PRO-PORTRAIT: Photographer Cameron MacPhail on Balancing Business and Art.

Cameron MacPhail is an emerging editorial and fine art photographer born in New York, raised on a horse farm in Ohio, and driven by a passion for observation and storytelling. 

“It’s funny how photography can literally change the way you look at and interact with the world around you. You take things slower and appreciate moments more.”

That’s Cameron’s view on the world, and his photography allows him to translate that to our eye. 

“I think that at the end of my career, when all is said and done and I’ve long since made a name for myself in this field, that is what will stick with me. I’ve gained an understanding and an appreciation of life that I would never have gained if I hadn’t taken this path.” 

But Cameron is at the beginning of his career as a creative professional—discovering his talent, and finding others who see his passion and skill in order to create a business out of art. He lives in San Francisco, working on freelance projects, contributing to magazines, doing commission work and trying to push his work in galleries. “For the past few months I’ve been really trying to get my work out there, get it seen, and get my business off the ground and running. So there is a lot of computer work, a lot of interaction with potential clients and an emphasis on finding my voice through my work.”

Cameron’s voice began to take shape in his childhood, one that he describes as a bit wild, and pretty free. “I spent most of my days outside, swimming and wrestling with my brother and exploring the countryside… generally wrecking havoc wherever I could find it. I lit a lot of things on fire, built some really cool stuff and had a great time destroying it. Typical fare for a young kid with too much time and land on his hands, I guess.” 

His schooling opened him up to creativity, starting with the famous Montessori school program. “I definitely attribute that experience as being a motivating factor in my pursuit of photography, of my pursuit in being a creative individual in general.”

Cameron’s first artistic passion was fiction writing. “I remember in first grade my teacher handed the kids a roll of paper, basically a roll of receipt paper for a cash register, and told us to write all of the numbers we could on it over the next two weeks. Needless to say I got to around five hundred before I went up to teacher and told her the first grader’s equivalent of ‘fuck that’, and handed the roll of paper back to her. To my surprise, she gave me a notebook, and told me to write something in it. I’ll never forget that first notebook: I filled the whole thing in two weeks, from front to back, throwing basic grammatical musts like commas, periods, and indentation to the wind and writing like a madman. The subject of my first notebook? Sonic the Hedgehog.” 

It was writing that started Cameron on the road to being a photographer. “As a kid I wanted only to create worlds through my writing, to transport myself to another place filled with the scenes I would imagine, the characters I loved, the endings I wanted.” As he grew into an adult Cameron turned to photography as a way to document the world around him, as he saw it, “…to create my own vision of our shared realities and to connect to the world in a way that is both familiar and distant.”

Cameron says that photography does for him what fiction writing never could: “…it keeps me rooted in a very tangible world and forces me to search for the fantastic. It allows me to take the real and uncover the surreal hiding just beneath.”

He sees photography as a closer connection to the real world by being out and in it, rather than sitting with a laptop writing imaginations and remembrances of the real world.

His photography allows him to tell stories and create. “It allows me to pursue life and work with all of my senses, but most of all, photography allows me to tell my greatest story of all: my own. 

Aside from photography as a creative pursuit, Cameron knows to balance art with business. It is at the heart of being a creative professional. Building a career as a creative professional takes time, talent, and a commitment to both the business, and art side of the pursuit. 

“Many artists don’t realize that to be successful you have to also be a pretty savvy entrepreneur, that you have to have a drive that goes beyond the desire to create.”

Cameron currently has his work on exhibit at People’s Barber in San Francisco, and is going back and forth with a big fine art gallery in New York. “You have to interact, you have to face critique, and you have to have the self esteem and drive to rise above it all and be confident in your work and your art.”

His confidence, and talent will no doubt serve him well.

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