I’m a Photographer That Landed My First Magazine Cover on Welfare

This is a syndicated blog post from Small Camera Big Picture. It and the contents here are being republished with exclusive permission.

I landed my first magazine cover shoot while on welfare. Here’s how. With two middle fingers to the sky, I left corporate America and declared myself a professional photographer. It was March 25th, 2005 and in my journal, I wrote “shoot and get paid” which was harder than I thought.

I soon ran out of money trying to figure out how to get paid doing something I would gladly do for free. Soon enough I ended up on welfare. Seeing the spider web that is our system, I struggled for two years to pull myself out of poverty. My heart goes out to those that are uneducated and stuck in this self-perpetuating system that virtually seems designed to keep poor people poor.


Monday – Cold Calls
Tuesday – Follow-up Emails
Wednesday – Cold Calls
Thursday – Follow-up Emails
Friday – Cold Calls

The following week I flip-flop the outreach structure:

Monday – Email
Tuesday – Follow-up Calls
Wednesday – Email
Thursday – Follow-up Calls
Friday – Email

Any prospect had a contact card within the basic Apple Contacts app that comes with every Mac/iOS device. With every outreach activity and interaction, I’d leave detailed notes in the note section of the contact. If you do this today the Contacts and notes follow you from Mac OS to iOS via iCloud.


LM1/2/3 – Left Message
EM1/2/3 – Emailed
NA – No Answer

I figured if they were not working with me already I had nothing to lose and that eventually, they’ll tell me to fuck off or just give in and set up a time for me to meet them in person. The key to my success was not giving up and being what I was described by from one client as “pleasantly aggressive” which I appreciated. Most people would send me to voice mail every time which I never understood. Part of art directors or art buyers job is to find new talent. Like a good dog bringing home their kill, a good AD will bring solid talent to their employer. However, when I could not get ahold of someone for an extended period of time (about a month)  I would put them in a Cold Leads collection and come back to them in about four weeks.


Eventually, I got through to someone and it was Village Voice Media’s Phoenix New Times. Gillian, the art director saw something within my crummy portfolio and offered me a feature story. That gesture on her part changed my life and paved the way for future jobs which helped me pull out of poverty.

Don’t get into the business of photography without love. That love of the art will help you through hard times. Without love, you’ll have nothing. Eventually, the money will come.

Click the image to read – Ambulance Chasers


This blog post was worked on by Joy Asto