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13 Mar

Max Thompson – Max Thompson Photography

I live for the feeling I get once I’ve finished a picture that I’m proud of. When you have a vision in your head, and a team of people help lend their hands in creating with you from start to finish, and that vision comes to life, its so remarkable. The best part about creating for me is seeing the results in the end and appreciating all that went into the process.

Creator Profile:

Max Thompson + Max Thompson Photography

Creator: Max Thompson

Company: Max Thompson Photography  (IG: @maxthompson | FB: /maxthompsonphoto | SC: @maxtson

Location: Los Angeles, California

Website: www.maxthompsonphoto.com

Words of Wisdom:

Do not be afraid to take a chance doing what you love. Do it well, but also do it differently than the rest of the world.

 

Famous photojournalist, Sir Donald McCullin, once said,

Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.

And if it’s feelings that you want to experience, then Los Angeles based, rising star photographer Max Thompson has you engulfed in the sheer essence of emotion found in his work. He doesn’t just photograph people and places, but brings out the soul of it’s very existence.

In late 2015, I came across Max while scrolling through Instagram, being completely drawn in by the fact that his photographs aren’t just pictures, but stories that go layers deep. They’re a very awesome balance between sexy, bold, captivating, mysterious, adventurous, risk taking, freeing and independent. You don’t just see the photo, you actually feel it as an experience!

After becoming familiar with his work, I decided to observe from a distance his relentlessness to capture photos that not only push boundaries, but transcend time.

And while it’s easy to see film noir and cinema’s influence on Max, often covering both black and white photography and color, he sees details that I often feel many people miss. One look and you’ll know what I mean.

Photography by Max Thompson

I’m heavily influenced by timeless cinema. I love watching a film or looking at a picture that I can’t put my finger on as to when it was shot. I think black and white photography is excellent for that concept since it’s been around longer. Creating something visually stimulating for the viewer without color can sometimes be a fun challenge.

Even more important is Max’s insane work ethic. He’s deliberate and intentional with his brand since the day he walked out of his sales job several years ago.

There was this one day something different happened. I was sitting on the phone listening to some customer yelling their frustrations away about their tv being broken. Then I looked down at my personal phone and read a message from some kid telling me how much he looked up to me as a photographer and hoped he could get the chance to someday shake my hand. It was humbling. I looked up and around at my surroundings and asked myself, 'What the hell am I doing wasting my life here?'

After that he put in his two weeks notice, he sold all his furniture, packed his car with nothing but his clothes and camera gear, and drove down to Los Angeles. He said it was the best decision he ever made.

I caught up with Max a bit in between our busy schedules and he talked about his journey, which started in music, his passion for photography, understanding social media as a tool to bring his work to the world, leaving the rat race for something he truly believes in, having to live in his car to now traveling the world, and much more.

Here’s what he had to say:

Max Thompson  |   Entrepreneur + Photographer + Creator

HDF: Max!! You’re legend brother! I love your photography and your insane attention to detail.

So, before we get into it, can we start by diving in a little bit more about where you’re originally from and where you’re living now?

Max: I’m from San Jose which is a suburb town of San Francisco. My family and I have always been close. We   didn’t come from much money however so there were struggles at times. But high spirits nonetheless. Switched schools a lot. Lived in a motel for years and years. There were a few times during my late teens/early 20s that I was homeless living out of my car. Played lots of music back then before I ever picked up a camera

I spent the majority of my life in the north bay area until I moved to Los Angeles in 2015 to pursue photography professionally.

 

HDF: Well, I’ve been watching your work for some time and without a doubt, it seems to be reaching more and more people. I want to learn more about what’s going on with you, with your photography and it’s progression.

can you tell me a little bit more about your backstory and what you were doing before having your own company?

Max: I spent some years pursuing music. I sang and played guitar. Performed at venues, bars, coffee shops, you name it. I really wanted to make it as a musician so I learned a lot of tricks about promoting myself online and getting my music out.

The music industry was shrinking, leaving little room for rock music. DJs, hiphop, and solo artists were becoming the new thing. I think as a result I subconsciously began searching for a new artistic outlet that I could feel confident in pursuing on a more realistic level.

Max with James Franco | Photo [email protected]

During that time I got into a little trouble with the law for theft. I didn’t have much money and needed quick cash each day to keep myself fed. There were no jobs to be found at that time.

So once my unlawful ways caught up with me I spent some time in jail, got released, and had to live out of my car for about a year.

Around that time I had been taking lots of still-life pictures on my phone. Instagram had just launched within that year so I began posting random phone pictures not thinking much of it.

I had an idea of how to promote myself from when I was publishing my music, so any pictures I was trying to shoot and post seem to have caught on.

