How to make it in New York / by Leroy Mikell


A month or so before the first day I started looking for photographer assistant work in New York City I made a plan to search out a favorite photographer from my childhood I thought I could learn from go to their studio talk to them a few times become a photo assistant and be running my own shop a year after working with them.  I look back and can see how the phrase God is laughing at your plans applies to my whole life.  Even I laugh at myself sometimes.  But in this particular instance I reached out via social media to tell Keith Major I was going to recreate one of his photos for a grad school assignment at Syracuse University.  He responded to the photo I chose as if to say lets see what you got!   I quickly realized that I now had to actually produce a photo worthy of showing a master of the craft...  Somewhere between finding props and a suitable model I realized the error of my approach. Lets just skip to the part of the absolute failure and train-wreck of a photo I forced myself to send via email.   I will NEVER show that photo to anyone else ever ever ever.  Either way Keith took it easy on me and was entertained enough to meet me if I was ever in town.  I took what was probably a nicety as the most literal and real invitation anyone had ever offered.

Either way I showed up at what I would soon realize was the doorstep of his Home-studio in Little Italy China town area of the city. He was very gracious and I made it known that I wanted to be an assistant for a year or two so I too could be a creative professionally.

Keith said he would keep me in mind for a shoot if anything came up I was suited for... (you guys are getting the picture now)  but I realized I needed to be better and definitely more creative with my work before anyone would help me. I focused in and told myself if I didn't assist for Keith I wouldn't assist for anyone.  I worked out shot more photos looked at websites and sent emails of the results and worked and asked advice and stalked his actual assistants on Instagram.   The process of actually interning on a Keith Major shoot took me two entire years.  I got the call I wanted since September 2013 in July of 2015! It still felt great showing up to work though!  I felt accomplished when I ran my errands and made sure my responsibilities were handled without need for supervision.  I felt I had made up some ground and I got the sign to keep working so now I may try and work with others this next year! I followed this dream and now I must continue to follow it to the next level.  There really is no time limit for what you want.  There is only the work and the opportunities that present themselves. If you have done the work when the opportunity shows itself you will take the shot at catching that dream.  The work itself doesn't guarantee success it does guarantee experience and a chance at more opportunities. Follow your dream and you will make it in New York or anywhere else your dream takes you. This is what success looks like.  Everyday you pick up your tool of choice and practice that is the success. Your goal is the reward the result the receipt.  I waited two years to live my first meaningful day in New York as a creative.  That day means the world to me and that shoot would have gone well even if I couldn't make it.  All that matters to me is that I was in the building and my work was appreciated.   I have my foot in the door and the chance to prepare for opportunities that were closed to me the day before.  Others might not be impressed but this one day will always be the most important it was the day I harvested fruit from a growing season that lasted close to two years.  It will give me the strength to stay the course in multiple facets of my life.  Thank God for Day ONE!

Peace clickers