Breaking into the creative industries can be a daunting task for anyone. The plethora of roles that one can pursue and the knowledge that there is no blueprint or set route or path into any of the industries can be crippling. The problem is exacerbated for certain demographics. Things aren’t necessarily made easier knowing which type of role you think you want to get into – the analysis paralysis persists:
Freelance or employment?
Photography, Videography or both?
How do I get a mentor?
These are all typical questions that creative charity D&AD have played a part in helping to tackle. Pioneering the 12-week New Blood ‘Shift’ Programme, D&AD is looking to nurture the next generation creative thinkers through its life-changing and completely free night school for young aspiring emerging creatives who don’t have a degree-level qualification. Shift has been running for a number of years in both London and in New York; cities where they have observed that there is a significant disparity in those starting and finishing college, particularly those from lower-income families.
By the end of the programme, Shift aims to get as many “Shifters” as possible into paid placements / internships in design, advertising, production and PR. In the 2017 London programme – for which stats are available – 84% of the participants secured paid roles following the course. This compares to 41% of design graduates. This year’s New York programme is being run in conjunction with Adidas, building on pre-existing strong relationships with the brand.
Guap caught up with a few former ‘Shifters’ and a few members of the new New York cohort to chat through their experiences as creatives. We also snagged a quick interview with Jenn Dewey, who heads up the New York programme. Find out what they had to say below:
Jenn Dewey-Rudd – Partner, Art Supply & Head / Consultant, NY Shift Programme
“We’re looking to elevate the self-taught, the late bloomer and everything in between.”
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career?
“My name is Jenn Rudd, and I’m a partner in a creative company here in NY. My background is in design and animation for film, television and commercials.”
Have you always lived in New York?
“I moved to NYC in 2004, 15 years ago from Los Angeles where I was born and raised.”
They say that “if you are willing to work for it – it’ll happen” – is an absence of work ethic something that holds many creatives back?
“I don’t think so at all. Artists and creative people are some of the most diligent, hardworking and dedicated people I’ve ever met. I think what is holding creatives back is the networks. When you’re alone in your room cutting a video for 3 days, or painting in a basement – you’re not exactly out there figuring out how to market yourself. No one person has ever made it on their own. We all need support, but unfortunately – not everyone finds that support.”
What are the key differences between the creative scenes in NYC and London from your experience?
“While I’m not too familiar with the London creative scene, I think it shares similarities with New York in that they’re both being diverse cities and welcome all types of people. With New York, in particular, it really is what you make of it. The dream is yours for the taking if you dedicate enough time to it.”
Being able to grow creatively, with guidance is amazing – how do you ensure the balance is found between allowing them room to grow whilst still ensuring that there is a structure in the programme?
“They’re coming to us as fully formed artists in their own right. What they’re asking of us and of the programme is a way to harness that talent, or translate it, rather, into something that could be a career and a passion. Work skills are life skills-so we don’t necessarily need them to grow or, on the flip-side, stifle their creativity. We’re really just helping them as people grow their communication, collaboration and strategic thinking skills.”
Why underrepresented creatives? Is this something you’re passionate about?
“Because there is too much unfairness within the industry. Underrepresented artists just happen to also be underrepresented as a whole in the industry from socio-economic, gender, and racial demographics as well. We’re trying to level the playing field and get new voices in the rooms where work is being made.”
The focus is supporting creatives taking unconventional routes – is there such thing as a conventional route into creativity?
“What we consider ‘conventional’ is knowing that you want to be an artist, applying to a four year art school, being accepted, having the tools at your disposal to learn and create a portfolio, then be provided with leads and networks to find a job. We’re looking to elevate the self-taught, the late bloomer and everything in between.”
Juan Veloz – NY Shift Graduate, Class of 2017
“I pray before every single photoshoot… I want to be remembered as the Black Dominican Boy from Brooklyn NY who didn’t become a product of his environment.”
What inspires you to do what you do?
“I’m mainly inspired by my family, my experiences and the larger picture.”
Have you always been creatively inclined?
“I’ve always been creative, but I just didn’t know how to express myself until I picked up a camera at the age of 16.”
What were you doing when you decided to apply for Shift?
“At the time, I was actually wishing I had a mentor and felt like I was missing a sense of guidance.”
How have things changed for you since graduating from Shift?
“I’ve become more aware, it’s easier for me to read through briefs and dissect them as well. I’ve learned to also be very aware of my mental state.”
How would you describe your photography? Who does it speak to?
“I’m honestly not sure how to describe my photography. All I know is that I love capturing real moments. I would hope that my photography speaks to people who see beyond the image and get into the emotions of the subject.”
How do you personally prepare for a big shoot? What equipment would you take with you?
“Personally, I pray before every single photoshoot. In terms of equipment, I would take my Canon 5D Mark III and my 24-70 mm.”
What lenses and other equipment would you recommend to an aspiring photographer?
“I would advise an aspiring photographer to use what you have to in order to create what makes you happy.”
How would Juan Veloz like to be remembered?
“I want to be remembered as the Black Dominican Boy from Brooklyn NY who didn’t become a product of his environment. I want people to be inspired to always keep their eye on the larger picture.”
