100 Creatives

59: Brad Armstrong

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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.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton