Where are you from and how did you get into photography?
My hometown is a small suburban town called San Ramon and I moved around a bit during college, but I’ve lived in the SF bay area for most of life. As a child I was always into art, if I wasn’t playing sports or video games, you could find me drawing or coloring for hours. Unfortunately, I lost touch with that side towards the end of high school and during the first few years of college, I somehow stumbled into modeling. During that time, I was able to meet another photographer, Anthony Deeying, who quickly became more of a friend than a business acquaintance. I loved his style of photography – the way he used light and was able to show movement and emotion. I got up the nerve to ask him – if I bought a camera if he would take me out on a shoot and teach me. To my surprise, he was very willing to teach me, even brought me on a shoot with a Ford model, FOR MY VERY FIRST SHOOT EVER. I was so nervous, but had so much fun taking pictures that day. Afterwards, we went back to Anthony’s to review the photos and while looking over the photos Anthony turned toward me and said, “Wow, you’ve got an eye for photography.” And the rest is history.
What was your favorite challenge on the show?
Without a doubt my favorite challenge on the show was the last one. When Nigel said we could shoot whatever we want, wherever we want, for however long we want – my eyes lit up. During my time in NY the Oculus was always under construction and I moved away before it was completed, so I had been dying to go to this location. My model, Nofar Avigdor, absolutely killed it too. Everything fell into place perfectly that day – I couldn’t have asked for a better shoot.
What was your favorite picture that you took
during the show?
My favorite image of the competition is definitely the last one. The things that stand out to me the most about my final image are the strong leading lines, the composition and color. I love the way the dress pattern almost mimics the structure of the building and how the movement brings you into frame.
What did you learn working with Nigel Barker? Was there any tips that you will take with you in your future work?
Nigel was nothing but a perfect example of professionalism, charisma and humility. I remember specifically, I came up to Nigel after watching some of his BTS videos online and I asked him, “don’t you worry about people copying your style when they can see your lighting, how you shoot, etc?” He took a breath and calmly replied, “Well you see they can have all that, they can copy everything I do, but they’ll never have these,” as he lifted his hands and pointed to his eyes. For such a small point/gesture it was huge to me and will stick with me for life.
How does it feel to be the first winner
of Top Photographer?
It feels incredible really. I don’t think it’s fully set in quite yet, but check in with me in a few weeks. I gotta say though – I still can’t help but feel I owe some thanks and gratitude to the other contestants. Without them, I don’t think I could have done it.
What advice would you give contestants on season 2 of Top Photographer?
The best advice I can give the contestants for season two is to listen to EVERYTHING Nigel and the judges say. They aren’t just blowing air, when they say something it’s got a reason. If you are working on an image and sort of hesitant about using it as your best, then a judge comes around and says anything negative about the image – MOVE ON. If they ask if something is distracting to you, chances are, it is distracting them and they don’t like it. Also don’t close yourself off and try to win this on your own, the other contestants and and crew are an amazing support system – make friends!
What are your next steps in your career?
Whenever my friends ask me what I’m doing today, my usual response is, “Take over the world, one photo at a time.” A photographic ode to Pinky and the Brain. I want to leave a legacy of inspiration that will hopefully bring positive change to the world. I want to be the greatest photographer/visual artist in the world and winning Top Photographer sure helps me on my path to become just that. I know being the ‘best’ or ‘top’ is inherently flawed, it’s based on perspective and biased, and even if I don’t get there, I want it to be known that at least I died trying to be the greatest who ever lived.