John Keatly | Photo Native Featured Instructor


Q: What do you think is one of the biggest challenges photographers are faced with right now?

 A lack of focus and patience. We want everything right now, and there are so many things in life screaming for our attention. I think it is important to understand what your goals are, and learn to cut out things that don't help you get there. I think a lot of photographers have goals based on what they think they are supposed to be doing, but they don't actually know what they want to be doing. 

Q: What’s been one of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome in your business in order for it to continue to thrive and be successful? 

To be me, and stay true to myself. It is so easy to chase trends, money, clients, opinions, praise, followers, etc. but staying true to myself, and trusting in my process is one of the most important things I can do in my business.
That is not to say you don't have to learn to adapt and take risk. That is something I do all the time, but it has to be done with sound information, and a strong understanding of yourself.

Q: How do you maintain your own, unique voice in your work in a world where you’re constantly bombarded with other artists’ images?

The work of other artists is only a distraction if you don't know who you are.You have to take the time to find yourself, and really know who you are. Reading, therapy, conversations, and learning new ideas are some of the ways you can begin this journey, but it is going to take time, no matter how you go about it. This is essential to your success and happiness as an artist, and as a individual. Once you begin to understand who you are, it becomes easier to make choices based on your understanding of self.

Q: If you could go back in time and tell your photographer newbie self one thing, what would that be?

Start therapy now!

Q: What is one of your best tips for running a successful business? 

Remove emotion, make decisions based on accurate information and data, and work with solid professionals in areas you are not good at. Accounting or design for example...

Q: How do you deal with burnout?

What do you do to boost your creativity when you’re in a slump? Exercise, eat well, have fun, break out of your routine, and relax. Experiencing something new is one of the best ways to find inspiration because your mind is open and receptive. When you are locked into a routine, it's easy to shut down because you assume there is nothing new to learn or observe.

Q: What’s the best part about being a photographer and doing the work that you do? 

For me, the best thing is it allows me to create which I feel compelled to do. I am very grateful to be in a position where I am my own boss, and I am able to take risks, and live with the success and consequences of those decisions. That invigorates me, and is a big part of what keeps me going. The idea that anything can happen on any given day, and I have a part to play in that.

Q: How do you keep yourself an artist- but not a starving artist?

You have to be driven desire, and determined through failure, but even still, there are no guarantees. This is a highly competitive and difficult industry. 
I believe being true to yourself, and creating from that place is essential. You can only be successful if you unique, and you can only be unique if you are you.
Finally, it takes time. Making a living and not being a "starving artist" does not happen over night. It can take 5, 10, 15 years, and even then, you never really "make it" whatever that means. Building anything takes time, and I don't think we take about that enough.

Q: If money was no question, what project would you pursue?

I have pages and pages of ideas I would love to create. Some are videos, some are single images, and some are series of images and videos. Most of them involve fairly heavy production in the form of casting, talent, set builds, costume creation and location scouting. If money were no option, I would hire a producer and kick of 2 or 3 projects at a time. 

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching and connecting with students?

Teaching gives me an opportunity to share what I have learned, and what has been passed down to me by others. The people I meet through teaching are so inspiring to me, and the energy and feeling that comes from sharing and collaborating with others is pretty special. I wouldn't be where I am today if it were not for the kindness and teaching of others, so I feel it is important to pass that on.

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