I knew lots of models at that time. I guess things clicked before I realized what was happening. The more friends would post images I shot of them, the more other models would write to me asking me to shoot them.

I’m grateful every day that I was able to hit the ground running with a camera in my hand.

HDF:  I completely understand that. The same happened to me as a byproduct of writing and connecting with other creators like you.

Max, why Photography? I’m sure it was always there, but how did it really work its way into your life and become a very big and sustaining part of it? 

Was there one of those “aha” moments in your life where you knew at some point this is what you’re going to do with your life?

MaxA few years before I moved to LA, I had a customer service job where I sat in a cubical on the phone and helped schedule tv repairs. It was excruciatingly boring and I wasn’t happy, but I stayed a few years because of the paycheck.

I had been shooting pictures with models just around the time I started that job. So a few years into it I had already accumulated attention online with my work being posted on social media.

Max Thompson

Anyways, there was this one day something different happened. I was sitting on the phone listening to some customer yelling their frustrations away about their tv being broken. Then I looked down at my personal phone and read a message from some kid telling me how much he looked up to me as a photographer and hoped he could get the chance to someday shake my hand.

It was humbling. I looked up and around at my surroundings and asked myself, “What the hell am I doing wasting my life here?”

Photo of Max shot by Naomi Christie

HDF: It just clicked?

Max: Yeah, it was that week I put in my two weeks notice, sold all my furniture, packed my car with nothing but my clothes and camera gear, and drove down to Los Angeles. I stayed with friends the first few months, and . . .

“. . . it was a struggle in the beginning, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life!”

HDF: Well, it’s always that way – really hard in the beginning, but consistency and hard work always pays dividends.

And you’ve made your way into some interesting publications and media – Inked Magazine, UFC, Mvmt Watches, Content Magazine – If you had to define your first “big break” or one that you felt your work was really being taken seriously, which one would it be and why?

Jay Alvarrez on the cover of Nude Magazine shot by Max Thompson

Max: I’ve been asked something similar before and it’s always hard to say.

I think I had a lot of amazing opportunities trickle in and around similar times. It's hard to narrow it down to a big one.

HDF: You’re B&W photography is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Truly!

First, why B&W? Second, what are some things about B&W that you feel can’t be done with color?

Max: It’s curious. I usually feel I shoot color and B&W both as often, yet people seem to take more notice to the B&W work. I don’t really know what it is.

If for no better reason, I’m heavily influenced by timeless cinema. I love watching a film or looking at a picture that I can’t put my finger on as to when it was shot. I think black and white photography is excellent for that concept since it’s been around longer.

Creating something visually stimulating for the viewer without color can sometimes be a fun challenge as well.

Photo by Max Thompson | Sam Fuente @samf000

Photo by Max Thompson | Valeriya Kuklishyna @kuklishyna

Photo by Max Thompson | Sam Jann @sammjann

HDF: I think that combination of noir cinema meets visually appealing angles and settings is a recipe for success. That and coupled with just the feeling you get in the moment.

If you had to describe your style of photography or approach, how would you?

Max: I’m never sure how to answer that. When people ask me what style I shoot, I never know what to say, and just end up pulling out my phone to show them. I’d rather let other people decide what they see. I just show them how I see the world.

 

HDF: Well said. I’m a huge fan of doing the work your talent provides and then letting your audience share their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your industry?

MaxThe biggest was making money. When I first got to LA I didn’t have much. Unlike 9 to 5 jobs where you can vent about work related things on social media or complain about how its Monday, the art industry is more complex than that.

Photo by Max Thompson | Los Angeles

HDF: And what do you think are some of the hardest parts about building a name for yourself?

Max I knew right away that if I was having a bad day or experiencing financial struggles, I had to refrain from putting that energy out there because I was trying to create a positive image as a photographer that had something valuable to provide to his clients.

Maintaining that positive attitude and keeping the struggles to myself not only forced me to deal with everything on my own, but it helped me practice feeling grateful and attracting more opportunities.

Max at an event in Hollywood

HDF: I think that’s something every truly successful person has done . . . maintained their positive energy throughout their journey. I had mentioned to my mom, prior getting the job at Vogue, that I wanted to work for them.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in building your own brand and/or company?

Max: Its important to be autodidact. Wanna be a certain something? Do your research. Ask people questions. Figure out what other successful people did and how you can do similar in your own way.

And most importantly, do not stop. As cliche as it sounds, life really is short. Happily use everyday with excitement. I thank the universe everyday that I’m living in Hollywood shooting beautiful people instead of sitting in jail or living in my car still.


