|| Shane Miller

In my opinion Shane is an artist that has found his “voice”. His work is consistent and unique to him, which doesn’t come easy. Finding a creative voice is usually the outcome of intense dedication, and willingness to endure a painstaking process of trial and error. When I see Shane’s work that’s what I think of. So that was the starting point of our conversation. 

A couple years ago he was working full time as a physical therapy assistant, until he began to pursue a career in music. As music became a form of work, he needed a separate creative outlet so, he began painting which has become the focus of his work.      

When I asked Shane how he found his niche, he said at the beginning, he painted everything. He told me to imagine a tree. On the table between us he began tracing the trunk of a tree with his fingers, and then from there the branches as they extended out from where they started. He said you go down each branch like a pathway and see what’s at the end. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you know the way back to the beginning where other branches are. 

This mindset confirmed my thinking about his painstaking determination. 

Generally speaking, if you try a lot of things you’ll probably find out what doesn’t work quickly, but also what does. In order to find the thing you’re looking for, you just start exploring. At first you might be headed in the wrong direction, but once you discover that what you’re searching for is in a different place you’ll be that much closer to finding it. Easier said than done.

I think its admirable to express yourself in many ways for the sake of finding what rings true. Stumbling through the times that don’t make sense can equate to feeling like you, the creator, doesn’t make sense. But I’m convinced it’s worth it, a necessary evil if you want to create something beautiful.   

This makes me think that all paths are useful in finding what you’re looking for. Maybe the more difficult and confusing times are the most important. The key is choosing to go, and I think this is something that sets Shane apart. His active exploration of his own voice can be seen and felt in his work.           

|| Joey Verzilli

I met Joey when I moved to Nashville in 2013. Not long after we became friends I distinctly remember hearing someone say that he was about to quit his normal job to put everything he had into his new business idea - Lockeland Leatherworks. I was really impressed by his decision to do something so bold and it’s stayed with me since. It’s one reason why I thought of him for this shoot.  

Lockeland began four years ago at Joey’s dining room table where he started crafting leather goods by hand, mainly as a creative outlet and time away to decompress from his day job working as a multimedia designer. As time went on, he realized that people were becoming increasingly interested in what he was making, so he investigated the prospect of beginning a business. 

Fast forward to today, and Joey has a full studio to work out of, and has recently hired his first employees to assist him as he has undertaken large scale commissions.     

When I entered his workspace for the first time I couldn’t escape the thought that I was walking through a dream that had come to fruition, a specific space that did not exist a couple years ago. The shop is beautiful, full of natural light, and has all the unique tools necessary to make leather goods - presses, knives, sewing machines, and large roles of beautifully treated leather. 

Joey and I spent a long time chatting about Lockeland, and then I stuck around while he fashioned a wallet by hand. 

I asked him about his process and what it was like leaving a comfortable job to do something he loved. Here’s what stood out to me from his response - comfort does not equate to happiness. Joey said he had an awakening moment where he asked himself why he’d been going along with the cycle of “work a normal job, for someone else, day after day, for who knows how long”. That’s what most people do. It’s very normalized, and when you’re caught up in the daily/weekly/yearly rhythm of it it all, there’s not much time to stop and wonder about other alternatives.

Somehow Joey realized the pattern and he changed. He made a choice to begin building something brand new. He took control, along with a lot of risks, and now he’s running his own business. 

We talked a lot about the idea of believing in yourself. Something key happened when Joey realized that he could in fact be his own boss, and be a great one. Or when he realized that he possessed the ability to follow through with a job that required skills he’d not yet acquired. He said in most cases you have to learn new skills not only before you accomplish a task, but while you're in the middle of it. Then you start realizing that you can rise to any occasion. This doesn’t mean you won’t deal with failure, but we realize we’re capable of more than we thought. This has a lot to do with facing fears, and the unknown. It has to do with saying "yes" to challenges to see what you’re made of. 

It’s inspiring to think about how this all began because Joey had an idea that led to change. In these photos you just might see evidence of difficult choices, hard work, determination, and courage to believe that what’s inside of us is worth taking seriously.    

|| Kyle Monroe

In 2013 Kyle moved from California to Tennessee. He was in a band and the move had potential to position them for success.

In addition to being a member of the band, Kyle played a large role in the production of their music. He also started producing other music out of his bedroom as a way to make ends meet in a new city, and because it was what he loved to do. That was the start of Tiny Tape Room in Nashville.    

