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Moving into the Freelance World…

Aug 19

In Memories, News, Thanks, Travels at 4:45am

Drew is leaving the studio. (His account below.) As I always say, Drew grew up as a drummer in a rock and roll band, but abandoned that unstable lifestyle to embrace the security of freelance photography. And we here at the studio are certainly glad he did. He stayed with us for five years, and was a mainstay as a first assistant, constantly troubleshooting, solving problems, handling the mysteries of post-production and generally being a great road companion, and we certainly saw a lot of road together. (When he joined the studio, he was just another Delta frequent flyer. As he leaves, he is Delta Diamond, having logged easily a half million air miles during his tenure here.) He was a great team player, a talented shooter, and he fit right in with the twisted humor and irreverent conduct of the studio. (FYI, we have no human resources department here.) We will miss him. I will miss him, as beyond all the stuff listed above, he became my good and true friend. 

Today’s blog is about Joe. And me.

A real life bro-mance, dream job come true, happily ever-after, fly me to the moon kind of working relationship I’ve experienced over the past 5 years.

He’s one of the few people I know in the industry who’s stayed afloat for 35+ years, has maintained a huge level of respect within the industry and – through it all – has kept a good head on his shoulders. He’s truly one of the most decent human beings I know. Full of integrity, courage, wit and an ongoing quest for pasta and red wine, Joe has taught me much more than just ‘the ropes’.

(My first ever tear sheet, accompanying Joe’s Power Grid story in National Geographic)

We all know the life of a photographer isn’t a 9 to 5 gig, but working with Joe is one of the more all-encompassing workplace scenarios one could imagine. Joe and I have spent a lot of time together, and by that I mean an average of 70% of the year on the road, and sometimes a good deal more. That means not only working in the field, but traveling together, eating together and often seeing more of each other than our significant others and families.

(The Flash Bus crew)

Working with Joe has been a major turning point in my career.  Prior to joining Joe I was a young photographer/musician living in a relatively small town and earning a living shooting mostly weddings and events. I didn’t have a whole lot of clarity of where to go from there.  I started applying to graduate schools for photojournalism – and in the midst of all that – Joe’s former assistant (Brad Moore) was leaving and Joe offered me the position. My game plan was to work with Joe for two years. As time went on, more travel came upon us and I just couldn’t help but to sign on for more adventure and experience.  I got to climb the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; I had my own helicopter and pilot while on assignment for National Geographic; and was once lead by a heavily armed militia through traffic in Nigeria. That’s just a glimpse into the countless extraordinary, hilarious and sometimes dangerous tales I have from the past few years.

(Cali and I surrounded by drones, on-location for National Geographic. By the way, Cali’s a great guy, and an incredibly talented shooter. He’s done an amazing job transitioning into the first assistant position, and I can’t begin to say how excited I am to hear about his travels.)

But even at the highest points in my time with Joe, Lynn and the entire studio family, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of an inner struggle.  As amazing as things have been, all I’ve wanted is to be a full-time photographer, and I’ve felt the itch to go out on my own more recently, especially in the last year. The thing is, I’ve had the absolute best apprenticeship I could have ever hoped for: Joe has been an amazing mentor, Lynn has balanced me with business smarts, and I’ve been immersed into the culture of the best and brightest photo talent in the World. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel around the Globe and back again. The thing is, if I didn’t want/need to be my own photographer, I could work with Joe happily for a very, very long time.

(Rolling Stone tear sheet, from the March, 2013 issue)

But the time has come for me and I’m now officially off on my own: with more clarity than I had five years ago, lots of contacts in the industry, tons of technical know-how and hands-on experience from working with one of the best guys out there.  If there was ever to be a good time to make that move, it feels like this is it, and I’m incredibly excited to create a body of work that’s all my own. Even with all that, i’m just as scared as I am excited to embark on this journey into the world of freelance photography.  Yes, I’m absolutely going to figure it out, like all things I do. I am more passionate about photography than anything else. I know it’s going to take some time to gain traction and that my future may hold nights of Ramen noodles and Hot Pockets.  But I’m ok with it.

