Celebrity fashion photographer Drew Xeron has graced the pages of international media from Vogue Italia to Yoga Journal to Origins magazine. But this humble artist wasn't too busy or proud to share his story with New Beginnings. Read on to learn how Drew rocketed to the top of his craft and hear his advice for others who are eager to follow their dreams...
In your own words, tell us the story of your New Beginning:
Yoga brought me together with photography. Before I became a photographer I was managing [international yoga personality] Faith Hunter, and part of my role was to get images of her and post them on social media. In the beginning we were paying professional photographers to keep her marketing photos fresh, and after some time we bought a handycam. I started doing short videos myself - with no training, totally self-taught - and began taking photos with that same video camera.
One of them got published - not because of my skill but because a magazine wanted a photo of Faith. I received compliments on the photo and began taking more. While I didn't think I was any good, Faith bought me a camera so I could continue to experiment. More and more people began complimenting me on my photos, and that's when I started fumbling around with lights and people and testing on people who would let me.
About six months after the purchase of the camera I was obsessed.
How did you know it was time to make a change?
There was definitely a transition period. Confidence was always an issue because of my lack of training and experience. I was constantly seeking reassurance from others and getting opinions on my work. At the time MySpace was a tool, and I essentially began playing to the people. The response was overwhelming.
One year after the purchase of the camera I made it a full time gig - and it was tough. Because of Faith's profile I had interest from local yoga teachers who wanted to build their yoga portfolio. At first I would shoot maybe five or six clients per month - all yoga teachers - that was my niche, and that was my only source of income.
I kept working with anyone who would let me use them as a guinea pig, and I began to develop a style. Eventually I began moving into portraits and fashion photography.
What gave you the confidence you needed to move forward?
In the beginning I tried everything. Sometimes I would do the styling myself; occasionally I would have someone to help with hair and makeup. It was a lot of trial and error.
Around 2009 I moved into a basement boiler room in an artist community because I wanted a foot in the door. I figured if I could get in the door I could eventually upgrade. Three months later, an artist who had been there for 30 years decided to move to San Francisco, and I was able to move into that space. When I got that space it was like someone injected me with a can of spinach - Popeye-style. It allowed me to commit to my craft.
Who/what inspires you today?
Love. In the beginning much of the inspiration for my work came from pain. I dealt with many hardships in 1990s and early 2000s, and photography became a release. Before I found photography I dealt with adversity through alcohol, and when I realized there were other ways to release anxiety and aggression, it helped me understand I didn't need to drink. Creating gave me freedom and put me in a better place.
Today I am in a great place. The love in my life has made me, I think, better.
What are you dreaming about now?
As a photographer I am always growing. I am always seeking to one-up myself. Now the only assurance I seek is from myself. Previously I sought it from others, but I have learned to find contentment in creating something that moves me. Whoever wants to sip that creative Koolaid and enjoy it is welcome to join.
Beyond photography, I have been getting into filmmaking as a creative director and at the directorial level. I love to be involved in films and have been doing some acting, as well.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Always stay humble. Don't take anything for granted. Give thanks for everything good in your life. I do that constantly. Even though I have a flashy side I am respectful and appreciative of everything I receive. I am still humble when I am published. And if anyone wants to interview me or finds what I do interesting I am thankful.
What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you started?
I would have done more research into commercial photography. I would have interned with a successful photographer instead of learning the process the hard way. Commercial photography is a very specialized line of work and it was difficult to figure out.
What encouragement can you offer someone who wants to make a change but is apprehensive?
Passion doesn't always net you money right away. Find something that can sustain you financially while you pursue your passion.
If you go through life without doing something you are passionate about, life isn't worth living. A passionless existence is a miserable one.
I know many of your readers practice yoga. I don't practice yoga every day, but I do use breath work. Breathing the right way makes your body work like it is supposed to. I suffered from anxiety for years and tried medication, but it only made me melancholy. Learning to breathe and slow down has made my life so much better.
Thank you for visiting the Starting Over blog. Stop by anytime for a dose of inspiration, tools to help you achieve your goals, and a community of fellow travelers. I hope to see you often!