come from other referrals or people I have known from past working relationships.
LL: So what’s the story with you and salads?
AP: Haha. Sometimes I start craving salads. Either Cobb salads or Caesar. Mostly Cobb, and that is all I want to eat for the next however many days. I usually go to a place around the corner from me, but it was freezing outside as it probably was in the dead of winter, and my apt was so warm. I didn’t want to go outside. I think I ended up going out. Or eating pasta…ha
LL: Next time….off to Andriod?
AP: I was extremely frustrated with Apple because of all their proprietary crap. I use Apple but hate it — they do jerky things to just make more money. Unfortunately, most creatives use apple so it is easier in that regards to use their stuff. And it looks better. (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em-haha)
LL: With your website redesign — was it easy sailing? (Or did you end up adding a number of things you didn’t expect?)
AP: Haha, I thought it was relatively easy, thinking what I wanted was really cool and looked great and was easy to use. Then I met a UX designer and she trashed everything about it. And now I am redesigning it as we speak. Haha. (Although when this blog is published the relaunch will have already happened).
With the website I tweeted about, it took a long time to build, longer than I thought it would. And now I am rebuilding it from scratch again after about 3 months. As for things I didn’t need, I didn’t have to compromise with that really because I actually had my people build it from scratch. This second one though I am using a template.
LL: In your bio — you mentioned that you only knew one person in NYC before moving. (Was it the case? or did you end up finding more people you knew prior to moving? Do you think this is the importance of making sure to keep in touch with people…particularly ones you don’t mind spending a heap of time with? And does this link with your last statement in your bio wanting to get more people to visit as you love entertaining?)
AP: No, I only knew one person. My best friend Mike whom I had been friends with since I was 4 years old. We are kind of like brothers along with one more friend and Mike just happened to be working and living in NYC at the time. Lucky for me because he had a sweet place to live which I still live in (he has since left NYC).
This is only one of the reasons it is super important to keep in touch with people and meet everyone. Mike worked on Wall Street, he didn’t know any fashion people or artists. (This is before wall street people tried to get with fashion people, i.e. models). An example is as follows: there was a college classmate of mine that my teachers loved (they didn’t care for me too much) and one professor got her an internship with Annie Leibowitz. Are you kidding me? I would have killed for that. Unfortunately, my “things” kept me from getting close to my art professors in college and I did not have them as a resource when I moved to NYC. This is why I try to get people to visit NYC. I love to show them how cool it is and I like hosting.
LL: What approach do you find is the best way to serve your clients?
AP: For me it is the same for anything I want to do well at. Care, be a good person, be honest, work hard, don’t half ass, do what you say (stick to your word), do the best you can, have fun, and try to create a positive fun atmosphere.
Find out what makes them laugh, it loosens things up and makes everyone more comfortable. Another is give the client the attention they deserve to their ideas. They need to understand I respect their thoughts and ideas and in return I think I gain their trust and respect.
LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?
AP: I don’t think so….However, I love helping out and answering questions. I am a huge believer in asking questions, the most important one being, “why?”. The only thing that does bother me are when people ask questions that they don’t really want to listen to the answer to, are looking only just to hear the answer they want to hear, want it not to be honest (“sugar coated”), or are just asking questions for the sake of asking questions-don’t really care about answers.
LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting?
AP: No, and posting is something I need to up my game on. I am not good at doing it, mostly because I hate doing it. It is strictly because I have to —- otherwise I wouldn’t have Twitter, Instagram, maybe FB however I am rarely on FB anymore. I try to do it at least once a week, and it prob should be more. I am not good at that stuff.
LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something on Instagram of Twitter? (what process do you go through to make sure that you are not rushing to post something that you would want to take back later? Do you consult someone to bounce off ideas before you make the final decision whether to go ahead with it or not?)
AP: I wouldn’t say I hesitate about posting things, however I do think about it and edit what I post (edit as in choosing images, not retouching-don’t confuse the two) before I post anything. I definitely am very selective about what I am putting up based on different factors.