(John Butler of John Butler Trio)

I became interested in photography at a young age through a love of live music. Back then I just wanted to capture live moments from my favorite bands. Over time my work has improved and a true passion towards music, photography and their marriage remains to this day. Most recently I’ve been trying to evolve my work away from live music and into a fresh perspective.  I’m not changing the world and I’m not reinventing the wheel, but every now and again I feel like I’m onto something really good. It’s in those moments I feel as though I’ve moving a step closer towards crafting a unique aesthetic that’s my own.

(Tyler Glenn of The Neon Trees)

Choosing to work for Joe was the best career decision I had made up until that point, and I’m certain that i’ll be able to look back upon this transition in a few years, and say the same thing.

(My incredibly patient girlfriend, Jessica)

Joe, Lynn, Cali, Lynda, Annie: You’ve all been the best friends, colleagues and family one could ever ask for, and I’m grateful for the time and memories we’ve shared.

It’s been a blast to meet and get to know lots of you out on the road, and I invite you all to keep in touch.

You can find me at any of these places:






Thanks again,


Katarzyna says:

on August 19, 2013 at 5:24 am

Good luck, Drew! :)

Ray Warren says:

on August 19, 2013 at 5:30 am

All the best Drew, I know you will do extremely well. Congratulations Cali.

Scott Slattery says:

on August 19, 2013 at 5:35 am

I’m sure that you will go on to great things Drew and I look forward to seeing alot more of your work! Good luck!


Darren Elias says:

on August 19, 2013 at 5:42 am

Good luck, Drew!

Alan MacRae says:

on August 19, 2013 at 5:43 am

I know you’ll be a loss to Joe’s group, Drew. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you several times and have always left impressed with your knowledge, your easily approachable personality and your talent as a photographer. You’ve got a great career ahead of you. Just as Joe has been fortunate to have you as his first assistant for the last five years, you’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with one of the greatest photographers of our time and one who so willingly shares his knowledge and experience with photographers of every level all around the globe.

Best of luck to you and your website is added to my list of daily reads. It will be fun to watch your journey.

Craig says:

on August 19, 2013 at 5:55 am

Good luck Drew…look forward to seeing your work.

Joe Sankey says:

on August 19, 2013 at 5:57 am

Be well, Drew. Bon chance.

Gabalawy says:

on August 19, 2013 at 6:09 am

Best of luck man, wishing you all the best in your new move.

Dave Benson says:

on August 19, 2013 at 6:20 am

Keep on rolling along… Happy Trails

Larry Smith says:

on August 19, 2013 at 6:32 am

Good luck Drew!

Cheryl Tadin says:

on August 19, 2013 at 6:33 am

Congrats! Best of Luck! I’ll miss seeing you at this year’s Photoshop World. Is Joe going to be sporting a black arm band in memory of his loss?

Fotodog says:

on August 19, 2013 at 6:45 am

Great post! Best of luck to you, Drew

Sara Lando says:

on August 19, 2013 at 7:20 am

Best of luck on your future, Drew! I’ve only been around you for a week in Dubai, but even so it’s pretty obvious I’m going to hear about you in the future.
You’re hard working, smart, talented and most of all you’re a great person to be around. All you need to do now is kick asses and take names!!

Cali, you’re it.

Richard says:

on August 19, 2013 at 7:21 am

You are good and now is your time. I first met you in Santa Fe and later at a Flashbus stop. You were always patient and helpful. You appear to be grounded and focused. Hope our path’s cross again.

Lynn DelMastro says:

on August 19, 2013 at 8:29 am

When Drew first came to me and Joe to give us his notice, we weren’t terribly surprised. As much as we wanted him to keep re-upping, we knew that it was just a matter of time. Knowing that his impending departure would cause us (including himself) tremendous withdrawal, he gave us a decent notice – one year :-))). Though five would have been better. Just sayin. Drew is absolutely one of the most delightful, even-tempered, wonderful guys I’ve ever met. His killer smile just warms the soul, and his boisterous laugh is totally infectious. So while this testimonial could go on forever, I’ll stop here. He already knows how I feel. I just want the rest of the world to get a glimpse of this multi-talented and awesome guy. World, get ready :-)

Chathura says:

on August 19, 2013 at 8:38 am

Hey Drew,
Even though I don’t know you personally, I have seen you working with Joe McNally, one of my favorite photographers, through online videos.
I wish you all the best for your new venture. Keep up the good work!

Joseph Ip says:

on August 19, 2013 at 8:42 am

All great parties must come to an end at some point …. best of luck , Drew.

