Building a Network

Background: I used to have an active Tumblr, but I got locked out of it and their support staff has been on vacation the past two years. Before that, I ran a site called Too Much Chocolate. Both were dedicated to being resource sites for the photo community and aspiring/emerging photographers. Unlike becoming a CPA, a dentist, or a paramedic, there’s not a direct path to becoming a professional photographer; the sites existed as a guide and an aggregation of information that might be helpful.

The following copy is revived content from my Tumblr, with some minor modifications, but most of this text is preserved and presented as it was on that site. A lot has changed (Instagram didn’t really exist in its current state, magazines were thick and lucious, content for social wasn’t yet a *thing*), but I wanted to re-post these musings, as a lot of it still remains relevant, no matter what freelance creative field you’re in. If you have a question, email me, and I’ll do my best to answer it if it’s not touched on somewhere on this site.

If you’re just joining, I’m writing a large 4 piece post on what I think are the four most important things you can do to become a professional photographer.

1. Assist
2. Build a network with other photographers/create a solid community around you
3. Intensively shoot personal work every week and work on projects
4. Start small (with commissioned shoots), even if they’re for weekly papers

Today will be about initiative #2, building a network. I will roll the last two initiatives in the following week . These pieces will be a bit all over the place but, hey, so am I. If you have specific followup questions, drop a line and I will answer them.


This is what I have to say about building a network.

OK, so you’re assisting. Making money, and when your job is done you can leave it all behind. Or continue to work on your own things later that night. But it’s also incredibly helpful to have a network of friends who are in the same position as you. A camaraderie, support, motivation, and inspiration network. Women and men who are also going through the struggles, the ups and downs, of trying to make it. People you can turn to when you have questions on how to get your foot in the door at a certain magazine, or how to price out something on an estimate when you’re on your own, or just sharing the work of photographers you love. These are people to bounce work, ideas, projects, great experiences, trainwrecks, and totally meta thoughts off of. People to help slingshot forward, cyclically, till all of you are where you want to be, or are collectively making your way there.

For me, the closest people in this group are:

  Geordie Wood

 Daniel Shea

 Adam Golfer

Joao Canziani

 Thomas Prior

This is when you check out their work too, cause they are awesome.

Oh wait, did you see what I just did? I was a hypeman. I’m going to digress for a second, starting right now.

In photography, I feel like there are roughly three camps: insular photographers who do their own thing and seem pretty mystical and don’t outwardly interact (I’m cool with them, I respect that), photographers who hoard everything and consider everything to be proprietary (I don’t get them), and those like myself who are pretty much open-source, who love photography and having a network of peers and want so badly to see others succeed, cause it’s such a pleasure to see friends you love so much making rad, progressive, excellent work. It feels good. It’s a good feeling. I like it.

As an example, Daniel and I have built up solid rapports with disparate clients over the years, and there came a time last year where we spent like a month basically getting each other connected with our respective client bases. I had been working for Dwell, Daniel’s work was a perfect fit, I introduced him to Amy Silberman (one of the raddest photo editors to have EVER roamed the planet), and soon Daniel was getting work through Amy. If you saw the home in South Carolina he shot for DWELL….. yeah it’s one of the best things I’ve seen editorially last year. Daniel’s done the same for me as well, and so has Adam… Adam brought me into Travel + Leisure, a title I’d never been able to get a cold meeting at…. within a year I’d shot two features for them.

I also recently gave Joao almost all my NYC ad agency contacts, happily. You want to know why? Cause he’s rad and I love his work and he’s got this sexy Peruvian accent thing going that makes me weak in the knees. But seriously, I do it cause I want to. I really don’t know any other way. How can you not want to help your friends? I want to see my friends succeed, and honestly, all of these things come back around. You can get on the bandwagon or not, but I assure you, you’ve got a longer distance to walk if you go your own way.

Have some fun, make some friends, get to know some people, meld this career together with your life. So many of these photographers I speak of have turned into some of my closest friends, in part because we all can “get” each other so quickly and so well, in part because we’re all going through the same life pursuit, and in part because I feel like I can really get to know someone by looking at their work.

Bottom line: get yourself a network, keeps yourself happy, connected, stoked, enthusiastic about the photographic company you keep, and helps everyone move ahead.