We had the good fortune of connecting with Ethan Pines and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ethan, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I think about this all the time. I’m now 51, I have an amazing toddler, and for all I know I could drop dead tomorrow. It happens to healthy people all the time.
I’ve been a photographer since I was about 30. For the first 10 years of my career, I worked all the time. Nights, weekends, whatever it took. I had to simultaneously build my skills, build a portfolio, do business development and make a living assisting other photographers (along with the occasional absurdly low-paying editorial shoot). During that decade I gradually gathered more and better clients, but that unbalanced approach — along with a constant, though perhaps unreasonable, fear of not paying bills and ending up living out of my car — drove me to continue working all the time well into the second decade of my career.
Eventually it just wasn’t sustainable. And I’m not even sure it was creating more results than working less would have. I got married in 2013. We moved up to Topanga Canyon in 2014. We had Moxie in 2019. And over time I’ve given up on taking care of everything on my to-do list or every email in my inbox. It’s not possible. I realize now that:
(1) Life is now. It’s not around the corner somewhere, waiting to be enjoyed and appreciated when you’re finally done with all your tasks. Because you never will be. Literally never. Not even close.
(2) The world will still be standing if I blow off all but the most important items every day.
I’d rather spend time with my family than do just about anything else in the world. This guides the rest of what I do each day and each year.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve always tried to create photography that was a bit different. While there are certainly photographers who offer some of the elements below, I think think are very few who offer all of them simultaneously:
– Aesthetically beautiful photographs with arresting compositions
– Sophisticated technical execution of difficult assignments
– Smart humor — not corny or hammy
– Relatable humanity, moments and emotions
– Imaginative, original concepts
It’s been a long, hard road to get here, and the road continues. I used to believe there’d come a time when everything was just smooth and easy all the time, but that’s not the case in this field. You get better at the craft, and you get more well known, but the jobs are never just automatic and freely flowing in. You always have to produce new work, you always have to hustle, because everyone else is.
And you have to care about the work and the process themselves, not the outcome or the potential rewards. That’s how I overcame obstacles. That’s how you have longevity. By caring about the craft itself, about the meaning of photographs, about doing good work.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Visits: Zuma beach and Point Dume.
The Getty Museum.
Scott Nery’s Boobietrap.
The Magic Castle.
Eats and drinks:
Huckleberry Cafe (where my wife is the pastry chef).
The Old Place.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents for 51 years of moral support. My wife for all that she is and does. My daughter for being the most amazing person I’ve ever met. My instructors in college and grad school for their knowledge and efforts. My friend Max Gerber, a great photographer who mentored me early on without either of us ever thinking of it as mentoring. All the other photographers over the years who have offered their knowledge and experience, especially those who hired me to assist long ago.