Emiliano Granado: Making It as a Young Photographer

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Emiliano Granado is a young photographer who has made the PDN 30, shot various advertising campaigns, and has a wide variety of experience. As a young man who has quickly gained respect in the photo community, he states that he doesn't want to be a photographer—he needs to be a photographer.

We recently caught up with him to talk about how he made it, and the changes that happened in such a short period of time.


B&H: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to photography?

Emiliano: I attended a regular liberal arts college in the Northeast. I didn't take any photo classes at all. After college, I started working at a large advertising agency, in client services (account management). You know, budgets, strategy, execution, client meetings. Button down shirts and khakis. I hated it. I looked at myself in the mirror every day, and felt like a failure. All that raw talent (and good looks!) being wasted in boring meetings and conference calls. At the end of the day, my work was completely irrelevant to me and to the world. I was a giant waste of space.

      

So I started taking continuing education classes in photography at night, just to keep my brain active. It was a hobby, at best. Very quickly, photography started to consume all my thoughts. Vacations were planned around what I wanted to photograph, I would take days off from work when someone would allow me to assist them, I started interning at a studio after work, etc.

I was 26 years old with a "real" job (i.e., a salary), and I had to decide whether I wanted to try to be a photographer, or keep my day job. I took a leave of absence from my job, and traveled through Argentina with a camera for six months (I was born there). I've never looked back.

B&H:  When you were named one of PDN’s 30 in 2008, how did that change your career?

Emiliano: It wasn't an "overnight success" type of thing, for sure. I had been working on personal projects, assisting a bit, and just trying to get my name out there, when PDN30 happened. I had shot two or three editorial jobs, so I was relatively unknown. But after the article came out, photo editors and art buyers would say things like "Oh yeah, I recognize your name. You just got PDN30, right?" And other photographers would kind of nod out of respect towards me. It was a subtle change. Recognition, mostly.

          

But probably the most dramatic change was what it did to me. When you're a photographer, you work mostly alone in your living room or studio or whatever. There were many days when I would sit in front of my computer all day, and not say a word to anyone. In that environment, it's hard to know if you're on the right track. You're mostly in your own head all day, and honest feedback is hard to come by. But when PDN comes along and says, "Hey, good job. We believe in you," it's a good feeling.

It made me feel like I was doing all the right things, and encouraged me to keep moving forward.

B&H: You shoot both film and digital, with a variety of cameras. Do you have any advice for young photographers when it comes to choosing the right setup?

Emiliano: Try them all. Rent stuff, and play with gear for a week at a time. Assist, if you can. See how other people work. Ask people why they shoot with certain gear, etc.

B&H: Tell us a little bit about Manual for Speed. How did that come about?

Emiliano: My friend Daniel and I had been wanting to document a professional cycling team for a while. We pitched the idea to Castelli, and they liked it. Manual for Speed was born.

                

Castelli had just begun sponsoring Team Exergy in their first year as a professional team. The team allowed us full access whenever we wanted it (they really understood the power of the project), so it was a perfect fit.

B&H: You always seem to be working, either with editorial and commercial jobs, or pursuing personal projects. How do you strike the right balance, and how important are your personal projects in terms of getting new jobs?

Emiliano: Honestly, I don't feel like I've struck the right balance. I'm close, but I wish more of my time was spent finishing personal projects and putting that work out there. I have projects that have been finished for years that have never been seen. :(

Personal work is absolutely critical to me. I'm a photographer because I need to be a photographer. Not because I want a career in photography. I hope that distinction is clear. I would still be a photographer if there was no market for my skills.

As far as personal work leading to editorial/commercial work, I'd bet all of my jobs have come directly or indirectly from my personal work. There are direct relationships, like a few recent jobs that were Polaroid-based and inspired by my TFP stuff. The art directors at Converse liked all of my work, but my Floggers work confirmed that I could work in chaotic situations with teens. But in general, photo editors and art buyers just "like" your work and your vibe, and then hire you for stuff that makes sense.

B&H: You’re very active on Tumblr and Twitter. What have been the biggest benefits of using social media?

Emiliano: I think it's part of an overall marketing campaign (remember I used to work in advertising). I've never been a "hard sell" kind of guy. Never cold-called someone and asked them to assign me work. I describe my marketing strategy as a constant, pleasant background hum. Not a series of loud pops and bangs. No promos that scream, "Hey I'm awesome, HIRE ME!!"

                        

All the new social media channels allow me to send out some links every once in a while, but mostly, it's about giving people some insight into my world and my photography. Making them laugh. Sharing new work. And connecting with other photographers and photography fans.

B&H: What advice do you have for younger photographers who want to pursue it professionally?

Emiliano: Be prepared to be broke—it's a rite of passage. If you're not doing it because you love it, you're not gonna make it.