Simon Fleming says:

on August 19, 2013 at 9:08 am

Hey Drew, all the best for the next chapter in your photographic evolution. I look forward to seeing more of your work as your own photographer.

…and you know, if you ever need a slightly older 1st assistant yourself whilst Down Under : )

Nikki says:

on August 19, 2013 at 9:55 am

Good luck Drew! I got to meet you a couple times at the DLWS events and you were always so helpful and full of great information. I hope the future holds nothing but the best for you!

Eric says:

on August 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

Drew, wish you the best in all your future plans. Since I’m only in my 50’s, I wasn’t born yet when Joe was famous, but I’m sure that you were a big part of his continuous success these past years. Best of luck to all of you.

Frank Burch says:

on August 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

Congratulations Drew! I’m absolutely certain you will have a fabulous freelance career!

Eric Harmon says:

on August 19, 2013 at 10:29 am

All the best to you, Drew. I’m so pleased to have met you and to be able to call you friend. I know you’ll do incredibly well on your own, and I do hope to be able to spend some time with you again. God bless you.

Zack Arias says:

on August 19, 2013 at 10:49 am

My eyes are sweating.

Go get ’em tiger and all that!

I’m not sure whether to offer condolences or congratulations to Joe though. :)


Alex Sahagun says:

on August 19, 2013 at 10:56 am

All I can say is that I wish you the best! As I’ve told you before I am very very thankful for the opportunity that I had to meet you and for all your help, and specially for encouraging me to start taking pictures “of people”… I am so glad that you did! I can’t thank you enough for giving me the opportunities to “show off” as you said 😉 and to be there in the way.

I really hope to see you soon again, I am sure that you will accomplish a lot and be who you want to be.

Big hug from your Mexican Brother from Another Mother!!!

PS. you better call me if you come to mexico!!!! lol 😉

Lavonne Hall says:

on August 19, 2013 at 11:27 am

I will miss you Drew at all these various events! It just won’t be the same without you but it’s time for that next big adventure. The bestest luck to you. You will be the greatest, you are the greatest!!!

Mike Macodnald says:

on August 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Good luck Drew.
Keep rocking :)


Steve Schuenke says:

on August 19, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you and Joe on your tours through Houston with Kelby Training and Flashbus, and when you see the two of you working together you realize how much of a team you guys really are. Best of luck in this new part of your career!

Byron says:

on August 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm


I wish you the best of luck in your new journey. There is no better person to learn from than Joe McNally. Many, including myself, envy you for having the opportunity to work and learn from Joe.

E. Olusegun Aderinto says:

on August 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Congrate DREW I knew you enjoyed the Lagos hustle and bustle, you are so blessed to have worked with a photograher with a sense of humour. Now the world at your finger tip go and grab it! Joe I see you.

Tom says:

on August 19, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I had the pleasure of meeting Drew a few years ago in London. Best of luck for the future.

Pascal Sauve says:

on August 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Go get’em lad !

Sai Poon says:

on August 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm

It’s both luck and pleasure to have the the chance to meet Drew in Joe’s workshop in Sydney last year. Best of luck in the years to come…..

Joe says:

on August 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Congratulations Drew and good luck to you. Your talent with the camera is evident, but now we can see it is with the pen as well. Joe truly taught you well.

Lauren Sobotor says:

on August 19, 2013 at 9:14 pm

I could not be happier for you and this next chapter, Drew. Observing your journey so far has been nothing short of inspiring and I’m so proud to call you my friend. I cannot wait to see where you take this.

Cheers to Señor Cali as well! Keep up the great work guys!

Tom McKean says:

on August 20, 2013 at 4:24 am

Best of luck to you. Go get’em!

Ant says:

on August 20, 2013 at 5:32 am

I was hoping for a post full of Drew’s silly faces!

Louis Pang says:

on August 20, 2013 at 9:33 am

Drew: Guess we will miss you when Joe heads to Asia again. Won’t be the same but heck nothing stays the same. We can only make the most out of every moment and be 100% committed while at it. You were certainly 100% while with Joe, and I am sure you are 100% with what the adventure you are in. From Santa Fe to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia…remember Joe’s 60th birthday in Kuala Lumpur? We’ve had some great times bro. All the best and I’ll be keeping track of you on FB,

Eric Politzer says:

on August 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Drew, I think I met you on one of your earliest travels with Joe — at DLWS in Kauai — and I saw you at one of your last ones — in Dubai. Not sure if that means anything, but I sure have enjoyed spending some time with you in lots of different places, including Santa Fe, Los Angeles, New York, Bozeman, Iceland, and of course while falling into an infinity pool in super slow motion in St. Lucia!!!