My process is to see what I have recently posted, see what I have, and decide what would be the strongest next image I could put-then post. As for consulting someone about what I am going to post-no, I choose that myself. The exception is Twitter, I did have a friend handle that, however, I had to stop with that because I found some things about her that made me very concerned about my trust in her.
LL: What’s the one thing you have to put time on —- but have been putting off?
AP: Chasing after unpaid invoices — I have two now that are due to me and have for a while and I need to get them because it is significant money and has been way too long. (one of the reasons I am doing this right now) I have been putting it off because one of my problems is being pushy and demanding things even if I am in the right and it is something that is owed me. I don’t like confrontation in my business and am trying to work on that.
LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?
AP: I am not, although I would if the person was serious about it. I have briefly in the past, however in those cases I feel the people liked the idea of it more than the actual practice of it. I don’t have those other people although I would like to. I am a pretty big self-motivator and am extremely self-critical however we all can use some help. I have found I tend to be very “life coachy”.
LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?
AP: I am somebody that believes in making things happen and changing something if you don’t like it, instead of sitting around bitching about it (which is what most people do). So I think about what is the best and the most efficient way to change or fix the situation and then I try to do that.
Sometimes I get too caught up on it and spend too much time on it though. The things I have no control over I walk away from. I feel I have become very good at picking my battles. I don’t have time to fuss over the things I can’t control so if I am annoyed and know I can’t do anything about it, I walk away. If I do come into contact with it again and this time I can change the situation, yes, I definitely try to change it. I believe in being proactive even if it isn’t in my personal best interest.
LL: Are there certain things you can’t help but ‘geek out’ about?
AP: There are a lot of things, photo, football, human psychology, and useless information. I can talk about any of these things forever, not on any mailing lists (I don’t like to read things online) or anything such as that.
One topic I would like to talk about more is personal accountability. Not only understanding how what you say and do has a cause and effect but also how scapegoating runs rampant and that people don’t want to take accountability for themselves and their situations.
I will give a small example, although I really don’t want to get political. I know you are Australian but maybe you have heard of a policy here that was causing debate, building a wall to separate the US and Mexico. Hahaha. Now I personally think it is absolutely asinine to do that for a myriad of reasons, however I do feel it is absolutely beyond stupid that many people that are against this are for having fences around their houses. What is the difference? Really? A fence around your house is keeping others out and you in which is no different from a wall around a country keeping others out and you in.
People don’t want to hear that though, they don’t want to be personally accountable for the fact that their feelings about fences around their house (“my yard is private and I want my privacy”), leads to feeling about walls. Don’t scapegoat that it’s “them” when it is you. Hypocrisy drives me insane and I use self-awareness and brutal honesty with myself (as much as it is possible to) to improve as well as feedback from others I trust have my best interest at heart.
LL: Got any peers you’d like to mention?
AP: HHHmm, There are some, I can’t remember them off the top of my head. (I prob will once I hit send) My buddy Scott McKay @scottmckay17 does some fantastic work and is completely under the radar. Also two more photogs that their stuff is great that I am buddies with as well are Jonathan Meter @jonnymeats and Stephan Reel @stephan.reel, neither is what I shoot-just photgs that I like looking at.
I haven’t had a “whoa, I gotta try that” moment in a while. There are things I am still thinking I want to try.
LL: What were the last 5 things you pre-ordered?
AP: I have never pre-ordered anything. I think. I have ordered things that were out of stock and waited until they were back in, however that is not the same. Personally I have never wanted an object that I had to buy so badly that I needed to pre order it. I don’t think there would be either unless it was cheaper by pre-ordering or something such as that.
Even the next book in The Song of Fire and Ice series. But I am getting more convinced every day George RR Martin will never finish it…haha. Yes, I have bought a box set before, it was an anime cartoon from my childhood, the Robotech series of the Macross saga, the Robotech Masters, and the New Generation. There most likely been box set books as well.