Over a few years, a lot changed. The band split up (amicably), and it’s members went their own way. Kyle stayed in Nashville. He met his wife, bought a house, and began growing a business. 

I asked him how he started a studio from scratch in Nashville - 

Kyle told me, when he realized he loved music and producing, he made a choice to do whatever it took to make it a part of his life’s work. At one point this meant setting it aside for a year. He knew he needed enough income to support both his family and his dream which meant he needed to outgrow his bedroom studio. So he became a home inspector and started working towards a studio that would allow him to produce on a larger scale.   

I asked him how he deals with the fact that there are tons of people already doing what he wanted to do in Nashville. Kyle told me there came a time when he realized he had something unique to offer. He realizes that he has his own voice, and it’s valuable. He said Tiny Tape Room is the result of doing it his way, from the gear to the color scheme. 

Kyle also said it was important for him when answering the question “what do you do?”, to say “I’m a producer” instead of “I’m a home inspector”. We talked about how there’s something special that happens when you decide to call yourself what you believe you will become, even if you don’t feel quite ready. It’s like speaking dreams into existence. Even though home inspecting is an integral part of his dream, he leads with “producer”. And that’s how most people know Kyle in Nashville. That’s why people come to his studio.  

The most profound idea that I walked away with from my time with Kyle is that there is no final destination or end goal when it comes to being creative. While we were talking about challenges, and how Kyle has navigated some of his own, what he said made me feel like it’s important to get comfortable with the idea of obstacles always being around the next corner. If you really love something, and you want to create good work, you’ll never be finished learning or satisfied with what you’re capable of.    

Tiny Tape Room is a very literal example of the hard work put into creating something great, and the time it takes to build something meaningful. Kyle’s perspective on growth and making his dream a reality was contagious. I’m excited to see where Tiny Tape Room will be in the coming years. I have a feeling this is only the beginning. 

|| Kate Gazaway

Kate is the founder of Picture Change, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching individuals the art of photography to better themselves and their communities. This began for her in Nicaragua where she noticed a need that she could meet using her skill in photography and ability to teach. 

I want to show an aspect of her work that most people don’t see, but is no less important than the higher profile traveling abroad to directly empower people. 

Here in Nashville, I see Kate administering the path forward in the form of office work - sending emails, making calls, organizing meetings, and communicating with her students who are in three different countries. I realized that if this element was taken away from the process, Picture Change would come to a standstill. 

I asked Kate what some of her challenges look like on this side of Picture Change - one of them is dealing with being told “no” when she’s planning for the future. She said she’s had to to get used to the feeling, as well as how to recover from what can be such a devastating answer at times.   

What keeps Kate going when she’s faced with the most overwhelming challenges are the people who are being impacted by her work. She said if she stops it will directly effect the education that has been taking place among her students. The vision of this education is that it will overflow from the individual student and into the community. So Kate feels connected to many people in this way, like she's a part of their lives, and by her efforts contributing to a brighter future.           

The day we were working on this project she was waiting on an answer that would determine what the coming months looked like for her. She was planning her next Picture Change campaign and hoping to partner with an organization that would be able to provide the necessary resources. Kate had everything lined up on her end, and was ready to begin. 

Right at the end of this shoot, she got the answer and it was not what she'd hoped to hear. In the midst of this disheartening news, I couldn’t help but think about everything we were doing that day - documenting the unseen, talking about the challenges that occur there, and pressing on. 

I was experiencing first hand the reality of this unfavorable news. I felt the weight of it, and I saw how Kate handled it in the moment. The last photo was taken after she found this out - to me It feels like persistence and some refusal to give in, it feels like hard lessons learned about the process of moving forward along a challenging path, knowing that the dream is worth it.      

To learn more about Kate and Picture Change click here 

|| Emanuel Butera

The timing for this shoot couldn’t have been better. I’d been wanting to capture Emanuel in his element for a while, we’d talked about it months ago, before I started taking environmental portraits. Right before the shoot he released a record called Unread Carbon Copy 1. It’s an instrumental composition that is meditative, challenging, and can lead you to some deep and freeing places if you let it. Fortunately for me, I got to shoot and experience the first performance of this album in the place where it was composed.

As we sat in his home and talked about what motivated him to create this record, the excitement and fulfillment of his finished work was palpable. 

I said earlier this record is challenging - Emanuel intentionally wrote music that is outside of our typical framework of understanding it. His songs started out unnatural to play, and can be unnatural to hear. 