Just want to say that it always is a pleasure to see you. You are a great guy, and your love for photography and music is infectious. I especially want to thank you for being so generous with your time outside of the workshops to answer questions and offer advice.

Wishing you all the best in your new venture. Looking forward lots of great images and fun stories from you.


Bob says:

on August 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Drew – we will all miss you here, but know that we will continue to see your success unfold before us in all of your “usual” places. My best wishes for continued success – give ’em hell kid.

Jair Garciaferro says:

on August 20, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Hello Drew, good luck with this step in your life. I had the honor to meet you in Guanajuato 2012. Thanks for everything and i hope you come soon to Mexico!

Patrik Lindgren says:

on August 21, 2013 at 5:25 am

Cool! Good luck with your future adventures and endeavors Drew.

Drew Gurian says:

on August 21, 2013 at 9:58 am

Eric- On second thought, maybe you’re the one to blame for all this? It’s always been a pleasure to see you as well, and happy to help out anytime at all. Keep in touch, and I’m sure we’ll meet up again in he not too far off future.


Drew Gurian says:

on August 21, 2013 at 10:04 am

Thank you Lauren!! I’ll be out your way in about 5 weeks, so we should definitely all catch up!

Drew Gurian says:

on August 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

Alex– it was a pleasure to work with you, and to be able to call you a friend to this day. Hope to make it back down there in the not too far off future, and keep shooting!!

Drew Gurian says:

on August 21, 2013 at 10:37 am

Appreciate the comment Simon, and hope you’ve been shooting quite a bit as well. I’d love to make it back there one of these days, and if I do, you’ve got yourself a job :)

Drew Gurian says:

on August 21, 2013 at 10:41 am

Lynn- as long as you can handle the occasional phone call of panic and confusion from a freelancer trying to figure it all out, you know i’ll always be in touch :) I hope that you, and everyone else at the studio know how much you all mean to me by now, and it shall continue to be an amazing relationship always. Can’t thank you enough.

Drew Gurian says:

on August 21, 2013 at 10:42 am

Alan- Thank you! It’s been quite the trip, and I know it’s just the start to my long journey ahead. Keep in touch, and thanks so much for keeping up with my work!

Jon Styles says:

on August 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Best of Luck Drew…although I’m sure you won’t need it :-)

Andrew Krucko says:

on August 22, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I wish I had this advice when I was starting out. Great!

Jon McGuffin says:

on August 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

Drew, so the last few years I’ve been trying to make the journey into becoming a photographer and much of that education has come at the hands of Joe “and his crew”. I’ve seen you guys on Kelby Training, various Nikon videos and events and also attended the Flash Bus Tour.

Your friendly face will be missed I’m sure. Many a times I could see your head working just one half step ahead of Joe’s which makes somebody like yourself the consumate 1st assistant. I’m sure you’ll be equally as good at being the man behind the camera and I genuinely wish you all the success in the world!

Good luck!

James Allison says:

on August 28, 2013 at 8:41 am

Drew. Okay I’m a bit late to the party on this. As I mentioned to you previously you left one month too soon! Was hoping to take you out for BBQ in KC when Joe comes to town. You’re a great person above all and great to work with! Look forward to our next festival. Keep in touch dude!

All the best

LuisP says:

on September 3, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Good luck Drew. Hope all the dreams become reality.

ellery chua says:

on October 26, 2013 at 5:55 am

Way to go dude. I saw you had it in you back when Joe did that workshop in Singapore. Live long n prosper.

Doug says:

on December 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm

First let me state I am just an Amateur Photographer so I have no formal training meaning I bought a D700 and a SB900 and started taking pictures and following Joe McNally via Kelby Training, so after reading Joe’s blog today “Moving into the Freelance World” I spent about an hour looking at some of your work; you are a phenomenal photographer. Like Joe your use of light is very impressive. I think you will be very successful. I wish you well and will continue to follow your work.
Mary Christmas & Happy New Year 2014 is all yours (LOL)
Doug R.

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