Job interview at Cam Kirk Music

Cam Kirk’s original plan in life was to be a doctor. This is the only reason his parents even allowed him to move to Atlanta for college in the first place. But unbeknownst to the young Maryland native, his move to A would instead pave the way and build a career that married his creative genes and passion for music.

Growing up as the son of a photographer, Kirk’s first experience as a lens man was as his father’s assistant on set days. It opened his eyes to the ins and outs of his father’s industry and became a way for him to earn an allowance, but he never knew a photographer who shot in the style of work he did. he does today. Photography remained a passion project for Kirk as he left for school at Morehouse College, but there he found a way to connect his artistic roots with his affinity for music and culture. He experimented with hosting a few events on campus, including a concert featuring a young Wiz Khalifa who became the catalyst for buying his very first camera. However, this Canon T2i remained intact for the first six months, until a friend asked for help in organizing a ScHoolboy Q show. He agreed – but only on the condition that he could photograph the TDE artist.

The success of this work with Q has opened up a wealth of opportunities for Kirk to work with Young Thug, Migos, Travis Scott, Future, Gucci Mane, Curren$y, Morehouse alum Metro Boomin, and others. He spent the next few years establishing himself as one of the music industry’s most credible photographers and videographers, while laying the groundwork for the launch of numerous creative business entities. He started with the creative space Cam Kirk Studios (which is about to commemorate its seventh year of operation in 2023), and followed it with his nonprofit organization Cam Kirk Foundation, the new streaming service educational CKS and its revolutionary creative label. Collective Gallery, which was born from his experience meeting photographers who were struggling to make a living from their profession. Kirk’s career evolution from lensman to founder and CEO also introduced him to the leadership role; he used the Collective Gallery to give upcoming photographers the chance to build their careers, allowing people like John Canon to hone their skills, expand their portfolios and also establish themselves in the industry. “My mission with Collective Gallery was to challenge the position I felt photographers and content creators play within culture and industry,” Kirk shares. “We invest in and develop our photographers the same way and in the same way that music labels work with musicians. We work to ensure they are able to make a living from their passion and talents, and we invest financially in their ideas and passions that help them push further in their craft.

“I have been able to build a repertoire with many artists as I am always looking for ways to add value to their careers.”

In three words, how would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t know the music industry?

“Creator of artist’s images.” My job is to create the image of the artist that the world consumes and falls in love with.

Can you tell us about a day in your professional life?

My typical work day has so many elements. If I’m not personally on set, my day usually starts at my desk, working with my staff on a number of upcoming projects. My office is adjacent to Cam Kirk Studios, so I usually pop my head there to check on the staff who work there. I spend a ton of time in meetings with potential clients or with my internal staff in my various lines of business.

On any given day, I usually spend mornings reviewing shot lists and my overall approach for the day. The majority of my sets are usually around six to eight hours long, and sometimes, depending on the project, can last up to around 12 hours.

How has Collective Gallery developed since its creation four years ago?

We had such a demand for photographers wanting to join our team that we decided to create an agency division. So far, our agency has produced a number of projects for some of the biggest brands in the world, including American Express, Nike, PUMA, Airbnb, NBA, Netflix and many more, while providing opportunities for young creators .

You recently launched the CKS streaming platform. When did you start working on this and how did the idea for this educational platform for creative people come about?

I like to think of all my business ventures as natural stepping stones for each other. Cam Kirk Studios was a natural progression for me as a content creator. CKS is no different. For the past 10 years, I’ve made a living capturing content for other outlets and brands to monetize – and eventually came up with the plan to do those same things for myself. CKS will be a network for content that I create and produce directly, as well as a place for other content creators to spread their ideas. Content on the platform will include educational courses, celebrity interviews, cooking and cocktail webcasts, sports content, real estate and more, all from a creative’s perspective.

“Understand the ins and outs of your industry so you can strategize where you can fit in.”

Tell us the story of your most memorable photoshoot with an artist to date.

If I had to highlight one, my most memorable shoot would be photographing Young Thug for Guisseppe Zanoti. We literally shot this whole campaign in less than an hour because Thug showed up nine hours late and we had a hard time at the studio. He definitely tested my skills with this project, but our chemistry was so strong that we got through filming effortlessly. It was easily one of my best fashion jobs and I ended up living in Guisseppe stores for months.

How do you build this directory with your collaborators?

I’ve been able to build a repertoire with many artists because I’m always looking for ways to add value to their careers, even if it’s beyond my job title in this particular project. I’ve negotiated branding deals for artists, gotten artists paid to brand pieces of content, booked performances for artists, created marketing strategies and more throughout my career , so they know that I will go the extra mile to make sure the project is a success.

What are the necessary first steps a person must take to enter a music career as a creative?

I think the first step anyone should take when entering a career, but especially in music, is to educate themselves well about the industry. You wouldn’t even start working at McDonald’s without proper training, so the same goes for the different career paths. Understand the ins and outs of your industry so you can strategize where you can fit in.

What lessons and/or work ethic did you learn only after working in the music industry?

I learned patience and consistency from the music industry. To work in music, you have to master patience because things will never go as planned or planned. You have to be flexible and ready to adapt. I also learned consistency because it’s a very “What have you been up to lately?” type of industry. You’re only as relevant as your last project, so you have to keep giving people something they’ll remember, and you have to keep finding ways to be on top.

“I plant a lot of seeds for the future and treat everyone with the utmost respect, regardless of their position.”

What has been the biggest challenge you have had to face so far and how did you overcome it?

Being an entrepreneur is by far one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. It’s a constant job and process, so I don’t know if I’ll ever overcome it completely, but it’s a challenge I’m grateful to have.

What is one thing about your work that most people would find unexpected or surprising?

Most people would be surprised how little I take a camera. There are so many other aspects to running a creative business that often doing the craft becomes something you do the least. I probably take my camera two or three times a month these days and the rest of my time is spent on other business aspects.

Is there a secret to career longevity in this industry?

My secret is quality work and quality relationships. I plant a lot of seeds for the future and treat everyone with the utmost respect, regardless of their position. Sometimes it’s best to do a great job and stay away. You will never catch me minding someone else’s business or giving in to industry distractions.

What habits do you regularly follow to always keep a good headspace for work?

I like to surround myself with youthful energy. Most of my employees are in their early 20s, which keeps me up to date, grounded, and on top of new trends. Young people are often dreamers and haven’t been as discouraged as older generations, and they allow you to be more imaginative with your ideas.

What does a rest day look like to you?

A day off for me, which is very rare, can be hanging out with friends, watching TV shows, going to a nightclub or strip club, or spending a day on the golf field.

How do you see your jobs as a photographer and executive evolving with the music industry in the next five years?

I see the demand for my businesses and I multiplying even more in the next five years. I feel like the world is slowly developing a fondness for photographers and our impact, which can only mean more and more opportunities for me.

If you weren’t working in music, what would you be doing?

I would probably work in someone’s marketing department, but hopefully as an executive now.

Stay tuned for more features with music industry professionals – from managers to recording engineers, stagehands and more; the people who make the world of music go round without standing behind a microphone.

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