We had the good fortune of connecting with Craig Vincent and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Craig, how do you think about risk?
Risk, on some sort of scale, is a part of everyone’s lives. Unfortunately, most people aren’t taught how to approach risk and I’m not sure I was either. I got through some of my risk fears by doing multi-level marketing when I was younger, which is brutal on people who are worried about rejection – something I was and still am in some regards. But by doing that you’re taught to look at risk through a lens of numbers – you have to fail a certain number of times to be successful. So you’re told to go out and fail a lot. The more you fail the more you will succeed.
Looking at myself now, on a personal level, I don’t really face that level of ‘failure equals success’ as I did, but it’s still there in other capacities. Some examples could be finding models; some models will say no and so you keep finding noes until you find yeses. At times I find myself skipping over a model because I’m worried about them saying no. The irony of it though is that I’m a coach and a dad, and half of those things are teaching kids to be brave. We have to be bad at things before we can be good at them. If we stop when we’re bad, we stay bad. So teaching kids to go out and be bad over and over and to challenge themselves to do things that scare them (even just going into a dark room) so they improve is important.
Looking at a different sort of risk, the ‘choose A or choose B’ sort… I’m very much where I am because of some very hard choices over the years. I had always planned to take over the family business but chose to quit. Later, I quit my full-time job to be a stay-at-home dad. And a few years back, I quit about 5 different coaching jobs, left my photography circle, and moved with my family from Washington State to Texas. I’m fortunate to have a strong intuition that I trust and I’m able to take my fears and gauge them pragmatically – “yes it’s scary but what are the chances it actually goes wrong”. So far it’s seemed to work out for me as I’m happy with where I am in life – aside from Houston’s weather!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My photography has not been a difficult path because I’ve always been fortunate enough to be able to take the road I want to. My photography doesn’t support me which gives me many benefits for doing it when and how I want to. The most difficult part about photography – and art in general – is that it’s so vague and subjective. Trying to do everything, let alone be good at everything, is vastly overwhelming. So I quickly decided that I needed a niche to focus on and I ended up with black and white, low-key, glamour, portraiture. I turned a garage into a studio with all black walls and I shot with a single light to create extremely dark low-key images which I thought were great. I didn’t have much experience but I loved the uniqueness and it stuck. Over time, I learned more and branched out, but to this day, most of my images are shot with a single light and are relatively dark.
My goals are a combination of wanting to be different but also wanting to be seen in the same category as some other artists. I’m constantly trying to incorporate little things I see while keeping the same feel and theme I’m going for. Currently, I do a lot of compositing, which is far less common. It takes a ton of time, and in a world of selfies and phone-shooting, it’s far less common to see highly edited images when an artist knows someone will be looking at it on their tiny phone for 5 seconds. That’s certainly not to say it isn’t there, some of the people I follow are extremely talented, but I do think my compositing helps set me apart.
Why did I pick compositing? I think I chose to do it because it allows me to shoot a model in a safe setting while still allowing me to take her anywhere I choose to, real or fantasy. There’s also the enjoyment of a model seeing an image they never expected and seeing themselves in a place they may never get to. This is especially fun when it’s a narrative shoot like the Viking ones I recently did. Literally taking a model to Scandinavia to shoot wasn’t really possible, but it is through compositing. It think the combination of my low-key work and the compositing gives my brand a unique feeling that’s not seen often.
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.
This is sort of a difficult question. We’ve only lived in Houston for about 4.5 years and we’ve had a baby since we moved here so seeing a lot of different things around the city hasn’t been at the top of the list. The best time ever during the summer would be the air conditioning. Houston is brutally hot and humid so unless they want to be sweating through everything, we’ll probably be inside. That said, Houston is on the coast, and though our beaches aren’t fantastic, a day on the beach isn’t a bad day. There are a number of great venues for seeing shows and concerts and there are some very neat gardens and museums here too, including a beautiful butterfly museum.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would definitely have to say my biggest supporter and the one that makes it all possible is my wife. Without her hard work, I’d still be working 9-5 full-time. Her job allowed me to stay at home to raise the kids and supplement her income with my various hobbies. Since then, the hobbies have turned into businesses and a career, and with the kids getting older I have a greater ability to invest in them. But it never would have happened without her willingness to take things on her shoulders.
There’s also the aspect of understanding. In our case, it comes in two different forms. The first is that while she does enjoy many aspects of her job, it’s long hours and very stressful. What I do are my passions; even when I’m not making money doing them, I still do them. And while I don’t make what she makes, I’m sure there are times when she wishes she could be living off her passions too. The second piece is that she’s very understanding in regards to letting me shoot with all these models. Not every wife would be comfortable doing that.
As for mentorship and teachers? In terms of my coaching, I have countless people to attribute to my success. Many people and institutions spending time on me, giving me chances, and seeing the potential in me. Putting yourself in a position to be around people who are better than you and who want to lift you up is very important. Try not to be the best in your group and be very clear about wanting people to help you get better. Do not be closed off and harsh to criticisms. My game design has given me some of this as well. I had people around me willing to tell me I wasn’t doing a good job and they helped me improve. I’ve not had this opportunity in my photography nearly as much. I’ve watched all sorts of tutorials and found photographers that I try to emulate, but I’ve not spent much physical time around other photographers – which is something I need to take more initiative on I suppose. But photography is also an art and I’ve been able to sort of find my own route through it to a place I’m happy with – which I think many artists do also.