Peter Hurley, a photographer and teacher based in New York, talks about his career and offers advice to aspiring photographers.
Your photography career has an interesting start to it. Explain how it’s connected to your love of sailing?
I was training for the 1996 Olympics sailing team and I met a designer from DKNY who was working with a photographer to take pictures for the Olympic campaign. Then, I found out that Ralph Lauren was looking for real sailors for a summer ad campaign and I got the job. I worked with a photographer who encouraged me to pick up a camera, and I listened to him.
Tell us about the opportunity that you had to visit Hawaii and take shots during the final days of shooting the hit TV show, Lost.
I work with Vilcek Foundation, which honors immigrants in the U.S., and Lost has a vast cast of actors who either immigrated to the states or had parents who immigrated. I went to Hawaii to capture that group of people.
To this day, it’s the most fun I’ve had on a job. It was an amazing experience.
One of the photos that stands out from that shoot was of Jorge Garcia. The crew was shooting the final scenes of the whole show and while the director was changing lenses I was able to take this shot of Jorge in about 30 seconds. I was freaking out, but it turned out to be a great shot.
Another shot that stands out from that trip was of the painter. I found him at his workstation and it was the most visual thing I’ve ever seen. I just loved it. It’s actually my favorite image.
Share an image that you’re proud of and explain why.
I shoot a lot of actors and an actor came in for a consultation and I thought her dad was a cool guy. He had to step out to take a phone call and his wife tells me, “He has to sell fish.” It turns out he is a commercial fisherman. I asked him if I could go out on his boat and take some pictures. So, at 3am I went out to eastern Long Island to do this shoot.
It was a mess. The weather was bad and my assistant got sick. By the time we got back I didn’t have any shots that I liked. The weather was starting to break, so I asked them to give me ten minutes at the dock before they unloaded and got this great shot of him and his son. I’m really proud of that shot.
You offer a lot of workshops. Why do you enjoy teaching?
I love teaching. It’s really fulfilling to be able to take someone who has a limited skill set and get them to up their game because of something that I taught them. It just blows me away.
I’m teaching photographers how to take great headshots, which I believe is the fastest growing genre out there. My teaching website is Headshotcrew.com.
For aspiring photographers out there, what characteristic or personality trait do you think is 100% necessary in this line of work? Why?
The number one trait a photographer needs is confidence. You have to have confidence in your direction, confidence when you meet people, and confidence to make subjects respond to you. If you lack confidence, your subject feels it and the shoot goes down hill fast.
The best advice I can give a photographer is to improve their skill set so your confidence can shine through.
Learn more about Peter Hurley and his work on his website.