Doug Menuez: “Ignore your creative needs at your peril”

The new issue of PDNedu features an interview with Doug Menuez in which the award-winning photographer talks about his 30-plus-year career, from his photojournalistic beginnings as an intern at The Washington Post (he describes, for example, how he managed to get a shot of Mother Teresa that was different from what his press-corps peers were shooting) to freelancing for Newsweek and Time to working as a documentary photographer and, since signing with Stockland Martel, making the transition into editorial and advertising.

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An outtake from Doug's recent cover shoot for Parade magazine with George and Barbara Bush.

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Anyone who has ever read anything by or about Doug knows that he is generous about passing along lessons he’s learned along the way and speaking frankly about challenges he’s faced and how he dealt with them. (If you’re curious, there are many pearls of wisdom to be found at his blog, Doug Menuez 2.0.) He’s an excellent teacher and speaks to young photographers from a place of both experience and empathy.

“Photography is a marriage of art and commerce, and you may be great at the art part of it,” he tells PDNedu’s Hal Stucker, “but you also have to master the commerce part because that’s the only way your career is going to survive over the long haul.”

He goes on to talk about how vital it is to clarify your goals and then to establish a formal business plan to make them happen, a topic he’s spoken and written about many times before (and, really, the necessity of a business plan cannot be emphasized enough).

But he also talks about figuring out who you are as a photographer and what you love to shoot. For most photographers who are aiming to make a living at shooting, the first thing they do is put aside their creative desires and immediately start thinking in terms of the market. It’s an understandable impulse. But Doug asserts that although it may seem counterintuitive, you’ll actually go farther by knowing what really makes you happy and pursuing that, market be damned. Because by pursuing what you really love, you’ll have the natural desire to push forward; you won’t be relying solely on mind-over-matter to get yourself through the inevitable tough times—you’ll have that thing inside of you that can’t be denied and keeps you going.

“The truth is you ignore your own creative needs at your peril,” Doug says in the article. And that reminded me of something Maureen said in the interview I did with her for RESOLVE, when she was talking about what she looks for in a photographer who she and Bill are considering signing.

“I want them to be passionate, really passionate about photography,” she said. “That means that they have their own projects going. One of my big problems today in marketing people is that they are not producing enough photography because they come from an old school of ‘I will get paid to make the images I need for my book.'”

So she and Doug are saying the same thing: If you want to succeed in this business, you need to really love what you do and do what you love. That has to be your starting point and your constant. And that, I think, is great advice for current and would-be creative professionals of all stripes.

To download a pdf of the PDNedu article, “The Re-Reinvention of Doug Menuez,” click PDNedu_Menuez.

For more of Doug’s photos of the Bushes, go here.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 04/22/2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Doug is right on with both. Do what you love, love what you do and then be persistent and firm with pursuing outlets that appreciate your view backed up with licensing your images. Add good business practices that you can get through APA, EP, and ASMP and the likes.

    BTW, Doug shot, as I recall, for two years at Apple when the Newton was being developed. He autographed my copy of his book on the Newton with the following: “Go fast, don’t crash! Doug”. This was a few years back at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

    Thanks Doug. It’s one of my favorite books and I show it to students.

    Don Eddy


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