We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kevin, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
Photography has been a part of my life just about as long as I can remember. I’ve been shooting photos since I was a kid. I had a darkroom at age 10. I ran ads in my hometown newspaper when I was a teenager to promote myself as a photographer. Fast-forward to today and I still love to shoot. I love the challenges of new jobs and taking on difficult or daunting projects that I’ve not done before. It makes me better. I’m happiest when I’m working, meeting new people, and creating. Whether I’m behind the camera on a construction site wearing steel-toe boots and a hardhat or shooting the CEO of a major company for a magazine, I just simply love to work. There are challenges at times, but giving up is not an option. The year 2020 has been a challenge, but throwing in the towel has never been a consideration. I’ll always keep going, no matter how tough the sledding might become, because this is what I do. Adapt to change, stay relevant, be a good communicator, treat people right, be patient, be persistent, and as the old saying goes, “work smarter, not harder.”
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
For me, being a freelance commercial photographer is a joy. Every day is different, and that’s just one of the reasons that I love what I do. When my phone rings it could be the creative director for an oil company wanting me to shoot photos in the Gulf of Mexico on-board the largest pipe-laying vessel in the world. It might be from the creative team at a soft drink maker needing photos in their test lab of their latest Slurpee flavors. Or maybe I’m called upon to shoot the cover shot of the Arlington, Texas Visitor’s Guide from atop the 400-foot tall Texas SkyScreamer ride. With models. With my swing facing backwards. With a crew lighting the models. While going 35 miles per hour. In January. And did I mention it was 400 feet up in the air? Yeah. All of these things have happened. But, no doubt, the typical jobs are a little more down-to-earth. Most of what I do is fairly typical commercial photography; shooting a CEO here, a board of directors there, an oil rig here, a fashion shoot there. Again, every day is different. Every shoot has its own challenges. That’s what keeps me going. If asked what sets me apart from others, I suppose I’d say versatility. There are many photographers who wear a lot of hats and there are many who specialize. Some photographers only shoot food. Some only architecture. Some only product. At the risk of being a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none, I will have to say that I am indeed versatile. My portfolio is equally-filled with traditional business photography, architectural work, lifestyle images, and a very deep industrial gallery. There are things I don’t shoot. Weddings, parties, families, seniors, babies, pretty much anything for consumers is off the list. I shoot almost exclusively for corporate, agency, and editorial clients. My clients are all across the country, and although most of my work is shot around Dallas/Fort Worth, I have traveled extensively around the country on photo shoots. I’ve been shooting photos professionally for 40 years. When I say that, it makes me feel old, but I’m 55 going on 30 in most regards. The knees haven’t held up as well as I’d like them to have, but I can’t complain. I started out as a newspaper photographer, then worked in corporate video for 20 years or so, then dove back into still photography full-time when film began to die out and things went digital. I’ve never looked back. The transition to digital photography gave me an opportunity to start at a new baseline with other pro photographers that were also transitioning to digital. It sort of leveled the playing field in a way and reset the industry a bit. The club of pro shooters was a lot smaller 15-18 years ago. If you had a digital SLR back then you were a bit of a rarity. As the clock ticked forward, more and more pros made the jump to digital and more photo hobbyists also made the leap. Now, it seems, photographers are everywhere. Anyone can promote their photo business on social media and not spend a dime. They can also build a great looking website and not spend a dime. A lot of these folks aren’t especially good, but many of them are. Social media has given a voice to many photographers that otherwise wouldn’t have a voice. So the industry has become much more crowded. Photographers are everywhere. This makes it challenging to be noticed. I have to attribute my success to a good web presence, a strong portfolio, and a good reputation of treating people right. I’ve learned that there is not just one key to success; there are many. I try to apply ‘The Golden Rule’ to every aspect of my work by simply treating people the way I would like to be treated. If I do that, and create the best work that I know how to create, be a good communicator with my clients, then I’ve done my job.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I had friends coming to visit for a week that had never been to this area before, I’d definitely suggest a few things to check out. If we assume this is a post-COVID trip, here’s what I’d suggest: For culture, I’d suggest The Nasher Sculpture Center in downtown Dallas, The Kimbell and the Modern art museums in Fort Worth, along with The Cowgirl Hall of Fame. A concert at Bass Performance Hall would also top the list. For outdoor fun, the Fort Worth Zoo is a great outing. Also, the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens are beautiful. A mid-week visit to Six Flags Over Texas would be fun. Klyde Warren Park is a great little Dallas oasis. I’d want to go there in time to hit the food trucks. For food, there are so many great barbecue places in Dallas and Fort Worth. Too many to list them all, but if I really wanted to make it fun I’d take my guests to the original Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse on Inwood Rd. At some point we’d have to go to Fuel City for tacos, the outdoor deck at Ozona Grill on Greenville. For a great steak, I’m partial to Del Frisco’s in Fort Worth. For lunch, a burger at Rodeo Goat in either Dallas or Fort Worth, or we could hit the Keller Drive In. Other spots for consideration would include Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth, a cold beer at the White Elephant Saloon in the Fort Worth Stockyards, and although it’s touristy the longhorn cattle drive down Exchange Street is a must for those that have never seen a longhorn. Grab a burger at the Love Shack. Main Street in Grapevine is fun, too.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There have been many influences in my life that I’ve led me to where I am as a photographer, but if I had to dedicate this particular shoutout to anyone, I think it would make sense to travel back to my early days as a photographer and recognize some folks that I worked with that helped me get my start. I was a staff photographer at three different newspapers between the ages of 15 and 20; the Hugo (OK) Daily News, The Paris (TX) News, and The Stillwater (OK) NewsPress. Each of the editors of those papers, Stan Stamper, David Sullens, and Lawrence Gibbs, respectively, all taught me so much and, frankly, took a risk in hiring a teenager to shoot for them. Working with other newspaper photographers had a huge influence on me as well. I worked with Mark Gail at The Paris News. He was so patient with me and supportive of my work. He had quite a career, moving on from The Paris News, to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and then on to The Washington Post. The other photogs at The Stillwater NewsPress, John Stapleton, Mark Kershaw, and Gary Lawson, were great early role models as well. All of these folks gave me opportunities and helped me in countless ways. Their support and encouragement and their trust in me gave me a very strong foundation and the confidence to move forward. It’s been a long road from those early days to today, and it’s been a great ride so far.