Getting To Know a… Staff Photographer! MaryBeth Perrin

Inspired by and drawn from just a fragment of the dynamic people in my life, “Getting to Know A…” is my way of introducing you to a variety of professionals who are excelling in their various fields.  Some follow a traditional path after finding their inspiration in unexpected places. Others carved out their own non-traditional careers. What they have in common is they are all incredibly passionate about what they do. My hope is something in these inspires you, the readers, as well.

Since the subjects of these pieces live far and wide, I had initially sent each of them a personalized questionnaire with the intention of drafting them into articles. Their answers were just so dang good there was no way I wanted to change them. I decided, with permission, to leave them as is.

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Tell me first what you do. The title and what you actually do. 

I am the agency photographer for NYC Department of Buildings and Mayor’s Office of The City of New York.  My title is Special Projects Manager/Agency Photographer for the New York City Department of Buildings. For the Department, I photograph a wide array of subjects including construction, new development projects, sustainability initiatives (CoolRoofs), building inspections, and breaking news. I also work as a special events photographer for the Mayor’s Office and cover public appearances by Mayor Bloomberg. I record monthly podcasts for the city’s Buildings Department as well.

What drew you to pursuing a career as a Staff Photographer?

I was compiling a report on construction projects in New York City which the Department releases each year.  As a member of the Communications Unit, I attended a shoot of construction sites which accompanies the report. I picked up an extra camera and began snapping. The photos I took that day were ultimately chosen for the report.  After that, I was offered the position of Agency Photographer; which I accepted.

Did you go to school for this?

After being appointed Agency Photographer, I took courses in both digital photography and flash photography.

Did you go to college? What did you go to college for?

Yes; Anthropology.

How did this help your career?

There are connections – for example, the development of the New York City skyline is essentially anthropology of urban spaces. But my degree is not directly related to my current occupation.

Who are your biggest mentors/influences in your career?

My family for their constant support and encouragement.

Also, Arthur Fellig (aka Weegee) and Sy Bram, a retired New York City photographer, who taught me how to use a Single Lens Reflex camera.

From a personal perspective, how does how does your work inform your life outside the office?

My familiarity with the geography of the five boroughs of New York City has drastically improved.  I now use my free time to visit the delicious restaurants I come across during the day.

What’s a pretty cool thing you get to do regularly that someone who ISN’T a Staff Photographer would get to do?

Exit the office cubicle.

What is a personal career highlight so far? 

So far, the highlights of my career include photographing New Years’ Eve in Times Square; covering the inflation of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons; and participating in the annual NYC Marathon parade alongside thousands of inspirational runners. (Keyword: alongside, not running).

Does your life outside the office inform your work? If so, how?

If I see something happening from the street, I go back and take the photo at a later time. I am much more aware of the world happening around me.

How is your life outside your office different from your work?

I don’t carry a huge camera, so my load is much lighter!

Creatively and personally, what are the major benefits of your career?

I’ve always had a passion for taking photographs, sightseeing and people-watching. Now, as a photographer, I’ve become the luckiest kind of tourist – one with access to places in New York City which are not open to the public.

What are the drawbacks, if any?

If I trip and fall, there’s the potential of breaking more than just my limbs.

What advice would you give someone considering this as a career?

If they look good; you look good.

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