The Beginning: Part 1

Sometimes I get e-mails from students and/or assistants asking how I got started in photography and what advice I would give to someone who wants to be a photographer in the entertainment industry.  I thought about this today because this afternoon I am doing a shoot at a high school, and I imagine there might be a question or two asked by some artsy misfit.  It’s hard to give a quick answer to this question, so I apologize to you in advance, artsy high school misfit.  But here goes a short-ish synopsis of my humble beginnings.

I begun photography classes around age 15 and quickly fell in love with many aspects of photography.  I of course enjoyed the act of taking pictures, but I also came to love working in the darkroom and everything that went along with printing.  I decided to make photography my life, and majored in it at NYU.  Graduated in 1998, and I was scared that I wasn’t going to be able to hold my own in the oh-so-competitive NY photo industry.  When I was in college, I interned in the photo department at Spin Magazine for a few years.  I loved that job and the people I worked with.  It was an interesting time for that magazine, to say the least, and I was lucky to have been a part of it.

Thinking that I might be able to lead a happy life as a photo editor (based on my Spin experience), I sought out a real job and landed at Rolling Stone.  I worked there for less than a year, but I have to say in that time I learned a lot.  I worked with one of the most talented and well respected art directors in the history of art directors, and while he thought I was miserable the whole time, I have to say I still do certain things today because of how I learned to do them at that job.  I did, however, want to leave that job and take my own pictures.  I realized that the freelance photo editing world was a small planet that I could live on for a while and try to build up my portfolio at the same time.  After Rolling Stone, I wound up working as a photo editor at many magazines, strictly on a freelance basis.  I was shooting a tiny bit for myself, but not enough to make a living, so photo editing was my main source of income.  I floated around for a while and then eventually settled down at Newsweek, where I worked part-time for almost two years.  Newsweek was a very interesting place to work.  My whole experience as a photo editor has given me a certain perspective on photographers and being a photographer, which I will get into another time.

While I worked at all these magazines, I made sure to form relationships with the actual photo editors and/or the people I was filling in for.  I would show them my portfolio, send them e-mails, go back and have lunch with them making sure to bring my new work with me.  A lot of my first jobs were from these very photo editors who I had worked with.  With some of them it took years to get that first job from them.  I had no celebrities in my book, and no one wanted to take a chance and be the first one to assign a celebrity shoot.  So, for years I shot illustration shots for women’s magazine stories….My Boyfriend is Cheating on Me, How to Keep the Spark Alive in Your Relationship, Foods That Make You Feel Better…you get the picture.  

I’m going to stop there for now and get ready for my day…leaving you with the stellar mental image of me shooting two pairs of legs under a table playing “footsies”.  I’ll try to dig up some of those old photos for my next post so you can (hopefully) see the progression of my work and career.  Might be interesting.

3 comments to The Beginning: Part 1

  • Anonymous

    Hey Emily,

    You wrote this the same day you took our pics at Grant High!

    Did you enjoy our interesting group of alums?


  • Emily Shur

    I did! It was quite interesting. Sorry if I was slightly bossy at times…just trying to get the job done. I hope you all like the pictures.

  • Mandy

    this is very interesting….and i think your photography is very inspiring.