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Hustler of the Month: George Howard



Photo provided by George Howard

A month ago, my friend Tori briefly told me about George Howard and how she had met him through Trinity. Tori predicted that he and I would get along with each other well and that we'd have so much to talk about.

After having a 20-minute conversation with George Howard, following him on Instagram, and scrolling through his photo resume—which features names like rapper and producer Fameus from 808 Mafia and rapper Fat Trel—I instantly thought to myself, he's really out here on the grind.

Howard is a sophomore and film and media major at American University. He specializes in photography, but he does music videos, graphic design, and related work on the side. George uses Adobe Premiere for his film and media work and Adobe Photoshop when working on album art. Born in Atlanta, but raised in Denver, Colorado for a majority of his life, I am glad that our paths crossed here in D.C.

About a year ago in February, George was looking for cameras online. What he thought was a camera for sale on Craigslist turned out to be a man who just wanted his photos taken because he wasn't getting much out of it by setting it up on a tripod. After seeing George's brief photo resume, they then arranged a time to meet up and get the job done. "I never got paid for it but it was a good experience and he was a cool dude," said Howard.

George likes that photography is something he enjoys, but can still make money from.

"It's still a hobby in some ways, but it's a win-win," he said. He had a camera before the Craigslist gig but he'd post random photos for fun via social media. He mostly worked on school-related projects and worked for free to build his resume.

During his second semester of freshman year, Howard started to take his hobbies more seriously. "I'm starting to put my foot down and say, nah, I can't do that for free anymore," he said.

As he continues to grow as a photographer, Howard has also become increasingly aware of the downsides of doing business. "I never wanted to quit, but sometimes I want to stop doing it as a business," he said, "It's discouraging when people don't pay me or flake on me last minute."

Howard says that people push hard to get free photos from him or make demands about his work, rather than suggestions.

People don't ask for things the right way," said Howard. "I learned to wait for the cash before sending the video or photo or uploading it to my YouTube channel."

The beginning stages of being a photographer sometimes mean being mistreated by customers. Howard says: "You get finessed if you allow yourself to get finessed. You might get finessed once or twice."

Despite having to deal with bad business from time to time, Howard is still passionate about film and media. In April, he worked with Amissomega, a D.C.-based rapper who won the Independent Music Award for Best Hip Hop song. "Being around positive people who are doing well, and me doing my part to help him grow… it feels like this is paying off," Howard said.

In his free time, Howard brings his camera wherever he travels, even to the skate park. "Two weeks ago I went to hang out with my friends at U St. and it felt weird not having my backpack [camera] with me."

A photographer forgetting their camera is equivalent to a rapper forgetting their bars. "It's the worst. It's happened so many times that I make sure it doesn't happen again," Howard said.

Howard hasn't really thought about what he'd do if he wasn't involved in film or media. "I feel like videos will be with me everywhere I go, even if I'm doing corporate-related work."

Over time, George has learned a lot and has knowledge to share. "The best camera is the camera that you have. Do what you can with what you got. You don't need a billion dollar camera to take a picture. There's people with Instagram accounts taking pictures with their phones," said Howard.

Through his work, Howard has learned how to collaborate with new people.

Although it can be uncomfortable to talk and network with new people, it's important to get out of your comfort zone. "If you want to work with this person, DM that person; Don't be afraid… There's a lot of people out there who want their photo taken," he said. "If you start doing it for free, they'll eventually wanna pay you for it."

Howard says he couldn't live off of the money he currently earns from freelance work, but he sees photography in his future and is looking for something "consistent and professional that can pay the bills."

"It'd be cool working a regular 9-to-5 job, involved with video [and stuff on the side] so I can support myself and live. I never want to stop."

Howard believes his camera gives him just as much of a voice as a microphone gives a singer. But, having a voice and a platform have consequences. "The first couple of videos I filmed had guns in it. It was kind of wild," he said. "I talked to my parents about it a lot and they told me it's not a positive image to be holding [guns]. My name is still attached to it so, to some degree, I'm still promoting [violence]."

Initially, he thought that, because it's the artist's song, it's up to the artist to decide what they want and it's the videographer's job to follow their lead. "Videographers have voices too. You could be like, nah how about this idea," said Howard.

"If guns, sex, and drugs is not what you want to promote with your videos you really don't have to and you should put your foot down and not do that. Make sure what your producing is something you actually support."

View more of George's work here.

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