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Daily Inspiration: Meet Demian Tejeda-Benitez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Demian Tejeda-Benitez.

Hi Demian, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I got started with the help of my brother. When we were young, my brother had the goal of becoming a filmmaker, and I, his younger brother, would involuntarily help him out with many of his projects over the years. We made little skits, did video challenges, performed in film contests, etc. At first, I didn’t have an interest in photography or film, I still learned how to use a camera, but I just wanted to connect with my brother and do fun things with him.

Eventually, he moved out, met new friends with the same goals as he did, and my involvement became scarce. I continued to live my life and went to college for graphic design, but I didn’t have any goals in mind. I was following a path that wasn’t leading me to where I truly wanted to go. Moving out of my parent’s place is when I started to experience the struggles of adulthood and life. I took a financial hit, lived paycheck to paycheck, became malnourished, and dealt with domestic violence. I was at an all-time low in my life. I did have my family to help me from time to time, except I hid many of my struggles from them to keep them from worrying about me.

Eventually, something sparked inside me. I didn’t want to accept the life I was living. I wanted to be better and be happy with my life. I delved back into art, where I found a lot of my happiness back when I was younger, but rather than just getting back into it, I actively participated in art shows and wanted to display everything I could. I prepared paint pieces, sketches, and digital art. But I wanted to show more. I knew I could use a camera, so I figured I’d make a quick photography booklet. I grabbed an old DSLR that my brother used back when we were younger and prepared a quick portfolio. To my surprise, after participating in several art shows, I saw that my photography was getting the most attention and landed me a couple of gigs. That was the moment I started to look at photography more differently. I started seeing it as a potential career.

My photography at the time wasn’t great, but it showed potential. I started to learn more about photography, techniques, gear, etc. I revamped my Instagram, became more active in my city, and eventually built a presence. But I wanted more. I wanted to stand out from most photographers. And with my brother’s help, I started learning flash photography. He told me that being able to control light would bring my photography to an entirely new level, a level where I could consider myself a true professional. So I put in the work to understand and control light. I looked to other photographers that used external lighting and learned from their techniques and equipment. The funny thing is that I picked it up rather quickly, almost like I was born to do this. It was fun and exciting; it brought me so much joy.

After about a year of starting photography, I began to charge for my work. I was at a place where I felt confident with what I was doing and had no hesitation or doubts about what I had learned. I still did a lot of free work, mainly with my tight circle of friends. I came into contact with photographers that did weddings. I second shot with a few of them, some were even with my brother, and I got to a point where I could even be the lead photographer for some clients that I managed to get all on my own.

I started photography in late 2017, and everything was going pretty well until the pandemic hit in 2020. To me, that’s when my world stopped. Everyone was quarantined, canceled any future weddings I had booked that year, nobody wanted to go outside, and all creativity stopped. And worse was that my brother had moved to Los Angeles that year. Me getting into photography is what brought my brother close and me again, so his moving away took a huge toll on my life. At this point, photography jobs were hard to come by, and the community started becoming toxic and stale. When things started opening back in late 2020 and early 2021, I felt that my life in Des Moines, IA, had plateaued. I had met everyone I wanted to meet, I’ve done everything I wanted to do, and it got to a point where nothing was exciting anymore. That’s when I began looking at potentially moving to another state. I looked at many places, but everything was pointing towards Los Angeles. My brother was already living there, so I took a trip to visit him and see if living there could benefit me. I was there for only three weeks, and the second I left, I felt like I was leaving my home, which was a sign. Being my original home, Des Moines didn’t feel like home anymore. And that’s when I made my year-long plan to move. I told my family and friends, and although they didn’t want me to leave, they supported my decision.

I reached the goals I had set to be made within the year within a few months, and I had opportunities waiting for me in LA, but I needed to make a move as soon as possible for the opportunities not to slip away. To my surprise, my year-long plan was fast-tracked when opportunities started stacking on top of each other that summer. The middle of September is when I officially moved to Los Angeles. And since then, my life has gotten more exciting. I’ve had a lot of fun meeting new and exciting people, delving into special projects, and getting gigs that have led me to travel around the states. I don’t plan to live in LA my entire life, but I do know that right now, this is where I need to be to further my career.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Oh, it wasn’t a smooth road. Picking up photography was relatively easy, but it also introduced me to a world where you need to hustle to make it in the industry. It will help if you market yourself well enough to convince clients to choose you over a sea of other photographers while not devaluing yourself. It can sometimes get overwhelming and has even put me in creative stumps, moments where I don’t want to pick up my camera for moments at a time. Being a man has also sometimes made it difficult to be a photographer. I have seen male photographers being outed for some of the messed-up things they do to models, making models more driven to work with female photographers and extremely cautious when working with male photographers, which I totally and completely understand. That’s why I make sure to be as transparent as possible. I don’t hide my face on social media. I’m completely open with models. I try to get them to know me before ever working with me, do my best to make them comfortable, accommodate their needs, and never make them do anything they’re uncomfortable with. I’m pretty proud of this because all the models I’ve worked with have always appreciated how comfortable I make them, and it’s one of the main reasons they recommend me to others.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m a Freelance Photographer. I specialize in Editorial and Environmental Portraits. I’m known for using off-camera lighting in my photography to produce a more professional and, at times, dramatic look in my photos. I’m most proud of being able to essentially teach myself photography without any educational help (photography classes, workshops, etc.) Being able to understand, control, and incorporate light is what sets me apart from other photographers.

Another thing that separates me from most is my transparency. I believe in supporting others and helping educate those interested in photography by sharing all the information that goes into my photos. Settings, equipment, and behind-the-scenes breakdowns so that others can also learn.

Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
Quite honestly, being able to spend the time I did with my brother on his video projects was incredibly fun for me. Many of the videos we made while we were kids weren’t professional-level by any means, but it was fun. I believe it’s what helped my brother and I become pretty close. In a way, we both helped each other get started in our careers within the photography/film industry.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Models: Madison Santos, Bere Gutierrez, Libby Kaminski, Cheyenne Goode, Alexandra Johnson, Sharaun Brown, Jazmin Holbrook, Sitara Masilamani

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