George Kamper, a New York City native, is one of the most seasoned photographers on our line up. Growing up in the city, his mother ran the Nathan’s Hot Dogs on 43rd and Broadway, where he’d spend his teenage years working as an expediter when he wasn’t sitting on the waterside as a lifeguard. He fell into the art of photography in high school by joining photo clubs and classes. But when it came time to settle on a college major, his parents were strictly against him going to photo school, despite his wishes.
Though his parents told him no, it never stopped George from finding a way to study the medium he fell in love with. He took a drive up to Rochester, NY— which was farther away than he had imagined— and visited the Rochester Institute of Technology. Amazed by their facilities, he knew he needed to attend the university no matter what. Realizing he needed to convince his parents he was going for something worth while in their eyes, he applied and was accepted for RIT’s food management program, with help from his days at Nathan’s. But after 5 weeks at the college, George switched into photography to follow his dreams.
During his junior year he began to shoot for small ad agencies in Rochester. One of his biggest jobs was with a big department store Upstate, and he would work a multitude of shoots for them. Upon graduation he moved back down to New York, only to move back to Rochester a few years later to start his career. In the first year or so, he even started the first Rochester Monthly Magazine.
George originally lived in a house with four other friends in the city of Rochester when he first came back, but soon after a loft building opened up, which was not common for Rochester at the time. He got involved and moved in, but had to renovate the entire space while living there, though his rent was only $250 a month for 1,200 square feet. Serendipitously, a friend of his needed a place to stay, so the two struck a deal he could stay there if he helped George fix up the loft. The two built a 15 feet spiral staircase to the open floor above George’s loft, and turned it into a shooting space. This is the place George would shoot all of his earliest work in Rochester, including for one of his biggest clients, Xerox.
When it was time to move on from his glorious loft, George went down an unconventional route and bought a church, which he flipped into another living-working space. Using the same friend as before, they built out a cyc and a space to process his own work in house. This was a big deal back in the time of film, as his clients could shoot with him and see the results almost immediately.
In the 1990’s, George wanted to continue to grow and compete, so he headed back to New York City and found a space there. He kept his space in Rochester until 2001, when the city started to rapidly decline. Around the same time, his studio in NYC, that he thought was going to be his future, had an explosion in the basement, and they were no longer allowed to reenter the building. George took this as a sign for a time to change things up.
Every once in awhile he would go to Miami for a shoot, and since he knew some people down in Florida, he decided to head down there to test out the market for awhile. He worked on some catalogs down in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, and opened a digital space with a few friends during the rise of digital photography. After some time working with a larger group of photographers, he decided to settle and start down the path of an indefinite solo career.
During his time in Florida during the fast paced boom of digital, George acquired many retouching skills. Still to this day, he does most of his own retouching, though if there is something he cannot do, he has his own personal retoucher. Starting off as an intern of his from The Art Institute, she has now been with him in his studio for seven years. She works with him almost every day, and travels with him for assignments.
The majority of the work he shoots nowadays is a mix of lifestyle, tourism, and some fashion. He is the photo director of Equestrian Living Magazine, which encompasses all high end equestrian things. He has shot portraits for the magazine of subjects like Martha Stewart, Charlie Daniels, and Kelly Klein. He has worked with fashion brand Hermes out in Paris a few times as well.
He is fortunate he is able to work with some accounts that allow for him to bring a cinematic look to the images. Lately, clients had been calling him more and more to be the art director on their jobs. He finds that the days of art directors and count executives being on the jobs themselves are getting fewer and fewer. They’re now looking for that individual eye that can accomplish all those jobs in one. He has received more and more work every year where people trust him to go out and do the work.
On his sets, George almost always has his wife on as part of the team in some capacity. He has a real trust in her eye, and her talents are spread out across the board. She can be the role of hair and make up artist, model, or even the art director, as she’s always giving pointers on how to make the image better.
At this point in his career, George isn’t really concerned about the money. The fact that an assignment is interesting or different is enough to make it worthwhile. He is attracted to assignments that allow for him to work with a crew of people who are fun and genuinely excited to be a part of a team.
He’s represented by Those 3 Reps nationally, but he himself loves meeting people face to face. It gives him a chance to comment with someone he others may not have been able to meet. Trying to connect to the right people and being open to what may be worth it in the long run is important. He came out to Los Angeles for our April FotoWorks event this year, and it helped him network with potential new clients that he otherwise may not have been able to do on his own. The power of taking a risk is what propels us forward into the world.