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“Just Say Yes!” Photographer Tyler Middendorf on Why Artists Need to Embrace New Challenges

For anyone with a creative streak, Los Angeles is the land of opportunity.

However, what stops many artists from advancing their careers is the reluctance to take on a gig that may be above their pay grade; after all, no artist wants to look incompetent to someone who’s hired them.

L.A.-based photographer Tyler Middendorf, though, has some blunt truth for you cautious creators out there: Just say yes!

“Just say yes! That’s the great thing about photography – once you have the gear, you can just say yes to things. For example, last year at the Count’s Den, I shot my first wedding; I’d never shot a wedding before! One could’ve said, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready!’ But I was like, ‘let’s do it!’ And because I said yes to that wedding, at the beginning of the month, by the end of that month I was booked for another wedding. And that probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t said yes to that first wedding. If I hadn’t said yes to that one gig at the Bourbon Room, I wouldn’t have become a weekly photographer there for this past year. And those came from me just being open to a new experience, not knowing how it would turn out, but putting myself out there.”

For Tyler, this is hard-won advice. It wasn’t simply about saying yes to the right gig – he had to say yes to the idea of turning a hobby into an actual career.

“I always dabbled in it…I was doing a lot of landscape photography when I was on vacation and traveling…But I never really did much with them; I just sort of had them. And then, as was the case with most people during the pandemic when we all had a lot of free time, I thought, 'I wonder what can be done with these photos?'

I’ve always had a love of photography but never had the space, bandwidth, or time to pursue it. So I thought, 'oh, this could be a real hobby or career, potentially.'

So, during the pandemic, I unearthed those photos and honed my skills on the editing side, adding new life to these photos. That’s when it reignited my passion for photography.

My background before photography was always in entertainment. I was a production manager and event producer at Universal Studios Hollywood for eleven years, where I worked on a lot of their big marquee events. I’ve always had a love and passion for live events, live entertainment, audience interaction, and ultimately comedy. 

Comedy, burlesque, and variety shows – seeing the audience interact with the performers, and showing their work through my work has been really exciting.”

While Tyler has successfully managed to turn a fun diversion into something more lucrative and fulfilling, he still had to jump through the countless hurdles that come with being a creative practitioner, especially one trying to make it in L.A.:

"Obviously, with any creative space, there are two main types of struggle: it’s yourself – you’re your own worst enemy, your own worst judge of character – and the crowded space – everyone wants to be in it and it’s very oversaturated. You have to not only get your foot in the door, but you have to have a unique foot in that door.

Especially in Los Angeles where everyone’s creative in their own way. You’re also saying, 'hey, look at me! I’m also that thing! But I’m different – trust me!'

With all of the competition you see and all of the amazing work these other photographers are doing, you’re thinking, 'ok, I don’t want to be that, but I want to live up to that.' You’re not trying to copy their work, but you want to be on par with their work.”

Because of the wide range of performances and experiences he’s shot, Tyler has cultivated a unique creative process for capturing singular moments:

"With shooting show photography, it’s about – and this is a cheesy way to say it – it’s like music: you’re trying to find that rhythm, that tempo. It’s me watching how the performer is giving and how the audience is receiving, and trying to read where that expression’s going to come out, where that next movement’s going to be, because it all happens in a split second. It’s not like portrait photography where it’s like, 'stand like this, pose like this!' I’m trying to capture that moment in a split second, because then it’s gone.

I love shooting through the crowd, so you get both of those things you want to focus on juxtaposed together: you’re getting that performer who’s giving it their all, and then you’re getting that arm in the air or the head moving.

You’re getting both of those things simultaneously without anyone even knowing it because they’re living in their own moment, and I’m very much that passive observer trying to capture that energy.”

One venue that has provided Tyler with plenty of material for his craft is the Immersive Art Collective’s DTLA home, the Count’s Den.

"The Count’s Den is a great one, just because it can be anything from a burlesque show to someone’s wedding, and there are so many unique spaces there, whether it’s the lobby or the creepy upstairs area – it’s such a multifaceted space."

If you would like to work with or book Tyler, you can contact him several ways listed below:

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