How did you get your start?
I’ve loved taking photos of friends and family for as long as I can remember. I was always more comfortable behind the lens than in front of it. I’m pouting in almost every family photo when I was a kid (sorry, mom and dad!). When I was 16, I started working for a wedding photographer on Sea Island. I took photos after school and every day in the summer. In the summers I did mostly family portraits on the beach during the day and weddings at night. I had a lot of patience with subjects who were uncomfortable in front of a camera—that helped make me become well liked by clients. That job made me start to think about turning my hobby into a career, but it took a long time to decide exactly how I would make that work. I got a photo internship at my hometown paper the summer after sophomore year in college; there I fell in love with the excitement of breaking news and the importance of story telling. I applied to The University of Georgia’s journalism school the next semester to study photojournalism.
Was there 1 job or contact that set the course of your career?
There are countless people who helped me get where I am today, but the one who stands out the most is Rebecca Burns. She was my magazine writing teacher at UGA. Not only was she extremely patient with a daunted photo student who somehow wound up in her upper-level writing class, she helped me become a confident journalist. I became more comfortable stepping out from behind my camera to talk to subjects and write about them. After graduation, she got me an interview at Atlanta magazine. At the time she was the editor in chief there. Rebecca put in a good word for me with the design director and we have worked together ever since. I feel extremely lucky to have such a supportive mentor in my life.
What is your favorite/most successful way to advertise?
I don’t do much advertising. I have an online portfolio for my magazine work and a blog for my freelance portrait work (weddings, engagements, and family photos). I get most of my portrait clients from word-of-mouth.
Although I don’t advertise much, in my job as photo director I’m constantly getting promos from photographers who want to work for the magazine. Over the years I’ve settled into a system for the promos that catch my eye. First, I always go to the photographer’s online portfolios. If I think their work looks like a good fit for the magazine, I write them back. I like to meet all of our freelancers in person before giving them an assignment. I do that to try to get to know them and what they like to shoot a little bit before sending them out and also to make sure that I think they will be able to represent the magazine well. I have hired countless photographers like this! I really believe that a good promo can change your career.
If there were 1 thing you could change about your career, what would it be?
That's a very hard question to answer! I feel very spoiled by where my career has taken me so far. Being a director allows me to meet and work with new local photographers all the time in all kinds of places. This is one of my favorite parts of my job because it keeps me on my toes by forcing me to constantly come up with fresh ideas. I would have to say that, right now, my biggest wish is to work with more national photographers. They are the photographers who are at the top of the game – the ones who make it big by pushing limits and bringing energy to their work. I get emails from them all the time but I just don’t have the budget to fly them in for shoots.
What is your favorite stress reliever?
Soccer! I am the captain of my team at an adult co-ed league in town. I didn’t get my team name submitted in time when we started playing there, so the owner of the league took it upon himself to name us after my last name. My team thought the name was funny so it stuck: we are The Kilgorians.
What is your favorite destination?
My family lives on St. Simons Island, and I try to get down there as much as I can. Nothing makes me feel more rested and refreshed than a weekend of walking on the beach with my parents’ pup and hanging out with my BFF (my 90-year-old grandmother).