noun || yəNG ˈhefā
Malcolm McNeil is a New York based photographer and creative.
TA: What’s your current hustle?
MM: The hustle is storytelling, by way of photography and screenwriting. My life is a satire, I’m just finding ways to share it. I was an entry-level class clown by the age 6. By 10 I had a diploma in good-ass jokes. Now I’m at a point where I am sharing the conversations of my life through photographs and writing. I want to make each instance and piece immortal in its own way. My screenwriting includes two pieces that I have grown with for the last 2 years and will be completing within the next year. Photography was a spawn of my love for film. The medium that has proven to be my bread and butter. This hustle has taken me from shooting local Irish folk bands to working on NBC’s "The Blacklist" to capturing cultural moments to composing campaigns for adidas (stay tuned).
TA: Describe the difference between your 9-5 and your 5-grind?
MM: Personally, I have an uncommon perspective on “9-5 vs 5-grind”. I have worked to blend the two. By distinguishing the two, it would be insinuating that there is a break in the day or the works in progress. My mind is quite scatter brained and I have a way of not being able to “clock out”. Moreover, I see every given moment as a chance to grind and/or learn. At any given moment of a day I am exchanging rapid fire texts with friends and colleagues for advice, concepts, and opportunity or reading up on an abstract idea. The work ethic of my mind well exceeds a 9-grind. Redesigning yourself for the better is a lifelong job, each small piece establishes the whole. I take any available second to learn with tools I have been given, communicating and reciprocating with the willing energies around me.
TA: Who gave you the most memorable career advice?
MM: It came from tattoo artist, Jon Boy, as I prepared for a shoot. We spoke about anxiety of success and creative frustration. He told me to handle creative ventures like pregnancy. Initially it made no sense—then he expounded. He went on to say that ideas, in particular the ideas that lead to progress, are like pregnancy in the way we carry them on our minds while yearning to put them out into the world. It is not until we put them out that we can watch them grow. It may happen premature to the due date or afterwards. However, we must focus our energy on the process in which we bear said idea because it must be nurtured and protected. When the time is right your mind and body will know, trust that it will. We lack control of when it happens, especially considering the external elements around us—we can only do our part to make sure we are ready when it does.
TA: Has what you’re doing now been a life-long interest?
MM: Yes, but it was subconscious at first. As humans we live through acquisition. Meaning: we are living interpretations of other beings and ideas. Life is one large reference derived of smaller references. For example, I can trace my personal connection to photography back to when I read Spider-Man comics as a child. This would be one of many references that I find myself living and interpreting. It is up to us to decipher which references are worth channeling into inspiration.
TA: Did you ever think you wouldn't make it to this point in your career?
MM: Yes, the very beginning of my journey was dubious. I made an abrupt decision to do what I wanted to do without an inkling of direction. I thought I needed more formal instruction to improve my craft. What kept me going was a precise, step-by-step plan that I planned to roll out to the conclusion of my year. Even then I was unsure if I could champion the title of photographer or writer. A good friend told me shortly after devising the plan, “you aren’t until you are”. At that point I realized it was up to me to champion myself and only then would I embody the blessing. I designed my personal definition of success, settled with my intentions, and recited my values. As the time passed, I accomplished some of the tasks, failed others, and realized new ones on the way. However, my vision remained in tact, which meant I had something to work towards. Simply put, I realized I had mapped my success backwards and now needed to ensure that every move is towards the goal.
TA: If you could tell your younger self one thing about work ethic, what would it be?
MM: Create opportunities and hold yourself accountable. If you cannot discern whether you made progress in the day, small or large, then you were stagnant. Life is like baseball, some days there will be singles, doubles, triples, or HR’s—occasionally you won’t even get on base. Things never go as planned; preparation over planning. However, if you keep your values and intentions in tact you will go far. There are only wins and lessons. You already know yourself, which is half the battle!
TA: What has been your favorite “project,” so far?
MM: “The Roll Up”. It’s an escape from any client work and something that I plan on working on for years to come. In essence, it’s a portraiture series that captures those who have given me some form of progressive insight simply by being. This is my favorite project so far because it is in essence why I started doing photography: to capture conversation. The project forces me to return to my precursory methods of photographing.
TA: What has been the best moment in your career so far?
TA: How would your inner circle describe your hustle?
MM: Chemistry and alchemy. As atoms, we collide with other beings and collision creates kinetic energy. Energy leads to activity and activity can create opportunity. Alchemy in the process of seeing and speaking creations through—converting.
MM: Become fluent in the language of the universe, there’s something to learn everyday.
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