Most Important Thing I Learned When I Was 25 Years Old

I had just graduated from a professional photographic trade school in California and had moved back to the East Coast to make my mark shooting for magazines like Life, Look, National Geographic etc. I took my portfolio around, that at that time consisted of various still life photographs that were shot in a studio.

Gail at college.
Photograph © Chad WAt the time, everyone told me that I couldn’t make a living shooting for magazines. Look Magazine had shut its doors and Life was soon to follow. Other photographers encouraged me to pursue commercial work if I wanted to make a living in photography.

Eventually, I went to see the legendary New York photographer, Jay Maisel who was known for his bluntness. I brought with me some travel snapshots that I had taken while on a year-long backpacking odyssey before I attended school. Jay looked through my portfolio of well executed but boring photographs of toasters and martini glasses and then threw them back at me and said; “This is crap. This isn’t what you want to do, is it?” I said “no” but then I told him what other photographers had been telling me, that this was where the business was going. I showed him my travel snapshots and said, “This is what I want to do.” He looked me straight in the face and asked, “How old are you?” to which I replied, “I’m 25 years old”.

I’ll never forget what he said to me. “You’re 25 years old and you’re already making compromises?” To this day, I remind myself of his words whenever I feel like I’ve strayed off the path I was meant to be on. Everyone has a story. What’s yours?

Gail Mooney is creating custom family legacy films capturing priceless stories.