We had the good fortune of connecting with Lucas Passmore and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lucas, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Unfortunately, my work/life balance has kept ebbing from distinct parameters, becoming increasingly blurred. In the professional creative commercial arts– especially freelancers– creative-mode is work-mode… and work-mode is creative-mode. Because your last gig IS your last gig, you’re always planning/thinking of when, what, and how you’ll land your next job, aka, paycheck. And a critical part of that plan is how you’ll be creative. And as any creative person will tell you, that’s not just a button you push and something wholly new, exciting, and original comes out every time, on demand. So, your mind is constantly churning, attempting to land on viable options, concepts, ideas– and when you do– just how the hell you’re going to pull it off… again. And thus a skewed balance begins to favor “work” creeping into all aspects of your life.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Within the photography community, professional fashion photography is often referred to as “The Trust Fund Kid’s Career”. I don’t want to delve into classism here, but I can objectively say that photography– specifically fashion photography– is an expensive endeavor to undertake. I won’t get into the granular, but suffice to say you will not make good, consistent money in this genre for several years (if ever). Those lean years are make or break… and many do break. I’ve been doing this long enough to personally know dozens of fashion photographers (in Los Angeles) come and go; ones who make a huge splash, and burn bright, but burn out. Ones who can easily get by, even flourish, when they are younger…but as years add up, so do the inherent, ever growing expenses that just come from getting older. Often, several of these fashion photogs will make the jump over to weddings, real-estate, family/senior portraits, and/or product photography. Or they get out of the industry all together to pursue a more financially consistent career…and occasionally shoot/publish an editorial or take the odd (small) look-book job. The passion for photography is often an eternal flame…the reality of maintaining a viable career in this genre is a much different and much harsher truth.
So, how do you “make it” as a fashion photographer. Well, as the old saying goes, “The best way to make money as a photographer is to sell your gear” (never gets old, haha). Real answer: understand no one is going to “discover” you. No one is going to hand you a YSL campaign. You are entitled to exactly zero and you absolutely DO need to prove yourself. No matter how good or original you think you are, hundreds of people already did it before you and are doing way better. Art and ego are inherently intertwined, almost inseparable…do your best to separate the two.
Do not get into this career to become rich and famous. Statistically, neither will happen. You can, however, make a good living doing something you love… and that needs to be enough. At best (and I do mean BEST), you can expect to make about the same as a tenured university professor– probably on the lower end. Maintaining that for 20+ years is the real challenge, and one I face every minute of every day (hence, my previous answer on the work/life balance).
You’ll need to work hard for every inch of progress you make, and even then, your last job still IS your last job. This is how the figurative (or literal) “trust fund kids” can endure– they can stay afloat during the slopes and stagnations. You can too, it just requires much more grit and sacrifice. If this was an easy career, everyone would be doing it. So, baton down the hatches and hold fast… the ride is bumpy as shit…but damn, it’s a fun one.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
In the greater LA/SoCal areas… Old Place Cornell, to feel like you’re dining in a completely different state (trust me, it’s WORTH the drive). The small mountain town of Idyllwild to not only escape LA, but to avoid the Patagonia-clad weekend hikers and commercial noise of Lake Arrowhead or Mammoth (and while you’re there, you must eat at Ferro). Gjusta in Venice for brunch (or really anytime), but absolutely do not leave without at least one of their country sourdough baguettes. Shappy’s Pretzels have weekly pop-up shops all over LA, so just check their website if you crave what a REAL soft baked pretzel is supposed to taste like.
More locally, I live in Pasadena, so lighting-round in that area: Fishwives for oysters and beer. U-Street for the pepperoni pizza. Maestro is finer dining Mexican at its very best. Bone Kettle for truly amazing bone-broth ramen. Kings Row Gastropub for afternoon day-drinking. But my heart and soul resides within the small, intimate, dive-y English Pub-style establishment that is the Altadena Ale House… for all the other kinds of drinking and trouble that leads to 😉
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It goes without saying my parents and my wife have been unconditionally supportive throughout my entire journey with photography. In a day & age where literally everyone carries a camera in their pocket and fancies themselves a bit of a photographer sheerly because they can apply a HDR filter with one button and curate a social media page… when I voiced my ambitions to throw my hat in the ring, it was met with nothing but belief and unconditional support. Creativity is living thing…it needs to be fostered, nourished, and flourishes best in a conducive environment. My parents and my wife have always worked to create that environment for me.
Within the fashion photography community and market in Los Angeles, a huge acknowledgement and thank you needs to be paid to Jeff Abrams, owner and creative director of the clothing brand RAILS, as well as Isha Nicole, creative director at BOOT BARN. Early on in my career, both of them gave me huge opportunities to shoot for their companies, not only fully believing in my/our shared vision, but also giving me the budget to execute campaigns at a much larger scale than what was typical for a photographer at my level, back then. Because of them, I was able to create work that helped me bypass several “rungs in the ladder” much more quickly. I will always be grateful to both of them.
Chris Shintani, an amazing fashion photographer, Warren Remolacio, another great photographer, and Jeff Christensen, owner of Swing Studios, are by far my closest friends within the community, and have never ceased to support and promote me in all ways. Friendships and solidarity within your professional circle is paramount to keep you going, especially in hard times…and believe me, in fashion photography, there are HARD times.
photographer: Lucas Passmore