We had the good fortune of connecting with Paul McDermott and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Paul, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor behind my success has always been passion and operating from my heart. There have been times in my life that I’ve been discouraged – both by myself and others – but when I really tap into my purpose it’s proven time and time again that I truly love what I do. The tricky thing has been to understand what genre of photography has been my favorite. It’s only within the past couple years that I’ve realized I am most passionate about my travel photography and fully embracing the visual expression of observing life. It’s almost as if I’ve been eating ice cream my whole life. It’s been delicious but I only know, now, that my favorite ice cream is cherry garcia when I’ve been mainly eating vanilla. Success is also a relative concept and people normally have an idea of a milestone which identifies success. Living with passion everything becomes successful. Missing the milestone becomes a learning tool and inspires me to be even better. Challenges are welcomed and rather than being seen as obstacles they are weights to flex my abilities and expand my ideas of success even further. When I’m focused on a mark I get it. The mark feels great but then I need to look around and gain new perspective. What’s next? I’ve learned it isn’t about the mark – my success comes from being open to all possibilities and enjoying the process. It’s cliche, I know, but when you have the expectation that everything you do is successful and are aligned with your heart then it perpetuates itself. The stronger your alignment the better things work out.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Lately the feedback I get on my work in comparison to other’s is that I’m a “young Peter Lik” and that my work should be up in the National Geographic Gallery. I’m proud of both references. I’ve spent years traveling around the world capturing moments of life experience. I shoot everything and take my camera everywhere – flying my drone, street photography, wildlife photography, underwater photography – nothing is off limits. Everywhere I look I see beauty and moments that cause me to pause. I am completely present with the world and it puts me in a meditative state. I document these experiences because it is fun for me but that was where I used to stop. My adventures started getting more exotic and as I got more requests to see the images I was told time and time again that it was selfish of me to keep my work to myself. I didn’t understand until I also observed the viewer with the same curiosity I have of the world and it became evident that the meditative state I would fall into while photographing would fall over people when looking at the image. It was a new type of magic and I realized that everything I have created was in attempts of doing exactly this. Finding the right printer to produce my work was a difficult process. When I bought a printer a few years back I didn’t sleep the first night because I was excited about the different shades and textures of the 100 paper samples I received. Print making is an important part of the craft which, unfortunately, doesn’t get much attention nowadays. I have always had a reputation for being “particular” when it comes to my prints, colors, and overall print quality. Not much holds up to my standards but I did find a printer based in Germany who consistently meets my standards and offers the scale I desire in the finish I feel compliments the work and delivers the value investors deserve. My mentality has always been about delivering perfection. If I wouldn’t hang it on my own wall I wont deliver it to a client. The most difficult transition I’ve had was detouring from a successful corporate photography business into being an artist. Life was already great but I was running parallel from where I really wanted to be. The trauma of the 2020 pandemic turning my record shattering forecast into loosing literally every job pushed me into the space to live more deliberately and get on the right course. I made the decision to close my studio, become and in-resident artist at ArtServe, and commit my efforts to selling my fine art travel photography. I have a few exhibits scheduled for the remainder of 2020 including an installation that is currently up in The Atlantic hotel and will be up through the end of the year. Since making the decision everything has flowed seamlessly and opportunities fall into my lap. It’s the constant feedback that this is my purpose and my photographs provide value to viewers and collectors.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When friends visit I always take them to the reef. The underwater world is part of what makes South Florida so magical and is my favorite aspect. If they are divers we dive – otherwise I take them to snorkel some of the local reefs and, more often than not, will spear us dinner. On the nights that we don’t have fresh fish we usually get take out from some of the local ethnic restaurants. Downtown there’s only one place to go – YOLO – with the new executive chef there, Martin Verano, being the best chef I’ve ever met. The Butcher’s Barrel in OP offers a fun environment and unique experience but my default for a true FT Lauderdale experience is always sitting on the water for lunch at Southport Raw Bar.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The big joke about my career is that I say I’ve spent my life screwing up. When I was looking into my career path and considering where I should attend college my dad stated to me, “You’ll have the rest of your life that you can go back to school. If there is ever a time you are going to f*** up it is now.” Those words put in context were that I was at a point where I was able to take risks. I was young, no family, no home, no responsibility. I learned that there is no better time to gamble on myself than now. I’ve been doubling down ever since. Nobody ever invested more in me than me but it was because of this mentality that I have had amazing mentors and friends. I invest myself completely and fully in everything I do which puts me side by side with others that do the same. This crosses boundaries of age, gender, culture, religion, and all other social identities we use to separate ourselves. The common element of choosing to be better and investing your heart in that is universal. Everyone I’ve had the honor of working with, all the friends I’ve had, books I’ve read, and even casual conversations on the bus have been part of the inspiration to get me where I am today. I am grateful to each and every one of you.