As a creative, there are many avenues that you can take to turn your passion into a career. More often than not, this will require others and understanding how to balance personal efforts and the inclusion of those around you will take you to great heights. Toronto based photographer Wade Hudson understood this early on, partnering with those whom he enjoyed and shared passions with, creating equal value and fostering growth for one another. The secrets of finding great people to work with take time to uncover and we got the chance to catch up with Wade to learn about how he identifies talent around him, capitalizes on opportunities at every moment and produces the best possible outcome within each situation. Take a read through the conversation below to hear from one of Toronto’s best shooters.
In 2013 you did a shoot with a wee youngster by the name of Joey Bada$$. How does it feel shooting people at an early age and then watching them blow up into huge superstars?
Nearly every person I shoot I am a big fan of so watching them come up is really quite fascinating to me. When I heard [Joey] bada$$, I was like “this guy is going to be a huge star”. It’s obviously hard for me to know at the moment where they’ll be down the line but that doesn’t matter to me when I’m working. When I’m around people like that I try to just be myself and show my interest in them. Joey and so many others are so genuine and great people and that makes it really fun to follow their careers and growth. The best thing is seeing where they are years later and know that their attitudes haven't changed and that they’re still humble.
What are some tips you’d give to creatives looking to connect with talent to work with?
If you’re seeking out talent to work with, make sure that your skill is at the level that it needs to be to execute your vision with the talent. After that, be ready to move quickly. Opportunities don’t always come with a lot of advanced notice. Be ready to move on things at any moment.
I’d also say, from a mental standpoint, know that anyone is accessible if you persevere. This doesn’t mean they are accessible today but if you work hard enough, anyone can be accessible and so you should always shoot your shot. You won’t get anywhere if you never ask.
Another way to get buy-in from talent is to remember that someone’s time can be more valuable than money. Don’t overlook experience and the impact that personal connections can make in the long term. Lastly, be patient. Things take time so don’t give up.
When you have the time to plan with someone, how long does it take to ideate a shoot?
It’s really as long as I have. I usually don’t have a ton of time so I work with the elements in the moment. When I do have time, I’ll just make sure I can complete all the needed - or ideal - steps in that amount of time. Finding references, finding the right people to bring in like stylists, creative directors, etc. is all important. I’ll try to get calls or meetings together beforehand to discuss how we can make the best product possible and how we can cater the shoot to the subject.
How involved are the subjects in creating the story for the shoot?
For the most part, when I reach out to people I have the concept of what I want them to look like already in mind. If it’s my creative shoot, it has to follow my style and I need you to do what I have envisioned. Obviously I'm open to ideas depending on who you are, like if you’re a creative director you might have good ideas, but if I simply approach you because I like your look, I will have the concept down.
This is different though if I’m shooting for a client and their ideated project. In that case, I’m helping execute their vision.
Would you say more of your work is client focused or your creative work?
It depends on the time of year so that’s hard to say. They go hand in hand though for my career so it’s not too big of a deal to do one more than the other from time to time. My creative work is how I pull clients in and my client work pays for my creative work. I’d always like to do more creative work but client work is needed.
Right. That’s a good outlook on the two. Do you think you could ever get to a point where you’re only doing creative work?
I think there are photographers that have found a great balance where the work they do on their own and the work they do for clients are very similar but it’s hard to only ever do your own thing, if only due to money. I’m always working to bring my ideas into the client work to make it fun and reduce the space between that and my client work but I don’t think I’d ever stop doing client work.
Interesting, and I guess client work also brings new sets of challenges that can make you a better photographer. Changing gears now, what are 5 do’s or don’ts of shooting with someone for the first time?
That is true and a great question. I can only give these tips from my perspective but...
DON’T have your camera in hand when you first meet someone. This helps to remove the power dynamic of the subject and photographer.
DO have a conversation with the subject before you shoot. Learn about them and what they are comfortable with. This will make the shoot much better for everyone and deliver the best results.
DON’T talk about why you’re qualified or who you’ve worked with in the past. In that moment, nobody cares about who you’ve shot in the past.
DON’T show the subject the shots when you’re shooting. It often makes the subjects less comfortable. Instead, talk to them as you shoot. Sometimes you can’t follow this depending on the subject but this is what I find is typically best.
DO discuss what the subject should be doing in the photograph before they sit in front of you. You want to make sure everyone knows what they’re going into.
You recently became a father (congratulations!). Has that journey with your wife and now your newborn son influenced your work?
Thank you! Right now, not too much has changed but I imagine as he grows, it may impact the work, what jobs I take, how I see things, etc. Just a crazy time learning to be a father [laughs].
Although it was published over 7 years ago, your Jamaican Proverb Series still lives as one of the best photography series that we have ever seen. Do you have a proverb that you live by?
A lot of these are just kind of always relevant but one that I think back on a lot is “Ebry dawg ave im day, ebry puss im four a clock.” which translates to “Every dog has his day, every cat his 4 o’clock.” This has a few meanings.
Some days you win and some days you love.
Good fortune comes at different times for everyone.
Do not behave as if you are better than others.
Oh, love that. Super important as a creative for sure. Do you have a favourite story from your time as a photographer?
Yes! About 5 years ago I went to London because I was interested in potentially moving out there and wanted to check out the scene. Some of the modelling agencies out there were having these openings where you can just go and shoot their models. They basically invite you out, introduce you to the models and you shoot for the day. I went out and shot about five or six models that day and got some shots that I really liked.
After the shoot I went onto the agency websites to find all of the models I had shot but there was one person I couldn’t find anywhere. It turns out that it was Grace Bol who is a big time model, like she’s been on iPhone backgrounds including my own [laughs] and has modelled for so many major brands. She’s huge! I don’t even know why she was there that day and I had been speaking to her for about twenty minutes without a clue of who she was and it was such a wild moment realizing it after the fact. Honestly, it was probably better that I didn’t know at the time or I likely wouldn’t have had the confidence to ask her to shoot.
Wow! That’s insane. I guess sometimes it’s better not knowing all [laughs]. Lastly, now that we are starting to return to some normalcy in the world, what are you most excited for work-wise?
I just want to go back home to Jamaica. I have a ton of ideas and people that I want to be with and I just can’t get down right now so that will be the first thing I do when I can. I lived there until I was sixteen and then moved here. Before Covid I was there a few times a year so I really want to get back.
Check out more of Wade's work on his website and follow him on Instagram to catch all of his latest work. Keep it locked to Pier Five for more interviews and stories with the coolest entrepreneurs, designers, artists, activists and more.