Aaron Paschal is the Mortal Man
Say hello to our cover feature, Aaron Paschal. I met Aaron seven years ago. I believe I was still in year one of Ambition when we met while he was doing photos for my personal trainer at the time. I reached out to meet him to see what it would take for him to work with my very, very small business at the time.
Aaron has been a godsend to Ambition ever since, and that is why for this 8th anniversary, RENEWAL issue, he had to be the cover. He’s listened, he’s supported, he’s provided suggestions and content, and became a friend over the years. The crazy thing is, everyone I know has had this experience with Aaron.
Aaron is the owner and photographer behind AP2 Photography. Aaron has been known to capture not only amazing images of those who schedule shoots with him, but he is also known for capturing the beauty of his surroundings. He has the gift of finding beauty in what some would call urban decay and, most importantly, capturing the essence and the mood of the image.
Aaron is also the creator of the Mortal Man series, in which he recently started working on vol. 2. The Mortal Man series is a collection of stories of gentlemen from various walks of life and experiences. The amazing part about this series is that it presents a vulnerable side of the participating gentleman that many may not share in daily general conversation. It’s providing a platform of release, exposure, and context for those of us who get to read these pieces.
Enough about the why; here’s Aaron.
How did you get started:
It started as a hobby, and I never intended to take pictures of people at all. Photography was my escape, my time to be alone. Somehow, I started a project photographing college football stadiums. I would contact the schools and get access to photograph the stadiums, locker rooms, and football facilitates of schools all across the country. I started sharing these pictures online, and people began asking to purchase prints and vehicle wraps. From there, people started asking me to do portraits and product photography. I turned down a lot of opportunities because I did not consider myself a “photographer” at that time, and again, photography was an escape for me.
One day I got a request from a person that was pretty much insistent that I do her daughter’s senior portraits. I scheduled her sessions two weeks out, hoping that they’d change their mind, but I practiced and prepped like crazy. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the whole process of taking portraits. I realized that I was able to provide an experience for people, instill confidence in them, and more importantly, build a connection. There was no turning back from there.
Why do you choose to do what you do:
It’s all about the relationships with people and being able to express myself in ways that I could never do through words. My cameras have opened many doors for me, been the introduction to so many relationships, and taken me places that I never thought I’d go. I love what I do, and I honestly feel like it’s my calling.
What was the first win that you received that you go back to mentally every time it feels rough:
Not necessarily the first win, but the thing that gets me through rough times is remembering the emotions that I get from people when they see their pictures. It’s something special to capture people in ways that they’ve never seen themselves before or to put them at ease enough to tap into their true personalities.
What startup struggles did you experience and what struggles do you experience currently:
Early on, I struggled to find people that were willing to help me learn and grow as a photographer. I also made the mistake of trying to emulate the work of other photographers that I admired, so I struggled to tap into my own vision.
Another area that I struggled with was “where” to start. There are so many genres of photography it’s easy to get caught up trying to do everything so my attention was all over the place and I realized that I was on the path to becoming the jack of all trades, but master of none. I decided to build my business block by block, so I made a list of areas that I wanted to focus on and areas I wanted to avoid. Once I had a clear vision, my work improved immensely, and my business took flight.
My current struggle is being so consumed with client work that I rarely get time to work on personal projects. I have so many ideas in my head that are screaming to come to life!
How do you pick yourself back up when things fall apart?
I usually put things on pause, which allows me time and space to put things into perspective. I also use situations like this as an opportunity to reset things and implement any ideas or improvements that may have been in the back of my head. Things usually fall apart for a reason, so I always try to figure out the “why”. Once I do, I’m usually able to look back and recall warning signs that popped up along the way. I don’t dwell on things; I acknowledge my mistakes, refocus, and keep it moving. Retail therapy is an occasional pick me up as well, haha!
It’s also important to have people in your life that feel comfortable giving you honest feedback. Often times people will notice areas where you can improve but don’t feel like you’ll be open to hearing it, so they’ll tell you what you “want” to hear as opposed to what you “need” to hear.
How does your location (city) shape your business and you as a business person:
In every way! As business owners, you have to flow with the rhythm of your city, be in tune with it, and have a genuine connection. By all of that, I mean, you have to understand what the people in your community need and be invested. I don’t go about my business trying to figure out, “where can I make my next dollar” my approach is, “who can I help?” I market and price myself for the people that I want to serve. Whenever I hear people say that they have to leave Dayton, “or wherever they are” to make it, I always cringe. If you don’t have the support of your hometown, then you probably need to look into the mirror and ask yourself why.
How does your ambition drive you in your business?
Sometimes, I feel like I’m too ambitious! Not to be the “best” photographer, or to make a lot of money, but to serve my community. I also like to embrace new challenges and have a thirst for knowledge. I’m constantly trying new things, all while taking care of client’s needs and balancing my time between work and family.
How do you stay consistent when life gets crazy?
Hot showers and loud music! When I’m in the shower, I’m able to wash away all of my stress and meditate. Music helps me tune out everything and tap into any vibe that I need or desire. Life comes at you fast, especially when you’re an entrepreneur.
It’s important no to buy into the “no days off” mentality. That’s no way to go about life. During my busy season, things get really hectic. Keep in mind that my work isn’t finished when the shoot wraps up, I have to develop the film or load the pictures onto the computer and begin the editing process, which can be time-consuming.
What’s one way we can support you? Support comes in many forms. People can support me by booking me to handle their photographic needs, referring me to their friends and family, sharing my work with others, attending my exhibits, commissioning me to provide artwork for their homes or businesses, or ordering prints from me directly.