Today, Wednesday & Thursday Michigan in Pictures will be talking with Detroit photographer Bobby Alcott for our third Michigan Photographer Profile.
Michigan in Pictures: Tell us a little something about yourself Bobby
Bobby Alcott: I’m a native Metro Detroiter – born here in 1969, and grew up on the East side. I now live in downtown Detroit with my lovely wife Elizabeth, daughter Abby… and another baby girl due in April. I’m kind of a regular guy: graduated from MSU, love my Red Wings and Tigers, love all people of all walks of life, and hope to make a difference someday.
MP: How did you get involved with photography?
Bobby: I’ve always owned a camera, it seems – from a 110 to a Disc (remember those?) to SLRs. I dabbled a bit in college; East Lansing can be so intensely beautiful in the Springtime, and any guy attending State will tell you how pretty the girls are. I was a TV and Video Production Major, so it was a natural one-off. It wasn’t until the birth of my first daughter, Abby, in 2001 that I again took photography seriously. I realized then how badly I had missed it as a creative outlet, and started to admit to myself that I might be fairly good at it, too.
Then, for my 35th birthday, my father gave me a used digital camera he got from a friend of his — and I was hooked. I literally didn’t have it out of my reach for the first several months. I found Flickr, and the feedback at that point was a supremely important confidence builder. The more I shot, the better I got. The better I got, the more I experimented. I invested in better equipment, and the snowball was rolling downhill at full speed.
MP: You’re a full-time photographer now – did you ever think you would get to that point and what led you here?
Bobby: I was the kind of guy that never really laid out a path; I guess because I never wanted to be railroaded into one thing because I hadn’t honestly figured out what it was I loved to do. Therefore, I’ve had my fair share of jobs – great, good, bad and awful. Through the years, I’ve been in retail, insurance, a programmer and a dishwasher. I’ve also been a sportscaster, an illustrator, the lead singer of a funk band (with a few CDs to my name), and I’ve sung over 200 TV and radio commercials. It’s not that I failed at any of these jobs – I just never fell in love with them (except for the singing, which I still do now).
A year ago now, I was the Creative Director for a small ad agency when it finally hit me. After 37 years, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life – or at least, I resigned myself to the theory that I needed to make this photography thing work. I pow-wowed with my wife, and we figured out we had ‘x’ amount of time, financially, to make it work. I was ready to go back to school full-time for photography when I met my mentor, Jack Weber, at Acme Photo in Highland Park. He took me under his wing and hired me as a third assistant at the studio. I worked all last summer there, doing what thirds do: driving the van, hauling the equipment, getting lunch for the crew – basically starting from scratch. I learned so very much last summer, and as painful as it was on my ex-hockey-player knees, it was invaluable experience. I spent my time building my portfolio – spending all my time learning about the business and techniques and tricks and don’ts (many more than do’s).
Luckily, the good folks at Acme started to take notice of what I was doing, and after some discussions, they offered me representation. As of January 1, I’ve been fully represented by Acme Photo Works, and I couldn’t be working with a better bunch of people.
MP: You have been a pretty active member of Flickr’s community of Detroit photographers. What do you feel working with other photographers adds to your own work?
Bobby: Flickr, without question, was a major factor in my development as a photographer. How wonderful is it that, in this day and age, you can bounce ideas off a million other photographers? It’s the community aspect that makes Flickr so unique; moreso that any other photo site, I think.
MP: Speaking of Detroit, it’s obvious that you love the city. What are your three favorite things about it?
- I moved to Detroit for the sheer diversity of it, as I was raised in a very homogenous area. I love the different walks of life, the various cultures and the differing opinions.
- I love that Detroit is, more than anything, a work in progress. What fun is it to live in a city or town that seems complete? Here, I have a chance to put my efforts and opinions into the development of a major city.
- Frankly, I love being near the sports teams. I’m a huge Wings and Tigers fan, and being here for all the craziness of parades and playoffs; being caught up in the pride of the city is unreal.
Bobby: I don’t know that I have a favorite type of photography yet. I initially started shooting the architecture of the city, which constantly reminds us all of what once was, but more importantly, what the effects of racism and race-based economic plans can do to a city and it’s people. Since then, I’ve enjoyed portraiture much more, and I’ve always loved tabletop work. My goal is to spend more time shooting in the studio, working with people and objects.
Michigan Photographer Profile III
Day I: Michigan in Pictures talks with Bobby Alcott
Day III: Bobby’s Favorite
More from Bobby Alcott
Bobby Alcott Photography – features a great slideshow. Really.
Photos from UrbanTiki on Flickr -Bobby’s Flickr page.