Erik Almas is an inspiration to many of us not only with the work he does as a commercial photographer but also as a person who shares the struggles and successes he had in his career. No doubt that he works with many companies and brands we can only dream of, but in a recent interview he confessed that despite that there wasn't a moment in his life when he could say he "finally made it." It is exciting to hear what his measure for success really was.
I have always been interested in the story of each successful artist. It helps to see what hardships they have gone through and the way they've overcome them. This gives us inspiration and, more importantly, practical ideas on how we can manage to climb the next step on the never-ending ladder of art.
Erik Almas is originally from Norway. In his earlier years, he went to San Francisco, CA to study art and then he was an apprentice of a successful commercial photographer. There he found out he knew nothing about commercial photography. Having shot sports for a local newspaper, his actual education on photography started there in the real commercial world scene. After a few years as an assistant, he decided to make a career by himself. He then put in a lot of effort to build a body of work.
There is no shortcut for that. You have spend time crafting content. You have to exercise the visual muscle of yours.
Reaching a stage where he had a good enough portfolio, he started marketing himself but went on without any success. In order to get out of the debt he went into, he lived on retouching other photographers' work. At this point, he reached a moment quite common for most artists; a burnout. When you spend all that time honing your skills, marketing yourself, and there's no fruit from your efforts. He decided to go back to Norway, but then was given advice that it's not bad to try a different market, but sometimes if you decide to go back and give it another try, it could be too late. Almas decided to push harder and to use the small momentum he already built despite the hardships. A few months later he got published in a magazine and assignments started popping one after another.
I would think some resistance in any artistic endeavor is inevitable. My advice would be to realize that without resistance there is no accomplishment. Without this dark period there is no goal or sense of purpose. Without it being “hard” there would be no challenge and it would not be worth doing it in the first place.
A Recipe For Success
Erik Almas is well known for his style where he combines the beauty of an environment, the beauty of personalities, all tied by a romantic vibe. He has a peculiar love for low light and uses color to convey emotion. His fingerprints are visible throughout all of his work, both in personal and commercial assignments.
Sometimes his art involves compositing, but unless it's not an eerie fairy tale it's hard to tell which is real and which is a photo manipulation. Watching his art you can get the sense of who he is as a person.
As a photographer I’m drawn to a quiet sense of movement and beauty both in space and its people. I seek a visual narrative driven by what you see within the image, but also by what might just have happened, or what is about to happen, just outside of it. Moments that are inspiring, proud, humbling, stoic and contemplative are right in my wheelhouse, and I capture these with a bent towards the romantic.
On the question if there's a recipe for success, Erik Almas gives a few directions. Although everyone's path is different there are universal guidelines each artist can follow to become a better professional. Creating a personal style and taste is the first step to define an identity as an artist. You do that by looking at a work and things you love and get inspired by them. Then you try to create a similar vibe by putting your own soul and fingerprints in it. According to Almas pursuing and bringing to reality new ideas, as well as striving for perfection, is far better than creating work just for fans and likes. Learning from those before you or from the great artists of today, and asking for an advice from them, is the right direction. This way you can step on a foundation built by skilled professionals.Personal projects are what Erik Almas works on regularly among commercial assignments. For him working on ideas you are passionate about is what will make both your personal and commissioned projects have the same look and feel.
Although he gives guidelines for becoming a successful professional, Almas still thinks that if you pursue success as a sole purpose it can create a lot of pressure and frustration. By not reaching the imaginary goal of "success" artists may feel discouraged and give up the course.
Now if we separate our passion to create from an outcome, we will allow ourselves more time and freedom to create our work. This will in turn allow our art to develop.
Your Dream Assignments Come True, Then What?
Erik Almas followed those directions himself and there came to a breakpoint where he got under the spotlights of big clients and brands he dreamed to work with. That's the goal many photographers want to reach, but then what? According to him, you have to work even harder to keep that momentum.
For Almas, reaching a moment of a great achievement can be both a good and a bad thing. At that point of your career, you may say to yourself "I've made it." That attitude could be the beginning of the end of your path as a creative person. Every year he is sending fresh marketing materials to brands and companies regardless of his fame and current success.
In today's world of Instagram you will be irrelevant in no time if you at any point think you are “known” enough to stop creating.
For Erik Almas, there should be no moment of "I made it" in our lives as visual artists. We have to "make it" lots and lots of times, not just at one point. Moving our focus from an abstract goal called "success" and aiming it towards creating solid work will keep you from "giving up," for you won't have a reason to give up.
If you keep your focus on creating, you have made it.
If doing what you do expands you and fills you up, you have made it.
If you crave creating every day, you have made it.
If you are excited about what you just created and even more excited to improve upon it, you have made it.
If you are proud to show your work, you have made it.
If you found an expression that consistently expresses who you are, you have made it.
If you have done the above so consistently your expression starts to recognize itself, you have made it.
If you question why and how and who and explore this through your work, you have made it.
If you want to see more of Erik Almas' work, get inspired by it, and learn about his techniques for lighting, shooting, and post-processing, head over to his website.