a day in the life.

Adobe Creative Residency // what do you do all day? all month? all year?

If you remember nothing else, remember this: The hardest part of the residency is the self imposed pressure. You are your own boss. Adobe builds a great system around you. They are here to support you, but from the minute you submit that application to the end of the residency and beyond, you are your editor, your critic, your boss, your media manager, your inspiration. At times I handled that pressure poorly and others it helped me create work I am proud of to this day.

Now onto the fun stuff:

Where are you based? Wherever I want to be. Sometimes I am with my boo Carmen San Diego, sometimes I’m at my house, sometimes I work on the road.

What are you working on this year? How much time have you devoted to them?

My residency is focused on the concept of our sense of place. My main project is called The Echo Chamber and it focuses on the following questions: How does location impact thought? How does proximity alter our identity? As part of my residency project, I will be traveling to cities and towns across America to interview people, and use video, photo and audio to create an immersive portrait of them. Here are a few sample questions: What’s the biggest scam in America? What does home smell, feel and sound like?

My second project is a street photography project documenting how the ridership of the G train will change drastically as the L train shuts down.

My last project “Please, No Nikes at the Pool” focuses on how the CDC says drowning rates are 5.5 times higher for African Americans than whites in pools, the most alarming number being 10x higher for kids 11–12. What factors led to this? And how will that change start?

My side projects have been with clients like Samsung, CNN and American Express.

Do you get paid? Yeah, I have a salary, health benefits and can claim work expenses.

Can I do other work/projects during the Residency? The point of the residency is for you to grow as an artist. As you grow, people will take notice and you’ll get work requests throughout the year. The question you have to ask is if the Residency is worth your time. Since you’re already getting paid as a resident, that won’t have to drive your decision, rather it will be if it’s worth your time and will the work elevate your brand or will the experience grow and stretch you as a creative.

What does Adobe get out of it? Adobe is industry leader IMO. You don’t get that way by happenstance. They create products that nearly everyone uses or has heard of. And those products are constantly changing and improving to suit the modern creative.

The Residency represents an opportunity for them to:

  1. Give back to the creative community. They already work with a New York based non for profit called NYC SALT that gives kids professionally-led volunteer instruction in photography and digital technology that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. For me, this Residency has been about access, from the internal mentorship at Adobe to the magnitude that my work is shared because of the Creative Residency program.
  2. An opportunity to see how emerging creatives work with their products. It’s more hands-on than a beta test and more personal. We can give live feedback and they can see our workflow.
  3. If we, the Creative Residents, do our jobs right, Adobe’s brand association raises, even if ever so slightly.
  4. Adobe has lifelong ambassadors who are thankful for an experience unlike one they have had before.

What about equipment? You get a work computer, and whatever else you generally need. Things like cameras however, you purchase yourself. Adobe has relationships with many brands so it’s possible you could get that equipment on loan or to purchase at a lower cost.

our trip to the letterform archive

What is your relationship with the other residents? That’s totally up to you. It’s encouraged because the other residents will be awesome and like you will be experiencing something completely new for the first time and that creates some fun bonds. Natalie Lew lives in NYC with me, so we spend a lot of time together, but the rest of the residents and I text each other pretty regularly. You’re not required to work with them because each project is so different.

Do you work at the Adobe office? Not really. I go in once a week or so to meet with the program director and one of my mentors for in-person meetings because I enjoy that. Some residents have co-working spaces, others work out of their vans:).

You mentioned mentors, what’s the deal with that? Adobe likes you to have an internal mentor and external mentor. An internal mentor is someone at Adobe Creative Cloud, generally who is working on a product that you use for your project. Michelle Wei, for example, is one of my mentors and she works on Lightroom. External mentors are professionals that work in the industry that you believe you can learn from. I am proud to be mentored by JM Harper and Mac Premo.

What are the requirements?

  1. You are a representative for Adobe. It’s nothing insane, but make sure you reflect them and your work in a good light.
  2. You have to share your work and process by posting regularly on the social channels that make the most sense for you, like Instagram for me and Julia, Twitter for Natalie and Facebook for Jessica. We all post on Behance, which I have come to really love. (My site, storiesfromhere.com, is actually running on Adobe Portfolio!)
  3. You have to share your process. That includes failures, work in progress and finished things.
  4. You have to do some talks. Like at conferences, events, and Adobe related events like Creative Jams and at Adobe MAX.

Is it worth it? Hell yeah. Just the support system is worth it. My other internal mentor Matthew Richmond, said something that I think sums up the project really well: “The reason creatives go to grad school is to learn new skills yes, but to have a consistent audience who will challenge them is invaluable.”