Derek Richmond knows how to push the limits. His edge drives his success as a commercial photographer and inspires him to pursue personal projects that dare to be different. He has shot for Whirlpool, Nikon, L’Oreal, Lands End, Martha Stewart, Royal Doulton, Sirius Satellite Radio and Sur La Table as well as several up-and-coming rock and jazz bands.
“So many artists focus on the beauty of their subjects; I like to go beyond that,” said Richmond. “I try to explore alternative angles and different types of lighting to reveal other perspectives. It’s this edge I feel that makes my work unique.”
As a teenager, Richmond got mixed up in the wrong crowd and even dropped out of school; then he fell in love with photography. His aunt, a former instructor at CCS, took him on a tour of campus where he realized he wanted to be. The experience motivated him to return to high school and earn good enough grades to be accepted at the College.
“I saw what the other students were doing and immediately realized that CCS was the place I needed to be; it was where I belonged,” Richmond said. “It became my life support.”
While he was a student, Richmond focused on the fine arts side of photography. Then, while working as a representative at an advertising agency, he saw the earning potential of shooting commercially. Once the agency realized his talent, they began using Richmond as one of their photographers.
“You know, I realized I just wasn’t Ansel Adams,” said Richmond. “I needed a way to pay the bills yet I wanted a career in photography. It was inevitable. I had to turn to the ‘other side.’”
Richmond moved to New York City where he became friends with another photographer who was working at Spin magazine. His friend had been recommended to work on a digital catalog for Nikon but turned the project down because he didn’t shoot digitally. Experienced in digital photography, Richmond picked it up.
“Nikon was my first major commercial client,” said Richmond. “The relationship lasted about two and a half years and evolved to include brochures, point-of-purchase advertising and billboards. I remember seeing my images up in Times Square. What a rush!
“Since then, I’d say about 99 percent of my work has been through word-of-mouth. I’m sure everyone has heard it a million times, but in this industry it really is about who you know. Once you establish a reputation for doing good work, people will hire you.”
Today, Richmond lives in Chicago, where the food industry prevails; much of his work centers around it. From the modern elegance of colorful mixed drinks to the rawness of a medieval feast, he defines food in new ways. One of his upcoming projects combines his talent photographing food with another passion—music.
“For the past ten years, I’ve been shooting video and still photos for up-and-coming bands,” said Richmond. “I’ve been with one band, The Spits, the entire time. It’s been great documenting their change from skinny kids to older, more accomplished musicians…
“About a year ago, I got the idea to do a book that combined food and rock-and-roll. Sort of a ‘recipes from the road’ concept that explored what musicians ate while they were on tour. I’ve been fortunate to find an art director brave enough to explore the idea. Think of it as a Jack Kerouac meets the Beatles Anthony Bourdain-style.”
- Commercial photographer