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Freelance CMA Photographer, Dusty Draper


I was honored to chat with Freelance CMA Photographer Dusty Draper. When you see his incredible photos, you'll understand why. Dusty is a 2015 Nossi College of Art Graduate.

Tell me about yourself.

I am married and I have three children. I am originally from Arizona. I live in Bowling Green, Ky, but I work in several other states including Tennessee, Indiana, New York, California, and Arizona. My main focus in photography is the music industry. Mostly concerts, but I also do backstage and artist portrait work. I freelance for the Country Music Association now shooting CMA Fest, the CMA Awards and several other smaller events when they need me. I started off as a student shooter for them at CMA Fest in 2014 as part of their Award of Merit team and now they put me to work a few times throughout the year. I also work with Apex Entertainment. Most recently on The Dailey & Vincent Show on RFDTV. I just shot at Carnegie Hall in New York City last week with them! I also work as a lead wedding photographer for Stewartography Photo Team. I have a few other smaller gigs too. I am lucky to work with some of the best people in the business!

How did you get into photography?

I have always loved looking at photographs. I used to go to the public library as a child and look through all of the books of photographers such as Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry, Dorthea Lange, and many others. My uncle Alvin LeBaron was a painter and I used to go out with him scouting out subjects for his paintings. He would take photos of horses, Native Americans, desert landscapes, etc., and I always loved going with him. Those things started my journey. After that, I collected Gold Bond Stamps that my mother would bring home from the grocery store. I saved enough to buy my first camera. It was mostly a hobby until 2009 when I decided to go to school to learn all I could about it. Now I have two degrees from Nossi College of Art and my career is gaining momentum.

Why did you want to become a photographer?

I never thought seriously about making it a profession until my wife, Tiffany bought me a nice camera and suggested that I go to school and make it a career. Her support gave me the confidence and determination to make it happen. She was the first to believe in me. I took a few classes at a community college and received some positive feedback about my work which helped me gain confidence. Then in 2012, I was accepted to Nossi College of Art in Nashville. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.

What is it about photography that you love?

I love that there are so many ways you can use photography to be creative. I have had weeks where I've shot weddings, concerts, portraits, architecture, landscapes, and several other fun things. When you can be creative in multiple areas, you increase your marketability in the photography world. You also get paid to do what you love. There's not much better than that!

What does it mean to you?

I am able to do something I love every day to help support my family. I never fit in with going to a full-time job at the same time every day. I love the freedom of working where and for who I want to. That means so much to me!

How did you become so passionate about it and why?

My main passion is concert photography. I have always loved music. I have always loved photography. So, it was just bound to happen that those two worlds would collide one day. I shot my first show in 2012 at Live on the Green. The first band that night was HoneyHoney. Ever since that night, I have been addicted to shooting live shows! There is such an adrenaline rush! I take it really seriously. I start preparing weeks or even months before a show. I watch footage of the bands I'm going to shoot. I listen to their music. I get a shot list in my head that I want to complete. I work at getting better each time. I don't get show up and shoot.

Be sure to check out his website here to view more of his AMAZING photos!

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