Aaron Anderson

2022 Professional People Photographer of the Year

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to where you are today.

The simple answer to this question is that I’m a commercial photographer who specializes in Portrait and Sport photography. My journey to photography, and inside of photography, has been both incredible and indirect. It took me a long time to find photography, or maybe you could say it found me, but now it has become the way I tell stories to the world. It’s started with a camera that I kinda stole from my wife (it might have been her birthday present), it took me to the Academy of Art in San Francisco for school, then I became a retoucher, and now I am a fulltime freelance photographer for 10+ years… that is the very abbreviated version 🙂

Q: Why did you choose to submit this specific work to the IPA?

This image is truly one of my favorites, it’s a beautiful story of a beautiful human.

Q: What does winning this competition mean to you?

Still a little surreal to be honest. It’s really incredible to me that a photo I love would be chosen, and this project would be honored. It’s especially meaningful because Jaide just ran with one of the people that inspired this shoot and they won Gold at the World Championships for Team USA.

Q: You won People Photographer of the Year with your stunning work, “The Journey”. How challenging was it to perfectly capture this moment? Did it need to be reshot a few times?

Whenever you’re making images with this caliber of athlete it’s both challenging and easy at the same time. We were in the desert outside of LA, and we were a very small crew, so it needed to be good weather with little wind, which thankfully it was. We were able to capture this in a few frames, a lot of it is a dance between us, trying different things and communicating with the talent so that we can help each other achieve something beautiful. I was able to scout this location a few days before, so that was really helpful with the logistics of everything, in the end it all came together, I’m always grateful for that.

Q: What other photographers have impacted your own work, methods, or style?

I’m sure I have the same influences as many others, people like Annie Liebovitz, Dan Winters, Marco Grob, and Joey L have had huge influences on me. I also love the work of some lesser known, but still incredible photographers like Randall Slavin, Justin James Muir, Frederic Schlosser, Dimitry Bocharov, and Cade Martin…that’s just a few of them, there’s so many.

Q: What do you feel are the key steps to achieving great images?

I really believe it’s about human connection. I can’t do what I do without the trust of the person in front of the camera. It’s not always possible in the commercial world, but with images like this I know the people I’m working with, and have at least heard a part of their story. People are why I became a photographer, and that connection to people is what allows us to make great images of them.

Q: How did you develop your personal style?

Lots and lots of work. I used to think you made up what style you wanted your images to be, now I think it comes out of you after years of practice. I love the quote from Ira Glass “All of us who do creative work, you get into it because you have good taste, but there’s a gap…where you know what you’re making isn’t as good as you want it to be, it falls short”. He goes on to talk about the only way to bridge that gap is to do a ton of work, and slowly it will get better, it will become what you imagine it to be, that’s what I believe and that’s how I arrived at this style.

Q: What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of becoming a photographer?

These days I think the most difficult aspect of commercial photography is that there’s so many photographers, and so many great photographers. It’s very hard to separate yourself from the crowd and all of the noise. I think it’s also hard not to compare yourself to other people’s journeys, to know that they aren’t you, and everyone’s path looks different.

Q: What are the elements that drive your photography? What motivates and focuses you?

First and foremost it’s my family. I want them to be proud of me and what I do, I want my kids to know that I am first a dad and then a photographer, I want my wife to know that I am first a husband and then a photographer. I also want them to be proud of what I do and see that they can do incredible things in this life. Also, I want them to have food to eat and a roof over their heads lol.

Second is the people. One of the reasons it took me so long, and so many different careers, is because I wanted to be in a career that allowed me to have experiences with other humans. Being able to meet other people and tell there stories in an extraordinary way really gets me stoked.

Q: What would your ideal photography project be if you could do anything or travel anywhere?

I’ve been loving the work that Banana Republic is putting out. These story-driven fashion pieces that are in beautiful locations. I would love to shoot with a client somewhere challenging, like Norway or Iceland, and have a team making dynamic images. I’ve been watching Limitless with Chris Hemsworth and a lot of the locations and things they are doing are inspiring to me.

Q: What’s next for you? Are you currently working on anything exciting?

I am! I don’t want to talk too much about it just yet, but there are a few big projects in the works that are huge passions of mine and should be coming early in 2023. I am also working on doing more adventure/underwater imagery in the coming year, and can’t wait to push the limits of what’s been done.