As an artist, I am always a perfectionist and I am sure if you ask any artist, we are all a little insecure with where we are in our path to success. I struggled a lot in the beginning with my work never being good enough or never matching the level of quality I was seeing presented on the web. It was discouraging, frustrating, and I eventually learned that I could just be me. My personal goal has always been to remain humble and to seek out others who share that same belief. It is so easy to go online, look at the vast array of others, and declare them as competition without getting to really know them. The problem is that while most photographers/videographers are so connected online, it is hard to see the real person past the work & online persona. Every year there seems to be an opportunity to finally meet the people you follow and this year it was WPPI. Two weeks ago when I traveled to Las Vegas for the show, I had no idea that it would be a life changing experience.
I signed up for WPPI after I saw that two of my favorite filmmakers, Joe Simon & Kevin Shahnian, were teaching a class the same week. It was an amazing opportunity to go to somewhere I had never been, and to meet up with many industry friends that were attending the conference. I have truly learned over the last two years that trips and new experiences are what flood my mind with inspiration, so Vegas was a must. My neighbor and good friend, Caleb Jenkins, decided to come along with me for the trip. He shoots mostly film and focuses on Polaroids. He had been looking to get into the portrait side of the industry and I thought this could really help him out. We both arrived in Vegas on a Saturday, and our first stop was the amazing In-N-Out Burger. I have to say that it lived up to the hype and it was completely amazing. Afterwards we spent the day exploring the strip and our hotel, the MGM Grand. On Sunday, the conference began, and all my friends were flying in. At Zack & Jody Gray’s workshop, I was standing in the entrance when two familiar people came up to me. It was Natalie Franke and Serena Severtson. I am actually shooting Natalie’s wedding in May, so it was absolutely awesome to finally meet her. They were both the sweetest people and we all became good friends as the week progressed. Another surprise that day was meeting Holley Maher and Marie Hines. If you have been following my work, you will know that I use a lot of their music in my films and even commercials. I used Holley’s “Perfect Day” in the national Pandora commercial and it was so amazing to finally meet her in person. She surprised me with a hug and said, “Josh! I love you. Thank you so much for supporting my music!”. It was so neat that she even knew who I was and I even got a few signed CDs to take home. Supporting musicians by licensing their music is one of the things I am most proud of with our company and its always amazing to meet & hear the artists perform live. It is just a completely different experience. I ended this amazing day by going to Mon Ami Gabi at Paris for my French fix. It was delicious and well worth the trip. I also joked that it would be the closest to Paris I will be this year.
On Monday, I attended the Event Cinema workshop with Joe & Kevin, who were amazing. They managed to fit their 3 day workshop into one day and it was fantastic. We were there from 9AM to 7pm and my mind was melting at the end of it from all the knowledge I soaked up. Joe & Kevin run completely different event cinematography businesses that focus on two distinct markets (traditional & South Asian), and it was interesting to see the similarities and differences. They also were extremely humble and very open to answering all of our questions, which I greatly appreciated after having bad experiences at other video workshops in the past. After the workshop, I headed over to the MGM Signature and met up with Jeremy Mitchell, Ashley Mitchell, Jen Jar, Ashley Goodwin, Katie Nesbitt, Serena Severtson, and Natalie Franke. It was everyone that I love in the same place & all of us live on the East Coast, besides Ashley Goodwin, yet we never see each other. The best part is that I got to know Jen, Katie, Serena, and Natalie beyond photography and as people. We all shared so many interests, and it was just awesome to be with a group of people that were fun, humble, and so willing to share.
When Tuesday rolled around, I knew it would be a long day and an even longer night. Our first class was with Elizabeth Messina and it was unbelievable. I have always admired her work, and to hear her on stage talking about it was amazing. I even won a copy of her book and to be honest, I have not even opened it yet because it is packaged so beautifully. Right afterwards, I met up with Ryan Muirhead and Becky Earl, who are two of my favorite film photographers. They were offering a four-hour workshop and I knew I had to sign up. I am so glad I did because there were only three of us in the class, which made it incredibly personal. Ryan & Becky took us to downtown Las Vegas, where we learned advanced spot-metering for black and white, the zone system, shooting street, and communicating with film labs. The wealth of knowledge that they shared with us was invaluable. Just getting to hang out with them was so neat and I have to say it again, they were completely approachable and friendly. It is just so nice to learn from those at the top of their field that have remained humble. After a day of learning about film, Caleb & I cruised the trade show, where we met a ton of great vendors, played with gear, and took a bunch of free film from Kodak. That night, I headed out with my awesome East Coast crew to Lazers & Blazers, where we partied the night away until 4AM. I refuse to acknowledge the mindless photo booth shots I found myself in, but I will be sure to post one of my amazing friends.
On Wednesday, our final day, I took it easy. I got to meet up with Amina from Stillmotion at the Canon booth (so nice to see her again), play with Canon C100, and then hang out with the good folks at Indie Film Lab. I swear, I am sending my next B&W rolls there. You really could not ask for a greater group of people. In the afternoon, we met up with our East Coast crew again for yet another adventure. Jen and Katie rented a minivan, and all of us jumped in. We headed out of Vegas and into Red rock Canyon for a photo shoot. The park is thirteen miles long and we stopped at the first mile and never left until it was pitch black. There really are no words for what it was like. The colors were perfect and I could not get over how beautiful everything was. A huge part of this trip for me was shooting everything on film. Before I had mixed digital and film, but I really wanted to push myself and do something new. It was completely worth it and I think you will love some of the images I have to share. Overall, this was an amazing trip and I gained some incredible friends. I really learned that connecting with people and establishing a relationship is what is most important. I am forever grateful for all the experiences that we had and I am excited to share some of those with you today. Enjoy!
Myself with Joe Simon at the Event Cinema Workshop and below with all my East Coast friends at the WPPI party Lazers & Blazers.
Above: A portrait of Ryan Muirhead