When I was about 28 years old and struggling in a career where the most exciting part of my day was what was for lunch, I decided to distract myself with a few photography classes at Columbia College in Chicago. Soon after I was just getting into school, I lost my job. Actually, I was fired and I do wear this like a badge of honor because it was a life changer. After just a few days of footie pajamas and uninterrupted daytime TV, I made the executive and totally uninformed decision to become a Commercial Photographer. It seemed do-able and going in somewhat blindly but with plenty of optimism to keep me going, I started assisting.
I remember that first day like it was yesterday. Brian Hall. Architectural shoot. Longest day ever especially considering I was used to an 8 hour day, ergo-dynamic chairs and an hour lunch. This was definitely an eye-opener and I knew that to be able to do this, I was going to have to work fast, work hard and work smart.
One of my first Assisting Promos…the tagline read, “I know how to support my Photographers!”
I stuck with assisting for a few years before I started moving into my own commercial photo jobs and it was the best experience I could have asked for. Granted, the days were always long, the physical demands were intense and having a degree in Psychology could have been a bonus but what I learned from working with some of Chicago’s best shooters was indispensable, their mentoring gracious and their continued friendship so appreciated.
So, with this, I say thank you to my most irreplaceable Photography Assistants. Without them, I could not do what I do.
The Irreplaceable Are:
1. Skillful luggers of equipment and heroes of traversing small hallways and freight elevators.
2. Guardians of exposure and protectors of memory cards.
3. Professional smilers and astute providers of calm when technology won’t play nice.
4. Exceptional mind readers as they know what their Photographer needs even before they need it.
5. Fabulous magicians that can make anything work with just a bit of Gaffers tape and a clamp.
6. Consistently in tune with the lighting, the camera, the subjects and the boss.
7. Discerning Psychologists and excellent readers of personalities.
8. Incredible navigators as sometimes getting to that loading dock on Lower Wacker Drive can cause panic in some Photographers.
9. Astute keepers of time, shrewd defenders of the Cliff Bars.
10. Fabulous companions, crack ’em-up comedians and really awesome friends.
My buddy and Assistant Whitney Hsieh. He really should run for President but he’s too busy being the Photo guy.
Again, to all those emerging Photo Assistants out there: be on your game, keep hydrated, learn as much as you can and stay focused because your Photographer is only half as good without you!