'It's about being prepared for whatever is thrown at you': Q & A with William Vazquez
How did you get your start in photography?
Vazquez’s warm personality and genuine interest in people elicits wonderful reactions in the portraits he makes around the world, including the photo of this woman in rural India.
Photography started as a hobby when I was a teenager. My first camera was a used Rollei 35 S, which I still have. But I had never considered photography a profession and didn’t know anything about professional photography until 1985 when I met a New York City based still life photographer named Jeff Glancz. He hired me one Christmas season to deliver gifts to his clients. At the time, I was studying electrical engineering at New York Institute of Technology but when Jeff started calling me to assist him on jobs at his NYC studio, I would cut class to work for him.
Summer break came, and he was looking for a full-time assistant. I agreed to work the summer and then go back to school when fall came around. But I never went back. I had found my calling: shooting 4x5, processing black and white film, and printing. This is where I wanted to be. I worked for Jeff for about a year when he told me I need to finish my education. I got a scholarship to Parsons (School of Design in NYC) in1986 and returned to school.
During and after Parsons I worked for a wide range of photographers in advertising, catalog, fashion, location, portrait and travel. I did it all, and travelled the world on assisting gigs. I learned things during this time that I still use in my work. It was an amazing experience! I learned how people worked business wise as well as photographically. I think that assisting pros is where I got my real education in photography.
I assisted for about 5 years with a 3-year transition period. Then my first big job came in. I did the 1995 Pfizer annual report. It was a global book with locations spanning the globe including Milan, London, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, Tokyo and a number of locations in the U.S.
When I first started as a pro, I did product photography for magazines like Martha Stewart Living, This Old House, GQ, and others. After a while I realized that I was not cut out for product photography. I am too impatient, and I liked being out of the studio. So I started doing more portraiture, and chasing down portraiture work.
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