100 Creatives

59: Brad Armstrong

When we last put the spotlight on 100 creative forces in Phoenix, it was no secret there were more than 100 individuals who were making waves in the local arts community. So as we count down to our annual Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome (back) to 100 Creatives

Brad Armstrong is a photographer whose work has been showcased in the journalism, fine art, and commercial worlds. He says he currently works with small and large companies to communicate a mission through visuals.

"Being self employed means churning the butter every day," he says. "The learning curve is steep and I had to work hard and fast to make things happen."

I came to Phoenix with . . . when I was an 18-year-old from Long Island, New York. I was alone with a suitcase and an ambition to get an education and to compete in Track and Field. The rest I would have learn and discover.

The first two years I was a student a Phoenix College and then I went to NAU. Go Jacks! From Flagstaff, I chased my then girlfriend to Sun Valley, Idaho where we were married and had our first child. We moved back to Phoenix in 1983. I had a '66 Ford pick-up truck and a wholesale wine sales job at a Scottsdale distributor called Vintage Selection. It was shortly after moving back to Arizona that I realized I wanted to pursue a career in photography. I wanted to put my passion for photography and my education in journalism to work. I quit my sales job job and decided to dedicate myself to getting a job as a photojournalist.

After making the commitment it took three years of pounded on doors before I got a break when I was hired at the Scottsdale Progress Newspaper. Shortly thereafter the Progress was bought by the East Valley Tribune. I finally had a career and stability for my wife and two young boys. Seventeen years later I was promoted to Director of Photography. I managed the still photographers, the imaging department and created a video department. In 2009 it all came crashing down when the parent company went into bankruptcy and I among 140 other people jobs were eliminated. Two months later my wife was laid off from her job of 14 years. It was scary time. At an age where most people are thinking about retirement I knew I lost my career for ever. I knew I would never work in the news business again but as a freelancer I was in my prime. I knew someone would appreciate my experience.

I spent 20 years telling other people's story. It was time I started to focus on me and my story.

I make art because . . . All I know is this, if I'm not evolving creatively, I become extremely frustrated and difficult to live with. I have to stay busy both intellectually and physically. It's all about growth for me. My fear is if I become complacent with my work it becomes predictable and formulaic. Not good for a creative person.

I'm most productive when . . . I have the camera out of the bag. Working a shoot is my comfort zone. It's always a challenging endeavor that requires the breath of my experience to pull off. Nothing is ever perfect so you have to think on your feet and figure things out. It's trouble shooting and if you have the time it's making a series of little tweaks until you have it dialed in. I try to hit out of the park every time but sometimes a lemon is a lemon.

My inspiration wall is full of . . . Years ago it was iconic photographers, images and reading books by the masters. Now my wall is full of lists of things I need to be better at. Networking, using social media, getting my name out there, meeting people and when I have time do a spec shoot to build my portfolio with diverse images.

I've learned the most from . . . Doing! Practice makes better. I'm self taught through making mistakes and learning from it. I've always been on my own. That's not by choice it just happened that way. I started my full-time professional career at 35 so people assumed I already new what I was doing. I wish. I had mentors, but this is a competitive profession so getting someone to teach you everything they know never happened for me.

Good work should always . . . Have content that has relevance to our experience on this planet. You can have all the filters and apps the digital age can offer but it always comes down to content -- a moment, feeling, mood, interaction. Even abstractions have to communicate something. For me an empty moments are visual failures.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more . . . People like you. It seems the Valley's mainstream media couldn't care less about the arts. Newspapers even when things were good dedicated very little resources to the local art scene. Beyond things to do this weekend I rarely saw in-depth profiles on artists of any kind. I don't know, but maybe Valley residents don't care ether. People are focusing more on survival right now.

From my perspective the people who are creating the art in this Valley are as much a part of the historical record as the people and places they depict. There seems to be very little respect for the creators and or the arts in this Valley. I've been to two historical museums in the Valley and in both I found photographs that have no attribution to the photographers who created the work. Personally I want to know who these pioneering artists were. To me it's inexcusable.

The Creatives, so far ... (And while you're here, check out 100 Tastemakers on Chow Bella.)

100:Lara Plecas 99. Isaac Caruso 98. Brandon Gore 97. Kelsey Dake 96. Hector Ruiz 95. Caroline Battle 94: Jennifer Campbell 93. Jeff Chabot 92. Tiffiney Yazzie 91. Daniel Germani 90. Irma Sanchez 89. Daniel m. Davis 88. Kirstin Van Cleef 87. Emmett Potter 86. Sarah Hurwitz 85. Christine Cassano 84. Fred Tieken 83. Lindsay Kinkade 82. Ruben Galicia 81. Robert Uribe 80. Heidi Abrahamson 79. Josephine Davis 78. Travis Ladue 77. Taz Loomans 76. Mikey Jackson 75. Alex Empty 74. Joe Ray 73. Carol Roque 72. Daniel Funkhouser 71. Carla Chavarria 70. Hugo Medina 69. Cavin Costello 68. Claire Carter 67. Lindsay Tingstrom 66. Catherine Ruane 65. Christopher Crosby 64. Aaron Johnson 63. Brenda Eden 62. Colton Brock 61. Ernesto Moncada 60. Benjamin Phillips

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton