As Emily Berger completed her final semester of the photography program, she vowed, challenging as it may be in the working world, never to lose sight of her passion for creating art. This inner-drive has inspired her own photography and led her to a fulfilling career supporting the works of other artists/designers.
“It’s challenging to graduate, get a job and still maintain a passion for your work,” admitted Berger. “When you're at CCS, your work is everything—the most important aspect of your life. It’s hard to maintain that excitement and that drive to produce work once you've graduated and moved into a different realm of the art world.
“Of course, you don't realize this when you're in school… But you look at the people who've experienced it after graduation and think, ‘that won't be me!’ As I prepared to enter the next stage of my life, my career, I made a conscious decision to combat this problem—to work hard at maintaining my drive to work on art. It almost makes it more rewarding, when you know you've done it for the love of art.”
When Berger was hired into the photo/art department at Muse, she found herself relying on a specific set of skills: polaroiding (taking good un-retouched and un-styled snapshots), basic graphic design and fashion photography (aesthetics, themes, working with current photographers…) Within a year, she was promoted to a “new faces/junior booker” type of position and then moved into an official booker position in the designer relations department.
“My clients are primarily designers needing models for shows, presentations, fittings and buyer appointments,” said Berger. “Having a past interest and focus in fashion photography has really benefitted me working in the industry.”
When she’s not working at Muse, Berger regularly contributes photography to the Brooklyn and Michigan editions of The American Guide.
“For about a year, I focused primarily on documentary photography in my own personal projects and realized that in my off-work hours I wanted to explore topics other than fashion,” Berger explained. “I especially had an interest in documenting the American experience—small-towns, places that were near and dear to my heart or interesting to me.
“A friend who knew my work and my interests sent me a link to the site, and I was instantly in love with the concept. I realized that becoming a contributor would be a perfect outlet for my work—a motivator to continue shooting and searching for new places that were of interest to me. It's a great group of people contributing and now we have an American Guide show in NYC in the beginning/brainstorming stages. It's a really exciting project to be a part of!”
Before moving to New York, Berger showed her work at the Majestic Café, Madonna University and White Wall Gallery, a temporary gallery she oversaw in Hamtramck. She also founded an online blog (http://whitewallcollective.blogspot.com/) in hopes of promoting local photographers and strengthening the Detroit art scene. The blog has been featured in Metro Times and detroitfashionpages.com.
“Since the day I moved to New York, Detroit has held onto a huge part of my heart; I've missed it constantly,” Berger admits. “Some of the reasons are basic: it's near my family and my best friends, and I'm also a huge fan of space, emptiness and quiet. It offers those things; however, I also loved being a part of something that actually was making a difference.
For better or worse, Detroit is in a spot unlike any other city. There's all this opportunity for change, but the city has a huge battle ahead, and there's something about that pending change that excites me. In New York you're one of 8.5 million people and even though you all have your own goals and aspirations, it's near impossible to not get lost in the shuffle. In Detroit, I felt like it was easier to make a change, to make a difference and to do something that mattered.
“It sounds incredibly cheesy, but I felt like I was a part of something there. Because of this, I was a lot more motivated to work on all kinds of projects outside of my day job. It was accessible and doable, and I had a lot of friends with like minded ideas and goals. I need that in my life again, and moving back is definitely a goal that I'm working towards.”
Berger credits CCS with preparing her for both a career as an artist and life as a successful professional. Her eyes were opened to the local art scene as she participated in an internship with Nancy Barr, associate curator of graphic arts at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“Going through a challenging art school definitely prepared me to work really hard wherever I went, or at whatever I was doing,” said Berger. “I also think that the experience makes you see things differently—everything becomes art, everything can be affected by creativity. Visual aesthetic affects everything I do, and I definitely think that that's an effect of being surrounded by creativity for four years.”
- Graduation Year: 2007
- Major: Photography
- Employer: Freelance/Mindfield Pictures
- Title: Photographer/Founder of whitewallcollective.blogspot.com
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