Philadelphia based Michelle Gustafson and I met during an assignment cover The Penn Relays. I was amazed at how naturally she struck up a conversation. Watching her work and approach people she had never met seemed to come so effortless to her. After following her on Instagram and seeing her reportage and portraiture, I had to know how she was able to reach out to complete strangers, walk into their house and put them at ease for portraits, especially with the topics she was covering including addiction, epidemics, immigration and other sensitive subjects.
As per the bio on her website:
“Her reportage and portraiture keenly reflects a curiosity and sensitivity towards her subjects, observing the intimate gestures and subtle interactions between them to tell a larger story of human connection and relativity.”
Some of her clients include The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, NPR, CNN and Bloomberg Business.
Our conversation starts in 2004 as she, a New Mexico native, decides on what college to attend. Over the next few years (and a few states later, she makes the jump to the east coast and shares with us in detail each step she took to building the career she has today.
It’s our longest episode of the season but packed with inspiration to anyone looking to start fresh in a photography career or even a seasoned photographer looking to move to another market.
Michelle shares in-depth, step by step how she interacts with the subjects she photographs in their homes. This episode serves as a blueprint to what it takes to create a career in reportage and journalistic photography as well as some amazing gems dropped by Michelle that will light a fire of motivation to any seasoned photog.
If you have been trying to “make it” as a photographer and wonder “Am I on the right path?” this episode is for you!
A quick shoutout to this episode’s sponsor, Think Tank.
Flashback to 2015, I had just quit my full time job to create content for Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal trainer. I had to travel once a week into NYC with a laptop, lenses, camera, mic and headphones. I knew my current bag wasn’t going to cut it. After doing a ton of research I settled on the Think Thank Airport Essentials bag. I can’t begin to tell you how many miles I’ve walked around NYC with that bag on my back fully loaded with my gear. It’s super reliable, fits into overhead compartments and had been my go to bag for the last 6 years now. See the multiple ways you can arrange your gear by heading over to the Think Tank website.