Jahnia Hölterhoff – Shift NY Graduate, Class of 2017
“I think being from NYC you’re born into this survivalist mindset and at times it’s hard to see anything else.… It’s imperfect but still beautiful.”
What does your typical day look like now?
“Nowadays, my typical day is ever changing. I usually walk into the office with an expectation of how my day will go but I can never be too sure. I can be pulled in to a shoot and asked to assist with the photography or post-production, out running around the city taking care of errands or on quieter days I’m making sure the studio is running smoothly.”
How does the spirit of New York City speak through your work?
“I’ve never actually thought about it before. I think being from NYC you’re born into this survivalist mindset and at times it’s hard to see anything else. That mindset where whatever you’re doing or creating is something you have to do if you ever want to see a change or even stay afloat. It’s imperfect but still beautiful. For me, I think the imperfections that show itself through my work reminds me of New York City.”
What were you doing when you decided to apply for Shift?
“When I applied for the Shift program I was working as a waitress at a breakfast cafe. My days would start at 5:30 am and then I’d come home mid-afternoon and work into the night on freelance design projects for extra income. I’m glad I decided to take a little mental break that one day because I found the open call post on Instagram and applied right away.”
How have things changed for you since graduating from Shift?
“Since graduating from Shift my life is now fully immersed around design and creativity. I was able to leave my waitressing job and accepted a job at Stink Studios [link] in Brooklyn, NY. I actually now live in Brooklyn because of my job. I am still creating on the side. I don’t think that part of me will ever change. That’s that survivalist mindset!”
What does creativity mean to you?
“Creativity is all-encompassing. For me, it is thought and feeling in a physical form.”
What is next for Jahnia Hölterhoff?
“I currently have some of my photographs on view at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ in collaboration with Juxtapoz Magazine. I am hoping to keep the momentum going and experiment with my abilities much more. Maybe make some leeway into an art directing role. The possibilities are endless and that’s the most exciting part of it all.”
Janine Ciconne – Class of 2019
“I believe that everyone is a “creative” and we all show our own unique ways on a daily basis.”
What drew you to apply for Shift and how do you think it will impact your career?
“When applying for programs between 2017-2018, I was discouraged by how many of the schools I was interested in did not cater to students who needed to keep their day jobs in order to simply make a living, or continue on with the careers they have already built. So, the Shift program felt like the right choice for me.”
What does creativity mean to you? Would your answer have been the same a year ago?
“I believe that everyone is a “creative” and we all show our own unique ways on a daily basis. An easy example would be through personal style or how we curate a social media page, but it can also be found in how we nurture a relationship or go about problem-solving. A year ago, I can say that my answer would have been similar, but now I have a view into personal creativity that is seen through a larger scope.”
How would you say that your varied and multifaceted creative background impacts the work you do today?
“Since I didn’t finish college, I had to choose jobs (and even created a few for myself) that would lay the foundation of skills I am able to use today. I have a range of experience because each job I held has always given me some background on how to tackle what’s next. Today I feel well-rounded and very capable to take on a lot of new projects and roles. While the advertising industry is entirely new to me, I am able to draw into past experiences that are already benefiting me with Shift.”
What is it that interests you in London and Barcelona?
“Ironically, London and Barcelona are the two places I want to visit more than anywhere! London because they express themselves there so boldly in my opinion (huge fan of Vivienne Westwood and Boiler Room), and I can only imagine how bold they go when it comes to advertising on top of everything else. Barcelona is a dream based on its visuals and aesthetic alone. Particularly, its rich history and the Catalan and Modern architecture that’s all around the city.”
Kyle St Furcy – Class of 2019
“I would love to create campaigns for brands like ASOS and Urban Outfitters.”
When did you first start taking photographs and at what point did you decide to call yourself a photographer?
“I’ve been doing photography for about year and a half now and made the decision to jump into photography because I was inspired by a lot of young photographers I was following on Instagram. During this time I was searching for a creative outlet to explore and this was the one that was most appealing to me.
I still struggle with calling myself a photographer because I know I have a lot to learn. I’m aware of my potential but I want to be in a position where I feel comfortable with my skill set and I’m working towards building that confidence. So my goal is to be more confident in directing my subjects, developing concepts and getting better with my technical skills.”
Do you see a difference between being a ‘creator’ and a ‘creative’ and if so, how do they differ?
“I don’t see the difference between a creator and a creative, I believe they’re both a person who works to bring their vision to life whether that be through art, fashion, music or business.”
What did your typical day look like before you applied for Shift?
“I had been out of school for months so I was just holding down a job while balancing my life at home. This was one of the main reasons why I applied for the program and was glad to be part of the team. Before, I wasn’t really inspired to shoot anymore and was falling off creatively so when I came across this program I was glad. I felt that this program would help me to get out the funk because of its resources and because it would allow me to be around a group of creatives.”
Where do you see your photography journey taking you to?
“As far as my photography, I see it being an outlet for me to be expressive and give people an insight into my creative ability. I hope it will open doors for me to do other things such as producing and directing. I’m a person with many interests such as studying history and would somehow like to apply my photography to those other interests. I would love to create campaigns for brands like ASOS and Urban Outfitters.”