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How I Became a Professional Photographer and What I Saw Along the Way: Madison Square Garden

November 23, 2011

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, there’s no better time to reflect on how I first starting shooting for Madison Square Garden (MSG), the busiest arena in the United States and my biggest client. Appropriately, one of my first shoots for MSG was the week of Thanksgiving 2003. With MSG’s 4-megapixel Canon 1D over my shoulder (at the time, a $5500 top-of-the-line camera), I ventured up to Harlem to take photos of New York Knicks player Shandon Anderson (remember him?) donating turkeys and other food to families in need.

I was thankful for the opportunity, but had no way of knowing that Madison Square Garden would become such an important building block for my business. In the 8 years since November 2003, I’ve shot over 1200 sporting events, concerts, corporate, community and PR events for MSG and its properties, including the New York Rangers, New York Knicks, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre, and Fuse TV. Additionally, connections from MSG have led to shoots for The New York Times, UBS, Planters, Cablevision, YES Network, Aéropostale, SCP Worldwide, New York Restoration Project and others. For more on that, see my Connections, Connections, Connections post from earlier this year.

How did I go from having never set foot in MSG to shooting over 200 events per year for them? It began in early 2003, when I was a sophomore at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and looking for a summer internship. A neighbor back in my hometown of Brookline, MA, suggested that I contact his cousin, who at the time worked at Madison Square Garden’s Photo Services department. I applied for a Photo Services internship and started in May. For a daily stipend of $25, I spent most of my time scanning slides and spotting dust out of images in Photoshop. I won’t lie, it was mind-numbing. But I stuck with it, completed the internship, and collected 8 credits toward my photography degree.

Three months later, I was rewarded with an opportunity only a summer of Photoshop spotting could earn me: a paid photography assignment. That first shoot for MSG was a community reading event with a couple Knicks players whose names I can’t remember. Needless to say, it was far less symbolic than my second shoot, the Thanksgiving event the following week, described above. Anyway, MSG must have liked what they saw because they gradually started hiring me for a wider variety and greater number of shoots, leading to my average of four shoots per week for them today. And for that, I am thankful!

What photography opportunities are YOU thankful for? Post in the comments below!

Here’s a screen shot of one of my Thanksgiving photos used on the Knicks website back in 2003. Don’t you just love the retro Internet Explorer for Mac look?

New York Knicks Shandon Anderson

Other posts in the series, How I Became a Professional Photographer and What I Saw Along the Way:

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Courtney Jones permalink
    January 17, 2012 5:14 pm

    One of my dreams is to be a photographer for the New York Rangers. I was at the garden recently with my camera. Photography is my major at a community college right now. I wanted to know what you thought of the shots I took and what I can do with them. How can I start my journey to become a NYR photographer? If you could email me at crtnyjay@aol.com I would love your feedback on the shots I took. Thank you.

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