We had the good fortune of connecting with Mitch Ranger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mitch, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I started off college as a marketing major. Marketing…gross. I didn’t think I could earn a good living as a photographer. At the same time I was taking several photo classes, spending most days in the darkroom. The head of the photo department, Hideki Kihata, set up a meeting with me. He convinced me that I was wasting my time as a marketing major, and that I had the chance to be a great photographer. And against the grain, he told me I should get out of there and go to a place that would nurture my talent. He literally changed my entire trajectory, from playing it safe to completely letting go and following my heart, following what I was passionate about. I guess I needed to hear it from someone I considered credible, and with that conversation Hideki changed my entire future. I am humbled by his guidance.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started photography at 17. I’m now 23 years in. It was not easy, and after college I spun my wheels trying to figure out how to make a living solely as a photographer. I even doubted I made the right decision after some financial flatlining. I remember pawning my tv just so I could take a girl on a date. After some initial failures, I took a job as a door to door salesman. That job taught me about humility, about getting up and putting immense effort into something you do not enjoy. And I did it, I worked hard, I hated it. But it taught me some very valuable lessons in how to sell yourself, and it came naturally to me. The minute I saved up enough money to have a little space, I took another shot at my dream job. And this time it started to work…
For the first 10 years I barely made any money, and what I did make I spent working on my portfolio, getting my branding up to par, and working towards showing the kind of imagery I hoped to get paid to produce.
It took a lot of hours and sacrifice the first decade, and by the end of that I was on stable ground.
It was very exciting to see my name in magazines, eventually my images on billboards. As awards started rolling in and I made it into Communication Arts & Graphis, it became very clear I was meant to do this.
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?
I’m a big fan of West Hollywood, and when I’m shooting in the area that’s typically where I’ll stay. I like to walk around the design district and get inspired by form. Dinner at Olivetta makes me very happy, the intimate environment and colorful textural layering is incredibly thoughtful. I’ve met some unique, kind people with incredible stories there.
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?
I am so fortunate to have family and friends that completely supported my path towards becoming a professional photographer. My family bought me my first camera. My friends let me waste their time as I practiced the craft on them. 2 very important characters had an enormous impact on my trajectory. The first was Hideki Kihata, convincing my to follow my heart and pursue photography full time. The 2nd was another teacher and mentor, John Rocco, who guided me through the next chapter of my education and helped me get real world working experience. He was sort of the conduit between my dream and reality.
Other: So…I don’t use social media. 10 years ago I was told if I’m not a social media star your dead in the water. Well, they also told me I had to start shooting video…even though I only got into this due to my love of still photography. Somehow…I’ve thrived. I do not wish to be everything to everyone, rather to be an all star at what I do. I haven’t followed the grain, rather I’ve nurtured what I love most and focused on what will keep me happy and sustainable long term.
Mitch Ranger – photographer Kathy Price – Make-up & Hair Sabra Temple – Wardrobe