Top 5 Take Aways from the moderator of the Alternative Careers in Photography Panel



Top 5 Take Aways from the moderator of the Alternative Careers in Photography Panel

An honest reflection from a first time moderator.

For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege to sit on the panel and share my experience at Columbia College’s “Alternative Careers in Photography” panel. As a panelist, it can be so exciting to have the opportunity to share with others what you wished you had known five years sooner. To encourage someone to take the leap, or to let go of the “shoulds” of the industry, and your own mind.

But, this year APA asked if I would host and moderate the panel — At first I was honored. Then, the butterflies started creeping into my stomach. You see, my husband has an undeniable natural ability to make a room full of strangers laugh. He is not only a phenomenal public speaker, but a charismatic comedian at heart. I’m, well, more on the logistics side of things. I jump into the “what do we need to accomplish” arena and tackle chaos with a huge smile on my face.

So, knowing I won’t ever be asked to emcee the Golden Globes (or even a Girl Scout meeting), I started thinking about what my point of view would be as a moderator. What did I want to pull out of the ten incomparably talented creatives looking back at me from the stage?

That’s when I realized, I wanted to treat this panel the same way I do a production. I wanted to bring my best, to help the panelist give their best.

I would focus not on preparing the perfect questions or transitions, but on listening without trying to steer them. And if I were to work intentionally to create a safe space for the panelists to be able to share vulnerably about their unique approaches and paths; then I would be part of something far bigger than myself. We would be a sum greater than its individual parts.

1) We really do need each other. It was amazing to see the support of the panelists. Each person encouraging the other, and building each other up. So often the world of photography can be cut throat and cold, but we really are a family of support.

2) No one started where they are now. Julie started as a stylist. Elaine as a photographer. Kelsey found Art Buying by way of an internship with an Agent. Sarah was a photographer, then went to production, then styling – and even expanded into art directing while still styling.

3) Grit and drive matter. Every single panelist talked about working in their craft before anyone else “gave them permission” to do so. They kept the hustle, took rejection in stride, and kept learning how to improve.

4) No one stopped being a photographer. We still create images. We still work behind the scenes of the camera with the same love for making images. We’ve just realized there are many more moving pieces to making an image.

5) Be brave. No matter what you’re wanting to do. If you’re trying to transition from photo assistant to photographer. Assistant to lead. Barista to stylist. Still to motion. Full time to part time. Be brave. Listen to yourself. Let your passion and desire lead you to the best place of balance and purpose.

Many thanks to our panelists!!!

Associate Art Buyer
Kelsey Conner, AbelsonTaylor
Alumni of CCC

Studio Manager
Rebekah Zimmerman-Watts, Kelly Allison Photography
Alumni of CCC

Location Scout & Location Manager
Jennie Frake, Levinson Locations

Wardrobe Stylist & Art Director 
Sarah Lawhead
Alumni of CCC

Digital Tech & Fine Art Printer
Elaine Miller

Producer 
Brenda Whaley

Hair & Make-up Artist
Susie Lee, Utopia Agency

Casting Director & Talent Agent
Julie Tallarida, Trigger Casting & Planet Earth Agency
Alumni of CCC

Videographer & Lighting Technician
Ben Rodig
Alumni of CCC

Art Preparator & Operations Manager
Craig Cotsones, Kavi Gupta Gallery

and the Event Sponsors

APA Chicago

Columbia College Chicago

Little Book Artists (and source book!)