Emanuel talked to me about the beauty of nature, and how there’s a randomness to it that makes it beautiful. It causes a deep reaction when it’s paid attention to, but we can’t place it inside a grid to understand or predict it. He said this was inspiration for his songs.  

Think about all of the rules most adhere to with music - timing, resolve, song structure, etc. These are ideas that we’ve come up with to understand, play, and listen to music. It gives us a way of making sense of this powerful force that is music. We are comfortable with it, because we made a way to control it. For this album, Emanuel learned uncomfortable key patterns and structures of chords until they were second nature. 

This says a lot about him, as well as creating in general. Why would someone work hard at something uncomfortable? In order to have that idea, you first have to question what is normal and comfortable, you have to press up against the boundaries and ask “who put these here?” 

Questioning what is generally accepted as “all there is” can be scary, it can feel unnatural, and lonely. More importantly what precedes the questioning is a realization that when you listen to yourself - your feelings and thoughts, your ideas, you can begin to discover how much is actually out there. This idea is embedded in Emanuel’s record from start to finish, let it play and see where it takes you.   

|| Brian Hickman

I’ve heard you should never work for free unless you’re at the start of your career and need to prove yourself or develop a portfolio. There’s some good wisdom there.   

Brian's put 20 years into his craft and many would say he's a master in his field. Yet every Wednesday you can find him at Local Honey putting in a full work day cutting, and styling…and he’s doing it for free. 

In light of the aforementioned method of always charging for service, I had to ask him what his reasoning is. The reoccurring theme I took away from our conversation was “practice.” It seems simple but there are layers here. 

Once Brian figured out his own style, and what made him passionate, he figured out a way to continue growing in that direction. Three years ago he started cutting hair for free on Wednesdays because he wanted to get better at a specific type of cutting and styling that his client base may not have asked for. Even though he could’ve spent this time and energy working a normal day, he committed to improving his skill.

Brian’s priority seems to be constant growth for himself and others. He’s not content just making a living. From talking with him I learned that if you want to get better, you have to show up every time. If you want to perfect your craft you need to work on it, regardless of your experience or how equipped you feel to accomplish the task.

Talking with Brian three years into the development of "Education Wednesdays", and seeing how much value has come from it, is to say the least, inspiring. His motivation to continue his individual growth has had many unforeseen benefits - when he started, it was a way to show up, to keep perfecting his craft. Now it has grown into a full day of creative exploration, where stylists, colorists and apprentices have a safe place to push the limits of their creativity and craft, full of support and guidance. Seeing this firsthand is proof enough for me that his method works. The success of this education day isn’t measured by money, but rather how fulfilled he is, and how much he and those around him are growing as professional creatives. 

|| Danielle Vichinsky

I’m a part of Danielle’s story because we were housemates in Nashville for awhile. We hadn’t met prior and were connected through a friend when I needed a room filled. I did know of her though - and her highly regarded CB550, Peggy. I also had an old CB650…to sum up, we shared an affinity for bikes and riding, which is a special bond. Here’s what it was like from my perspective -

It was immediately obvious to me that Danielle was actually in love with her bike. But not in a fashion accessory way, or a “never ride this hard because it’s old” kind of way. She rode that bike like it was her main mode of transportation, in all different kinds of unfavorable weather, even to different states. She rode it hard, like it was new & wasn’t a perfectionist with it, dings and all I think she gave it a soul.

She tells me that her life would be a lot different if she hadn’t found this bike, or her love for it - she wouldn’t have met the same people or may not have ended up where she is now. All this to say, Danielle embodies riding motorcycles right, and the relationship that a person can develop with the machine, and the other people riding theirs. She’s one of my favorite riders to share the road with and I’m fortunate our paths have crossed. Someday her bike will be in a museum and it’s going to remind people of the most bad ass women I’ve met, I bet it’ll still be running.         

|| Hannah Koshgarian

Before this shoot Hannah and I spent some time talking about her experience pursuing cello. 

Her story was inspiring for many reasons, but what I loved the most was how she had to decide for herself to take cello seriously. She had a lot of powerful voices advising her to take other career paths - some of these paths were even natural for her as she excelled in school and found that she could probably be successful in any area she gave her attention to. 

But there came a time where she had to look honestly at her herself and what she wanted, then make a choice to go after it like it was the only thing that mattered.

It’s inspiring because it’s courageous, there’s risk in quieting down everything but yourself, listening and then acting. It was powerful to know this about her while shooting and I tried to capture the feeling of her choice in these photos.