We had the good fortune of connecting with Morgan Mantilla and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Morgan, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
Networking has been major in my line of work. Making genuine connections with people, and nurturing those connections over time, has led to projects coming my way consistently since I started. Likewise, those people that have tapped me for projects are top of mind for me when I need a hair stylist or a makeup artist for something that I’m working on. It’s a lovely cycle of creative work. Additionally, I’ve modeled my career after my mentor’s, James Arnett. She has always freelanced throughout her career, even when she’s had full time work, and that has helped her to actively evolve and move from one position to another. I’ve had a similar experience so far, freelancing regularly throughout my career has opened up so many new directions and connections for me that I would not have discovered otherwise. I believe this model allows for your career to be more fluid, instead of trying to follow a strict career ladder. I think this has worked for me as well as it has, because it’s sort of a modern career adaptation to the modern creative workplace.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art is centered on the concept of revealing my subject’s inner essence. Every shoot has a larger narrative or idea that I’m working to convey, but what brings it all to life is that illusive inner fire that each of my subjects have. There is a whole universe in their eyes, in their being, that is burned into the memory of the viewer. That’s what I strive to create with every photo shoot. The path of a creative career is nebulous to say the least, it takes a lot of commitment, ingenuity, and resilience. It has been wonderfully fulfilling, but very challenging. I believe the only people who choose and stick to creative careers are the ones who truly can’t live without it. The very first shoot I ever worked on was for credit, aka I worked for free for 16 hours straight, and you know how I felt at the end of it? Happy and fulfilled. Nobody would do that if they didn’t absolutely love what they were doing.
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.
So many places! I’d take them to the Getty, then we’d grab lunch at my favorite burger and beer place, Stout. After a long night of drinking and dancing at Davey Wayne’s, I’d take them to the iconic Canter’s Deli. Another night, after dinner at Masa of Echo Park, we’d take in the views at the Upstairs at the Ace Hotel. We could go thrift shopping around the city, starting at my favorite spot, Jet Rag, and then peruse Melrose for great finds. For brunch one morning, we’d take a drive on PCH and head to Malibu Farms on the Malibu Pier. Another day we’d explore one of my favorite neighborhoods, Little Tokyo, and grab a bite at TOT (Teishokuya of Tokyo). We could explore The Last Bookstore in downtown, take a ride on Angel’s Flight, and try various cuisines at Grand Central Market. There’s always something to do or see in LA, I love how alive the city is.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mentor, James Arnett. Not only is she a fantastic, multitalented professional, but she has served as an invaluable guide and friend throughout my career. She has taught me so much and given me so much support, and I am grateful for her. Additionally, I’d like to shoutout my dearest friend, Ari VanMeeteren, who has been my rock and biggest cheerleader in life. Here’s to badass women!