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How One Photographer Quit His Desk Job, Pursued His Passion, and Traveled the World

"I've been told what I'm doing is 'risky.' I see it the other way around." Sam announced he'd quit his 9-to-5 with this cheeky self portrait.
How One Photographer Quit His Desk Job, Pursued His Passion, and Traveled the World

By Niree Noel

 

Ever since official Spring Street photographer Sam Ortiz picked up a camera over a decade ago, he’s been drawn to editorial portraiture. Over the years, Sam has trained his lens on athletes and artists, restaurateurs, prisoners, and people from the streets of New York to the mountains of Puerto Rico. “Celebrity or not, I’m more interested in the why over the who. I love creating beautiful images that tell the story of a person.”

 

The story of Sam is such: in the decade he experimented with photography, he also worked a pretty serious day job in Informations Technology. The day job -- a desk job -- wasn’t exactly his dream job. So when his close friend and frequent Spring Street collaborator Josh Littlefield called him up for a quick gig in Los Angeles, he took the first flight out from New York. That gig turned out to be the now-iconic Spring Street Social Society Secret Supper in Culver City in September of 2016. That was the #SSSSSecretSupper where we transformed a barren concrete underpass beneath the Metro Line adjacent to Platform, home of our former pop-up shop stay, into a vibrant, Geronimo balloon-filled sunset dinner extravaganza. That was also the event that marked Sam’s transition from a corporate 9-to-5er to a full-time photographer. He began taking on more and more freelance photography projects, until this past summer, when he finally had enough work to say sayonara to the desk and jump full-time into the dream. Sam now documents Spring Street events on both coasts, going wherever Spring Street goes: from the 14th Factor in Los Angeles to the Wavertree ship docked at New York’s South Street Seaport all the way across the Atlantic to the Barbican Conservatory in London. He also runs the lifestyle and beverage Instagram account @coffeemeetstea with his wife Melissa.

 
 
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One of Sam's favorite memories is from that very first event in L.A. Sam rarely sets his camera down while working, but after supper, guests broke out into an impromptu dance party on the gravel path between the fleet of parked Audis that had whisked them from secret meeting spots across Los Angeles to Culver City. He captured a few shots as everyone shook and shimmied, illuminated by the high beams and the moonlight, but then he says he just had to put his camera down. “That sums up what Spring Street is all about: Living in the moment. And if there is no dance floor...make your own.”

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Members and guests, including the Tempest Freerunning parkour team, took to the open dirt lot for some post-dinner dancing.

Beyond living in the moment, Sam has some additional advice: learn how to use the equipment you have, to the best of your ability. Then focus on capturing real moments. Let the image come to you, instead of forcing a setup — nothing beats honest emotion. And finally: get out of your comfort zone. “You can’t possibly be a successful photographer if you’re not willing to go outside your normal routine. Photography challenges me every single day, but it has also led me to some incredible opportunities.”

 
 
 
Sam chases the moment, wherever it may take him.
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For Sam, photography is a bridge between the world and himself. The more he explores the world outside his comfort zone with his lens, the more opportunities appear. “You can’t possibly be a successful photographer if you’re not willing to go outside your normal routine. Photography challenges me every single day, but it has also led me to some incredible opportunities.” Part of his strong connection to Spring Street is in how the team, led by Patrick and Amy, aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. “Patrick and Amy are doers. That’s a rare trait to find these days. I really appreciate that, especially since I find my spring when I’m doing something out of my comfort zone, camera in hand, of course.”

 
Sam catches a moment of genuine delight pass over Josh McLeod as guests boat down Staford-upon-Avon for the Spring Street Social Society x Intel trip to London in July 2017.
 
An abandoned box factory at Industry City glows with the warmth of a hundred candles for a late summer Secret Supper.
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images by Sam Ortiz

See Sam’s work at samortiz.com