LL: Are you a big listener of music? (Does your music library reflect the music you write? Can you share some of the artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others in your circle haven’t heard of? songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Or maybe if you were to pick a track/album for someone to listen to while viewing your work? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)
AP: I am a very big listener to music and am right now in fact. I stopped trying (stress ‘trying’ — haha) to write music way back in high school when I used to play guitar. So there are many artists I love and I am sure many people have heard of them, Bowie, Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Notorious B.I.G., Musicals…
Songs or albums that I repeatedly like usually greatest hits of the artists I like, some compilations. I have a serious variety in music taste. I will listen to about anything except Reggae, Country, and then there is the stuff I can only listen to for a little such as Techno and House. One definite album I listen to a ton is ‘All Day’ by Girl Talk. Usually my pump up studio or gym album.
Some things I like reading are fantasy such as the aforementioned, A Song of Fire and Ice series and Lord of the Rings.
LL: What are you reading at the moment?
AP: Right now I am reading the book “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicolas Talib, sorry I don’t have the link. (and it is not the movie) I recommend it to anyone that thinks about how to actually see reality as it is, not just what we want to see. It is tough reading but worth it. Next will be “Liars Poker” by Micheal Lewis, then “The Simillarian” and “Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien, and then “Fooled by Randomness” again by Talib.
That should sustain me for a good while. And then in 2058 when “Winds of Winter” finally comes out, by whoever ends up finishing it, I’ll read that…haha
LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?
AP: Hmm, inspiration I look for just by going out and looking. In seeing. Keeping my mind, eyes, and ears open and taking in as much as I can. That is usually how I become inspired, by seeing, or hearing, or thinking about something that clicks with me. It can even be a belief or a desire. What gets me motivated? A bunch of things, financial status, competition, insecurity, anger, love, (that’s the best one), confidence. I think this is a partial list.
If I am not inspired or motivated, that is usually when I am feeling low, or hurting. When I am feeling that way I try to do something creative I don’t usually do. Play guitar, draw, paint, make some sort of clothing thing, etc. I also talk about it with someone that will listen. I try to also really hear people when they say things to compliment me. And try to feel as if I am productive.
LL: What makes you smile?
AP: Lots of things make me smile. People laughing and really enjoying each other, playing-whatever it is. Right now off the top of my head it is Boaty McBoatface. haha. It is a great story. I absolutely love when people who pride themselves (the science minister of Britain) on being “the experts” or “know it alls” show how little intelligence and lack of foresight they have and have to eat crow. Basically, when they think too much of themselves and think they are better than everyone else and people prove they are asses. Here is another great article about Boaty McBoatface. haha (although what happens at the end does annoy me a lot.)
LL: What’s your view about social media? (Were you reluctant to get into it the first place, or were you happy to experiment and play around with specific social media sites)
AP: I don’t like social media. To me it’s a waste of time. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life — so I accept it because I can’t be a dinosaur. I try to use it to benefit me.
LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment? (Are there ones that you find particularly informative, addictive or inspiring?)
AP: I have 1 because I don’t look for things online unless I have a specific reason to. So I guess even though it may not be my favorite my most often frequented is google.com. That most favorite one is www.palombophotography.com (shameless plug-haha)
LL: Do you currently post on other sites?
AP: I rarely post, and if I do it is only FB, Insta, and to a lesser extent Twitter. Every now and then I will put in two cents on a FB post, but FB is when I am procrastinating and I hate procrastinating.
LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?
LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?
AP: If I can go outside to the park or somewhere in nature that is peaceful and beautiful that can do it. Or go for a run, or a good workout. Laughter is the best, unfortunately sometimes it is hard to find funny people to laugh with.
LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists? (via YouTube or specific collaboration websites)
AP: I don’t know any specific collaboration websites, and I really don’t like youtube, however I love collaborating with other artists. I believe in cooperation over competition any day. And I am competitive.
