NY based Portrait Photographer | Author | TEDx Speaker | Canon Explorer of Light | Founder @headshotcrew
Someone’s About page is the one place my curious bone always wants to hit when I stumble upon anyone’s website. I like to know what the person behind it is all about, how the site might have started, and what the heck the story is there. I believe we all have our own story worth telling, so here’s mine:
The long story short is that I’m just a guy lucky enough to pick up a camera. How that went down is quite a tale, and the fact that I get to do what I love every day is something that I’ll always cherish and be forever grateful for. To my surprise, stepping behind the lens set wheels in motion that became much more than simply pressing a shutter button.
As a model, I became well aware of the power a camera possesses. It was the fall of ’95, and I was training full-time for the ’96 Olympic Games as part of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team, when I got a call that Polo wanted to photograph real sailors as part of their summer ad campaign. I found myself smack dab in front of Bruce Weber’s Pentax 67, and the trajectory of my life changed forever. Later that spring, my picture showed up on the inside front cover of a slew of magazines and my short-lived modeling career was born.
To be honest, it was essentially a modeling, acting, and bartending gig, with an emphasis on bartending until 4:00 a.m. in order to make ends meet in NYC. Fortunately for me, Bruce encouraged me to pick up a camera. To this day, I can’t thank him enough for that.
For the first few years, I found myself photographing anything that came my way. It started with my modeling friends, then my first commercial job shooting sneakers for Reebok, and next, actors in need of headshots. I even had a little stint on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, shooting for Levi’s. Momentum built and the Vilcek Foundation hired me to shoot images on the set of LOST during their final days of production in Hawaii. The images were shown in the NYC exhibition, The Vilcek Foundation Celebrates LOST.
I was milking my camera for everything it was worth, but my headshot work always garnered me the most attention. My signature style of chopping off the tops of people’s heads on a clean white background in landscape format became all the rage, and I was recognized by Backstage magazine as the best headshot photographer in New York.
I was in my own little world I like to call “headshotland,” with my nose to the grindstone, when Lee Morris and Patrick Hall from Fstoppers approached me to shoot an interview. Up to that point, I had been very secretive about how I operated, but the flood gates were about to open. The clip was a hit and our next collaboration was a video tutorial based on my work titled, “The Art Behind the Headshot,” which became one of the most successful photography-based video tutorials around.
While promoting it, Lee suggested that we create a little video about my favorite tip and throw it up on YouTube. “It’s All About the Jaw” went viral, and now has nearly 3 million views. With its popularity came speaking offers and the realization that people are completely enthralled by learning how to look their best in front of a camera. Since my first talk for Google at the Google+ Photographer’s Conference in San Francisco, I’ve now spoken on the subject for Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, GoDaddy, Allergan, and Canon to name a few.
Through my work at Microsoft, I met Dr. Anna Rowley, a psychologist, and began delving into the psychological impact a camera has on those in front of it. We co-founded PsyPhotology based on our findings, and gave a TEDx talk at MIT called “Bridging the Self-Acceptance Gap.” This is something that remains close to my heart. I not only feel the need to produce incredible imagery for my clientele, but more importantly, I want them to gain an understanding about their appearance that they haven’t experienced before.
After plugging away in my New York studio for nearly ten years, I suddenly noticed an industry shift. The need for a quality headshot was no longer only for actors trying to make it in Hollywood. LinkedIn and other social media outlets had brought headshot photography into the mainstream. Seizing the moment, I began building a platform for producing quality headshot photography on a worldwide scale. My coaching and referral platform, Headshot Crew, is now more than 10,000 photographers strong. Out of it, I’ve created a team of elite headshot specialists, scattered around the globe and known as Headshot Crew Associate Photographers.
Along with my Headshot Crew and PsyPhotology came other opportunities. I found myself constantly trying to improve upon the equipment I was using. Instead of waiting in the wings for others to create the products I needed to get the job done, I took matters into my own hands and founded my photography gear company, HURLEYPRO.
My photography, coaching, and photography products were all on the move, but when the world’s best-selling photography author, Scott Kelby, asked if I was up for writing the definitive book on headshots, I jumped at the chance. At this point in my life, my biggest challenge had been training for the Olympic Games. Little did I know that it paled in comparison to writing that book! It was all well worth it because, upon its release, The Headshot hit #1 in photography books on Amazon, allowing me to call myself something I never thought in a million years I would, an author.
I’m not quite sure what the future holds, but my entrepreneurial spirit remains in high gear. I cherish the fact that I get to use a camera and the medium of photography to do all the things I’ve been able to do in my life. When I don’t have a camera in my hand, you’ll still find me sailing away, out on the water somewhere in the world, or off traveling with my beautiful wife and precious twin daughters.