How long have you been a photographer?

6 years. Roughly. Ish.

How did you get into it?

Total accident. It started with getting a camera to record building my car and other people’s cars but I didn’t really start until I was trying to use my camera to get into clubs. Honestly. I got into photography just so I could get into clubs for free. So that’s where I got my start and naturally, there is where you meet a ton of people. Models and agencies are always out there and they do a lot of promotional events. The people who host the party, the promoters, you get to meet a lot of people and eventually it just clicks. You meet the right people, people who want to work with you and that’s how it happens.

What inspires you?

At first, it was a weird drive to get better. It was almost like a challenge, because it was something I couldn’t do. Photography was initially one of those things that looked very mysterious. I would see these people creating these pictures that I’d have no clue how they did it. The inspiration was to try to do that myself.

I had an art background and ever since I was super young, I was enrolled in some sort of art class. There were all these after-school art programs where I would paint and that made my transition to photography as art easier. I tackled it as a thing I would do to experiment. I never used photography as an art form before. It was something new and mysterious for me to try but as time went on and I figured out what I personally liked in photography, that’s when I think inspiration shifted. It’s no longer trying to figure out how it’s done. I now like to help other people get there themselves.

It’s one of the reasons why I have this studio as well. If you look around Toronto, prices for studios are insane especially for younger photographers trying to find a place to shoot. It’s not feasible to go into studio settings and drop three, four hundred bucks a day. So I’m hoping this studio kind of gives people the option to get in here, dabble, play around with things and experiment. It’s a chance for people to collaborate, chat and it’s a chance for me to help other people. Other people help me as well. I see a whole lot of stuff being shot here, a bunch of different styles that I’ve never tried before. You look at what they do and you kind of draw inspiration from that. It forces you to try new things in your work. It’s this weird collaborative effort right now and that’s what the inspiration is.

What did you personally learn about yourself from all the years of being a photographer?

I must be partly insane. That’s probably the best way to describe it. You had asked me earlier, if I got to choose to pursue anything else, what would it be? There’s no plan B for me. I actually dropped out of school to pursue this. I was in school, I was doing my degree and year 2, I decided to drop out and do photography full time. Right now, even if all this failed, I’d be pretty, royally screwed. There’s no education back-up, no work experience, in the last 6 years, I’ve done nothing but this. If I had to put a resumé together, it would look like crap.

I think I never really expected this from myself. When I was younger, I had a traditional view of what I wanted and I would’ve never planned this out. It kind of fell into place which is great, I’m kind of happy about that, but at the same time, if you had told me what I had to do to get here, from where I started, I’m not sure if I would’ve attempted it.

There’s a lot of sacrifices, a lot of compromises that had to be made to get here and I don’t think I would’ve thought that I could do it.

Did you have a point in time or moment where you wanted to quit?

Yeah, all the time.

What did you say to yourself or something someone said to you that gave you perspective?

I’m fortunate that I have a really, really, really good, solid foundation in terms of family. My mom and my brother are there. Every time I’m ready to like throw in the towel and quit, they’re always the kind of voice that in the back making sure that I stay the path. So honestly, if it wasn’t for that strong voice, I may have quit by now. I’m not sure. But there’s definitely been a ton of moments where I been really close. It’s just everything.

Two years ago I lost one of my biggest clients. That nearly wiped nearly fifty percent of my income so you know, you work really, really hard for so long and all of a sudden, you get something devastating as that, it takes this huge step backwards and you question if you’re doing things right. After a while, I’ve learned that it’s bit of a roller coaster, this whole ride. After that, I was ready to throw in the towel… I stuck it out and a couple months later, I replaced that client with two new clients that tripled my income. I learned that you can’t really predict this stuff.

As time goes on, and I gain more experience, I think I’m a lot more calm about it but I’ve definitely thrown in the towel. I know what to tell myself now from the experience. You kind of know that there are these ups and downs. When I’m down, I know there’s going to be an up-point sooner or later, but it took a bit of time to get that perspective.

What advice would you give to someone or other young photographers who are just starting? Or advice you wished you heard yourself when you first started?

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. I feel like a lot of people in this industry are very hungry and very eager to get work but not every piece of work is right for you and that sounds really counter-intuitive and almost backwards. I mean, why would you refuse work, especially as a struggling artist or whatever but at the end of the day, I see a lot of people who either come in here and commit themselves to projects that don’t get them any further ahead or take a lot of their time and their hearts not really in it. It really takes a toll on their crafting and their passion. The art turns into a job and inevitably if you want to make money, it has to, but it’s much easier if you do things you love and you’re passionate about. If you’re almost forced to create art for the sake of creating something, I see people burning out. And they’ll quit. They’ll quit in a couple years, maybe a couple months, they don’t think it’s what they got in for.

I think a lot of artists are so hungry that they’ll take anything that comes across their table and before you know it, they’re doing a bunch of stuff that they don’t want to do.

Peter is a fashion photographer and a studio owner.
Also check out ‘House The Photographer’ @studiobyhouse on Facebook, @peterhousephoto on Instagram & for his work and rent studio space
Rise Over Run is a visual project — an anthology of stories and experiences about how people overcome their greatest personal struggles.
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