LL: If you were asked to pick from the photos you have, which one would be your favourite?
AP: This changes most every time I shoot something new. Although now that I think about it, may be, and probably is, candids of good times with either my friends or my family, or both.
LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?
AP: I am someone that definitely has a hard time starting things — alot of time I have to really force myself to do something. However, when I do start I usually become extremely focused and don’t want to stop until it is done.
This questionnaire is a great example. The first set of questions sat in my inbox for a week or so and then I said to myself, “just do it”, (I hate the feeling of knowing I need to do something and not doing it) and I didn’t stop answering the questions until it was done. (not including stopping for eating, sleeping, etc).
LL: For someone coming across one of your photos for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?
AP: In all honestly, to hire me, and want me to shoot for them for a lot of money.
However, with that said, I would like them to take away that I can make a beautiful image and have talent and that it makes their day a little better in some way, even if they get to escape something for a little while enjoying the photo. I would want to inspire them —- it doesn’t matter to what but to open their minds a little to plant a seed of something that could be possible for them. Yea, an inspiration.
LL: What makes your soul sing?
AP: Knee deep in the Caribbean ocean shooting pictures of beautiful people with an amazing crew on somebody else’s dime. Sailing a Hobie cat or single hull in Grace Bay in Turks and Cacaos. Or being around my friends and/or good people and laughing my ass off. Any or all of those three would do it.
LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work?
AP: For me the best way to connect to me is e-mail if you don’t know me. If you know me a phone call or meeting up. I don’t like to send or respond too much on social media as I don’t have any of the messenger thingys set on my phone.
Anyone interested in supporting me, I would like them to know, “Thank you!” and that I greatly appreciate it and mostly spread the word about my work, pass on my details, and if there is something that I can do to help you, I will try. Instagram is probably the social media platform that I visit and respond to the most and I think other people in the creative fields use it more than other platforms as well..
I don’t think I have a “biggest fan”, I do have people interested in my work, however I wouldn’t know who is the “biggest”. There have been people that have given me great compliments, most of that is through Instagram I believe. Most of the people I have found that resonate creatively with what I do has been through Insta, mostly because I have seen their work.
However there have been times also that people have found me whom work was spectacular. It is usually random for me anyway. If there is a way to search it out, I would like to know, although I think it is just a matter of taking the time to go through everything.
LL: Have you found your tribe yet?
AP: I don’t believe I have, and I don’t think I ever will. I do have a very small core (3 people-2 best friends and my brother) who I consider all my brothers and I know will always be there and I trust them with everything I have and will ever have. They are special and will be with me until they leave earth or I do.
To answer your question about a “tribe”, for me I have to say I have found those people a few times and will find them again. As a person I have never felt as if I belong in one group nor could ever be defined by one thing. This is good in the regards of always seeing new perspectives, people, and things, however it also makes me feel as if I have never belonged and always been an outsider.
Truthfully also, I am too curious to stay with one thing-I want to see what is so scary, or what is behind the curtain. It is great when you find that “tribe”-sometimes it lasts months, years, or a photoshoot. I accept that life is always changing, people come and go, as do relationships. I was in a fraternity in college, for 4 years that was my “tribe” and it was awesome. Once I graduated, it went away. Doesn’t mean I don’t hold those people dear to me — just life goes on.
I worked on a shoot for Ralph Lauren years ago. For a week I found my tribe and then the shoot was then over. I don’t see them barely at all anymore however I am very friendly with them if I see them and would hang out. And yes I have had and continue to have multiple “tribes”. Currently I do not because I am in a rebuilding phase and that happens sometimes as well. Most of my tribes never overlap, however that is more of who I am and my varied interests so I attract all different people.
Also, being that I never feel as if I belong I am never comfortable in one group and knowing life changes, I rarely fully invested in one group. I do feel you can be more productive if you can find your “tribe”, just be careful to not become to tunnel visioned. For those that are like me, and never feel as if you belong, accept it, and be good with it and enjoy the groups and relationships you make along the way as you do your thing. Know some will stay with you and some won’t and that is ok. Read “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein, it about sums it up.
