This Photographer Ditched His Finance Job After Taking Pictures Of Hurricane Sandy

Max Taylor was following a traditional path in NYC’s financial sector when everything changed. Hurricane Sandy shut down the city, causing him to look at the world around him with fresh eyes. In the desolation, he also saw New York’s beauty, and quickly decided he wanted to capture what he saw on film. It was a cataclysmic moment — when a life of art won out over a life of comfort. It wasn’t long before decided to take his talents on the road, traveling the world, taking amazing photos.

Taylor has only been a professional photographer for a few years, but you’d never know it. His work feels polished and professional, but still fresh, vital, and unique. Each picture reverberates with youthful energy, a love for the world, that makes us want to plunge the bustling chaos of this confused, wild life.

This week, Max was kind enough to share his photos with us while discussing his love of photography, travel, and the art of creating captivating stories out of a single image.

Can you talk about what got you started in photography?

I got my start in photography because of Hurricane Sandy — everything in downtown New York City, where I was living at the time, was shut down for 25 days. It was a surreal experience in a virtually abandoned skyscraper with no water or electricity. It was primal and incredible — but with only a camera on my cell phone, I couldn’t fulfill my desire to document it, and decided to buy a digital camera shortly after.

From the first pull of the trigger I was hooked. I discovered a new way to look and interact with the world — an activity that kept me fully engaged and endlessly curious. I started shooting, experimenting, and teaching myself every day. Six months into my endeavor, my efforts were rewarded with a $15,000 photography grand prize from The Weather Channel for my underwater shot of a 25ft whale shark.

How did you decide to make it your profession?

I was working in finance and on the verge of quitting and never going back – I was burnt out on the hours, the pressure, and the lack of any sort of compassionate feelings from the community around me. This was around the time I discovered photography as a personal expression and I started selling prints on a fold up table on the Brooklyn Bridge. Wall St to street peddler was quite a 180, but once I discovered I could pay my bills outside in the sunshine, there was no going back.

In the time since, I have launched a business selling my work as prints through, started (yes, really), and landed some fantastic clients in fashion. Some of my adventures included completing an artist residency at a boutique hotel in Nicaragua, spending a month exploring Cuba, and shooting everything from underwear models to whale sharks. I have never been happier.

You’ve been a photographer for a couple of years now, do you have advice for people starting out?

Experiment old school with film. I started developing in my kitchen sink and using a cheap flatbed scanner I got off craigslist, and have learned so much from playing around with it. Each photo counts because you can’t just delete a bad shot. The fact it’s not free has made me so much more particular and careful about the way I compose a photo and has improved my skill exponentially. It’s amazing how much mileage you can get from a $30 eBay camera.

What excites you about photography?

I love creating a personalized view of reality. For me, it’s not about perfect exposure and proper contrast. Let’s see some wild colors and strong shadows. Negative space is my favorite. I think a great photo is as much about what you don’t see as what you do.

There is also a huge opportunity for adventure and escape from everyday life. Photography has the power to take you out of reality and put you into a story that is conveyed by one image. One of my favorite experiences was the whale shark photo that I mentioned earlier. I went scuba diving with my dad off the coast of Thailand and a beautifully patterned 25-foot whale shark swam past me, gliding into a dense school of jack fish. The water moved me with one swish of its tail. I have a large print of that photo hanging in my apartment and every time I look at it I can feel that tremendous power.