HDF: Again, the mindset is a powerful thing, but even more so gratitude. It’s part of my daily rituals as well.

Do you have any favorite photoshoots you’ve done? Like a Top 3-5 list.

MaxI don’t really have particular favorites. I shoot so often it would take me a while to sit and think of favorite ones. There’s been so many experiences that I’ve enjoyed so I try to look at them all in similar light.

Photo by Max Thompson | Natalie Horton @natalie_horton

Photo by Max Thompson | Kyla Shay @kyla.shay

Photo by Max Thompson | Luke Davis @lukedavisthegrey

HDF: I like that. Every shoot is an experience all into itself and appreciated equally!

Have there been any surprising opportunities or projects came from building your brand that you would never had seen coming?

MaxYeah, I got asked to shoot stills for a movie. That’s been exciting. I’m going to continue pursuing unit stills for movie sets as well as fashion.

Photo by Max Thompson | Photos from Deported Movie

HDF:  That is awesome brother! Especially since it encapsulates your old cinema influence.

Where are some of the best places your photography has taken you to?

Max: I’ve been flown to some beautiful places. Hawaii, Mexico, NYC, Paris, to name a few. I plan to travel much more so I can add to the list.

HDF:  Has traveling elevated your craft?

Max: 

I feel traveling helps sculpt your craft. You get to experience how other cultures influence how you see things.

Max Thompson in Paris | Photo [email protected]

HDF: I couldn’t agree more. Being introduced to varying cultures, ideas, backgrounds, styles, history or even architecture can really ignite a person.

I know you touched on Social media earlier. How important has social media and the Internet played in the building of your brand? Or at least, how important do you think it will be as you continue to grow it?

Max: It’s helped significantly so far. I think about how difficult it could have been 20 years ago. Relying on word of mouth, printing and mailing cards and pictures to magazines and agencies.

These days you can take a picture on your phone, post it online, and within minutes literally tens of thousands of people will have seen it instantly. It still blows my mind. And I remind people of that idea all the time.

I strongly feel having an appreciation for todays tools allows us to better find ways to utilize them in pursuing what we set out to accomplish.

Max Thompson on Instagram

MaxThompson.com

HDF: It really amazes me the time we live in. Now more than ever we’re able to reach the masses for our art, creations or brands. You used to have to die before your writings or artwork became well known. (laughter)

Max, you are a serious creator – with photography and in business. What’s the best part about “creating” for you?

Max in Paris

Max: “I live for the feeling I get once I’ve finished a picture that I’m proud of. When you have a vision in your head, and a team of people help lend their hands in creating with you from start to finish, and that vision comes to life, its so remarkable.

The best part about creating for me is seeing the results in the end and appreciating all that went into the process.

Science Fiction by Max Thompson

Photo by Max Thompson | Giselle Piña @gisellepina

Photo by Max Thompson | Jamie Fraiche @jamiefraiche

Photo by Max Thompson | Alyssa Jayde @alyssajayde

Photo by Max Thompson

HDF:  I always say two things when it comes to vision. First, you have to have one, and second, it’s never accomplished alone.

What’s the best advice you can give someone just starting out in photography? Or creating for that matter? Or maybe just pursuing their dreams? (laughter)

Max: Do not be afraid to take a chance doing what you love. Do it well, but also do it differently than the rest of the world.

Photo by Max Thompson | Self Portrait at The Line Hotel

Photo of Max Thompson | Goldstein House

HDF: If you could describe the essence of your brand how would you describe it?

MaxThat’s a tough one. I’m very intuitive and intentional with my photos. I believe your mindset and an eye for details allows you to see the depths of the person, which in turn allows me to bring out the best possible photos. My brand is a feeling. I don’t want to bring out just sexiness, but depth, energy, excitement, mystery, intrigue, art, culture and positivity to the shot. This way my photos represent my values all the way through.

Make sense?

Photo by Max Thompson | Diamond Dive with Tara Grace @tara.grace

HDF: Makes perfect sense! If you could meet any photographer or cultural icon who contributed to the world (past or present), who would it be and why?

Max: There are so many humans I’ve admired whether it be in music, photography, art, etc. But I suppose if I had to narrow it down to one person id choose Helmut Newton.

His vision influenced my work a great deal. It would have been just the most to have sat down with him, sip espresso and pick his brain for an hour.

HDF: Max!! What can I say? This is awesome, your work is incredible and it’s only the beginning. Look forward to seeing you progress!

Max: Thanks Matt! Appreciate your time and thanks for having me be a part of this!

Max Thompson | Hollywood

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Matt Gottesman

Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™ - an online magazine dedicated to the world's entrepreneurs, creators and makers, a Social Media Influencer and a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content.

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