We had the good fortune of connecting with River West and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi River, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My career was honestly a total ACCIDENT – I never aspired to be a photographer. I didn’t know WHAT I wanted to be. After college, I found myself working at a photography studio as an image retoucher/photo processor and on my own time, I was doing a few hobby photoshoots for fun. People saw my stuff. Then a friend or two asked me to do a shoot for them, and they’d pay – so I started to do a few little gigs here and there. I had no idea what I was doing, but people kept wanting to book me! At a certain point after first being supportive, the studio owner and photographer demanded I stop immediately and sign a very strict non-compete agreement. Even though I was terrified of losing my job, I said no, quit, and followed this new path I’d happened upon. I hustled a couple of side jobs the first year or two – somehow made it on an income of around 10k one year – and eventually went full time due to demand. I was able to build my gear, buy a new car. It was incredible to know I created this, and could choose how to make a living through storytelling. I spent a few years finding my voice and figuring out how to run a business properly, and dreaming of things I’ve done now: traveling nationally and internationally, being able to say no with confidence, creating beautiful images each and every time I’m behind the lens. I guess I did something right because I’m about to cross over to year twelve!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I create images that are a collaboration between myself and the subjects in front of me – I work closely with clients to make sure their photos look like THEM, that there is life and spirit and truth in the photographs. As a photojournalist first and foremost, I have an eye for the little details that speak to the grand big picture – for moments both quiet and loud. I love it ALL. The full story, good bad and ugly. I hope this doesn’t sound egotistical, but I feel that the most important aspect to my business is me. My values, my way of seeing the world, my way of relating to people, my artistic aesthetics. I focus on that, and being the best version of ME, not a copy of someone else. That allows me to be authentic, connected, and genuine with all of my clients.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to thank Professor Leroy, way back in the undergrad days for keeping it all the way real. He looked at the lazy, rushed photos I took for his class assignments, looked me dead in the eye, and said: “these are bullshit and we both know it – find the artist I see in you, you can do better.” I think I’ve finally found that artist.
River West Photography