However if you are not like me, start with the things you love, and/or where you want to be or do and put yourself out there. You will attract people like that. Contrary to what people think you only attract people like yourself. Athletes hang out with athletes, artists to artists, criminals to criminals, etc.
Put yourself out there where you want to be and the friendships and partners and associates you become close with will build your “tribe”. You have to be proactive though. You can even do it with people who you are not crazy about, however that won’t come as naturally. I really hate buzz words though…..
LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?
AP: The opportunities I am looking for are ad shooting jobs with pro athletes, and jobs that send me away to shoot in the Caribbean. (while knee deep in the ocean…..). Nike, would be a very cool client to shoot for. There are a ton. Ralph Lauren. Or as I said anything with pro athletes.
LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?
AP: In anyway I can. It could be career, physical, mental, how to solve a problem, guidance, motivation, inspiration…there are a ton. As long as they are willing to do the work and it doesn’t hurt me and I don’t want it more than them, I’ll do whatever I am able to do to help anyone if they are a good person.
I am busy so I might not be able to give much or not have certain resources to give them anything, unfortunately I can’t do anything about that. Just don’t waste my time, or I will drop you like a bad habit. However, that being said my favorite is psychoanalytic and physical help. Being a part of someone getting in the physical shape they wanted to or overcoming something that has been hindering them is absolutely awesome!
I believe the mind and body are manifestations of the same thing which is why either one is my favorite. One of the greatest things to witness is being a part of someone overcoming a phobia. Really amazing, powerful stuff. It’s awesome!
LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?
AP: It’s funny, if I were to quickly think about it I would say, “no, I haven’t done anything that amazing as I am not where I want to be yet”. However, that is a subjective, self-critical perspective that is not the truth because it is based on my warped sense of success.
If I were to really take a step back and objectively look at my path (my journey) and to really see it objectively and where I was, how I did it, and what I dealt with, and the risks and gambles I took and the stupid decisions I made along the way, along with the smart ones, if I really looked at it truthfully and honestly — f— yea, I’m beating the odds so many times.
It is rather amazing. I mean not even including all the crap before NYC, I have been here 13 years, knew literally one person when I moved here with a duffel bag and a few boxes of film and contact sheets, and am a professional photog, living a fun life (and yes, I am not doing a lot of things I want yet), and did it without sacrificing my morality and values.
Yea, you better believe that alone is pretty amazing. Now throw in everything else before NYC, it is amazing. It’s been a fun ride-and I hope it just keeps getting better. Thank you for asking this question. It made me stop and think about it. (Sometimes you get stuck in it and don’t see the forest for the trees.)
LL: How can we support your work?
AP: The greatest way anyone could support my work is basically to keep me shooting. That entails passing on my information, hiring me for jobs, developing relationships, being good people, and even though I already stated it hiring me on great jobs and if you are excited and happy with the results (which I believe you would be) hire me again and tell your people. (Or a jackpot winning lottery ticket…hahaha)
I’m a huge believer of give a man a fish he eats for one day, teach a man to fish he eats everyday. I love shooting, not hand-outs.
And in the meantime spread the word! Instagram: @palombophotography Twitter: @palombophoto Web: http://www.palombophotography.com
* Alex Palombo is a photographer based in New York. See things though his eyes via his Instagram feed. If you come across news that “Winds of Winter” has finally come out, he’ll welcome the news via email (Of course you can ring him and he’ll have an unforgettable story to tell: a stranger rang him to update him about the “Winds of Winter” and it was one of the best days).
Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August – September 2017) between Alex and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.
Leigh Lim is a Sydney musician helping brands get their mojo back. When she is not doing that, she can be found spending time through various rabbit holes (offline and online) sniffing out stories for a music discovery project.
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