What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
Building BHP Imaging has been the most challenging and rewarding project of my life. Starting a business is a daunting undertaking, but it is also a very exciting and creative process. As I shaped my business, I constantly thought about creating a place where I would both love to work and also be a customer. It’s taken more of me than expected, but I can proudly say that I’ve done that. BHP is centered around its clients’ needs, which means being flexible with everything from pricing to doing what you have to do to get the images that will mean something to couples, families, businesses, or the wider community. Overall, I get to do what makes me happy for a living, and nothing makes me feel more fortunate and accomplished.
What is your primary personal development goal/business goal for the next 5 years?
My wife describes me as a futurist. I can’t stop myself from entertaining many different visions of what the future might hold. This means that my five year goal is more like a million little goals, some of which I will try out and decide to leave behind, and others that will stick. In a general sense though, I think a lot about making my home, both a home for myself and for my business. For the last five years I have worked long hours trying to make a successful business, and now that I feel more sure of its sustainability, I want to lend more time to finding ways that BHP Imaging can contribute to our community. It has been exciting to watch Laramie grow as a cultural and creative hub over the last few years, and my goal is to be a bigger part of this growth.
What is your biggest philanthropic achievement?
Marketing and content production are increasingly important for both small businesses and community projects, and photography lends itself well to helping others in these areas. While I don’t have one grandiose philanthropic achievement, over the years I’ve offered my work to many different Laramie businesses and community events either for free or at steeply discounted rates. For example, Breakfast With Santa is an event that raises funds for Hospice of Laramie. I’ve photographed it or free for the last four years, as I did the Laramie Brewfest for two years. Nonprofits are also an area where I’ve concentrated my donations, including free professional portraits for staff members of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and for artists of the Laramie Mural Project. Recently, I also donated several of my photographs to the Equality State Policy Center that they used in their We Vote Campaign. I’ve also done a mix of free and discounted work for The Laramie Mainstreet Alliance and The Wyoming Conservation Corps.
What action/event that you've been a part of, that you believe has made the biggest difference in Laramie?Or are you most proud of?
Being a part of the Laramie Mural Project has been one of the more rewarding and fun experiences of my career. In addition to photographing portraits of the mural artists, I also created fine art prints, coloring books, postcards, and social media images of the murals. The Mural Project sells this merchandise to continue to fund its mission. My involvement in the project has given me the opportunity to work with some incredible local artists and community leaders and witness how they have transformed the feeling of our downtown, sprucing up forgotten alleys and bringing more color to our long winters -- not to mention the added foot traffic the murals bring to downtown businesses. I feel very lucky and proud to have had a part to play in this creative community project.
What excites you most about the future of Laramie?
I have the feeling that right here and now, in this windy plains town, something special is happening. We are choosing our friends and neighbors over box stores and sharing in a true sense of collective responsibility for the strength of our community. Laramie is investing in art, local music, and small businesses -- in its people. I am excited to be a part of this rising tide and to see where it will take us.
What do you think has helped make you successful in your endeavors?
It wasn’t easy, but eventually I learned to trust myself. I trusted myself to know my own shortcomings and to be a diligent critic of my work. Over time, I also learned to trust my photographic style as well as my ability to run a business. Most importantly though, I trusted that I could do it. Trust gives me direction in the unfamiliar times.
What advice would you give to other young professionals in Laramie?
It isn’t uncommon for up-and-coming photographers to reach out for advice. One thing I always tell them is to mentally prepare themselves for all the hard work and tough decision making that go hand in hand with being an entrepreneur. If you want to do what you love, you should know from the start that it’s going to take a lot of you, especially in the beginning. But, if you still feel excited and energized by your work, despite all the long hours, then you are on the right path. In my experience, very few things are as rewarding as making your dream happen.