As a model, I travel all the time and am constantly looking for people to work with. As I was researching Nashville on The Hub, an amazing find came up: Alex Berger. I started to research his work and view his Instagram to find a wide array of images and styles from classic and clean to edgy and breathtaking.
After reaching out to Alex, one characteristic I instantly saw was his professionalism. After talking about his career, he disclosed that he only started doing full time photography the past few years. His passion for helping others in the industry to grow and create is inspiring and incredibly helpful. Not only does he display a passion for photography, but helping others’ careers. Here are some words of wisdom with Alex Berger:
What made you choose Nashville as your main hub?
Alex: My wife & I had been living in New York City for ten years and wanted to move somewhere where we could pursue our professional goals, buy a home, start a family and still live close to downtown. Although we loved NYC, we love Nashville too. And it has allowed us to accelerate all our life plans significantly. It’s obviously a major entertainment-industry city which was crucial, but a huge bonus was we already knew a lot of people that had moved here from New York and also LA and even England, where I’m from.
How did you start photography? Did you have any photographers that inspired you, or pushed you to pursue photography as a full-time career?
Alex: Honestly, I came to it pretty late. When I made my first album as a singer-songwriter in 2009, I decided to invest in a good camera to document the experience. It was a point-and-shoot that had some manual controls – at the time I was still too intimidated to buy a DSLR. I was recording with some amazing musicians in Brooklyn and seeing live music almost every night and got lots of practice shooting creative people. I continued taking shots on the road while I was touring, but it was always just a hobby. It wasn’t until my son was born in 2015 that I decided to step it up and finally get a decent camera. It turned out he was the cutest kid in town, and I felt like I needed a serious camera to document his cuteness. It was during many sleepless nights during his first 10 months that I devoured countless YouTube videos to learn all the basics of pro photography. So I will always have him to thank for this career I love so much. I started a photography Instagram account after I did one shoot with a musician friend and things took off immediately. About a year later I was so busy, I was able to go full-time.
My main visual inspirations have always been from cinema. As a child of the 80s, Steven Spielberg and David Lynch have probably been my biggest creative influences.
How did you make the leap from working a full time job with working freelance photography to working with an agent?
Alex: When I got too busy to manage all the shoot requests I was getting while I was also working a full-time job, I turned in my notice. It was a hard decision as a father and home-owner to walk away from a steady paycheck but my wife & I felt it was worth a shot as I was enjoying it so much and had made so much progress in a very short time. The first couple of months were the hardest as I had so much extra time to fill, but pretty quickly I was working more than ever.
I was introduced to my agent by an incredible hair & makeup artist I work with (Libby Barnes). I initially met with my agent just to pick her brain and get an idea of what a photography agent even does. We clicked in a lovely way and it turned out we were a great fit. I feel extremely lucky to have met and get to work with her as she has a lot of years experience doing what I do and as a result, fills a mentor role. I never went to photography school or knew any experienced photographers to critique my work, so that’s huge.
How do you know when the right time is to pursue an agent?
Alex: I would say the crucial factor is already being busy as a freelancer. I think an agent would only ever sign a photographer who is already sought-after. And on a practical level, although my agent brings me work, she’s a major help with admin related to the requests that come to me directly. When you’re running your own business, you’re responsible for invoicing, license agreements and all the email back-and-forth with clients. When you get to the point that the admin is encroaching on your work/life balance or affecting your ability to get out there and do what you do best, it may be time to consider approaching an agent.
What has been the most challenging part of your career and how did/do you overcome it?
Alex: I had no idea about licensing agreements for music clients. I didn’t know how or even why I needed to protect my work. When I was starting out, it was incredibly hard when dealing with labels or entertainment companies to find the balance between wanting to be super agreeable just to get my foot in the door and also making sure I was placing an appropriate value on my work. The way I overcame this was by retaining the services of an amazing entertainment/intellectual property attorney. My lawyer walked me through standard industry practices and also potential pitfalls to help me understand the lay of the land. Eventually, she helped craft my standard license agreement with clients. And whenever there’s something new that comes up, I can get great advice and know someone has my back.
What do you look for in people and brands you work with? How do you find new talent?
Alex: I love photographing artists. Authentic, talented, and thoughtful artists. And I love brands that are socially-conscious. The way I find clients and talent is often via referrals from previous clients and a lot through Instagram. And of course The Hub is a new and exciting resource!
What is 7×7 and how did it get started?
Alex: 7×7 is becoming a ‘visual podcast’. Each week we’ll publish a new series of seven photographs from one of our seven incredible photographers. It’s an intrinsically collaborative platform where our photographers can share and highlight ideas, individuals, stories and causes that have inspired them, in order to inspire others.
Following each seven week cycle, we present a series from one of our 7×7 Events (which until now was 7×7 in its entirety). At the events, our seven photographers are randomly paired with seven fascinating subjects in a stunning, often historic location.
It got started when I switched from being a musician to being a photographer. As a musician, I attended and often organized events for songwriters to share songs they were working on and connect with peers. When I become a photographer, I wasn’t seeing anything like that out there and wanted to find a way to connect with other visual creatives. I think photographers are often seen as ‘lone wolves’ and I reject that premise. It especially made sense here in Nashville which I’ve found to be a uniquely collaborative city.
How did you come up with the unique concept of matching seven amazing photographers with seven gorgeous models at random?
Alex: From songwriting events I’d worked on in the past, I found around 14 people is the perfect amount for this type of gathering. Not too many that you can’t connect with everyone and not too few that you feel too caught in a spotlight. Pulling names from hats felt like a fair and exciting way to pair people up. The most crucial part of any 7×7 event is that every single participant is not just incredibly talented but also a wonderful person. I have a strict ‘no d-bag’ policy. That way everyone is happy no matter who they get paired with. Also, as the event goes on, people tend to exchange partners and it often blossoms into random, multi-person mini-shoots in configurations we couldn’t have imagined.
What are some of the positives and negatives when collaborating with such a large group of people for a project like 7×7?
Alex: There are a lot of positives. The completely stunning images created at these events speak for themselves. I think everyone feels energized and comes away with ideas and inspiration from seeing everyone else work. The thing that ultimately makes me the most proud is there are collaborations, sometimes paid work and even friendships that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
One negative is the amount of work it takes to successfully plan and execute each event. But even that is getting easier the more we do it. Also, a real negative is the fact that at this point I know a lot more than seven amazing photographers and unfortunately I can’t include them all.
How do you feel the scale of these collaborations affects the art?
Alex: The energy at a 7×7 event is unique. I think in part due to being surrounded by your peers all doing their thing, and feeling the love of being one of a highly curated group. We also put in a lot of preparation to ensure photographers can just show up and start shooting. We try to remove all potential roadblocks and add as many things that will foster creativity. The last event we did had multiple hair & makeup artists, wardrobe stylists, clothes from local designers and boutiques, incredible and easy to use lights on hand – from the wonderful Rotolight – as well as delicious and healthy food. All of those things combined made the creators feel fully supported and encouraged. It’s basically a photographer’s dream playground and that is reflected in the work.
What advice do you have for new photographers, either wanting to start a company or working with other brands/companies?
Alex: The best advice I have was given to me by some close friends in New York who said to always be looking down the ladder and helping the next person up.
Also, don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help. Nail the basics. Be professional, be courteous, be on time and be thorough. Exceed expectations.
When it comes to exceeding expectations, Alex knows how to blow everyone away. When shooting, he brought on board one of Nashville’s most talented hair/makeup artists: Amy Kruse. She was kind, talented, thorough and timely, everything you could want in an artist, just like Alex. His directions were precise, every shot behind the camera was clean and his shooting was fast, but with purpose. Working with Alex was the highlight of the trip. Not only does he make models feel comfortable, but also supported. Working with him was truly an honor, and, after working with Alex, I’m so thankful to call him a friend.
You can view Alex’s Hub Profile here.