Blue Earth
Glazer's Camera

Hal Eastman: Photography as a Second Career

"Out there in nature, I'm not being scrutinized by my peers," says dancer Amy Sugar Carter of her photo sessions with Green. "I'm just free to be, to move." "Out there in nature, I'm not being scrutinized by my peers," says dancer Amy Sugar Carter of her photo sessions with Green. "I'm just free to be, to move."
© Hal Eastman

A look a successive business executive who shifted gears to follow his passion for photography.

It wasn't long ago that most people spent their entire working lives in one career and often one company. But times have changed.

As the average lifespan increases, seemingly in inverse proportion to the average length of a typical career, many successful professionals are finding more time to gravitate toward other activities — secondary vocations that may not be their chief source of income, but that are demanding enough to be called careers.

Photography, an inherently creative and usually solitary pursuit, has proven to be a popular choice for many businesspeople with a need for self-expression. Although there is no shortage of weekend warriors with autofocus SLRs and basement darkrooms who think they are the next Annie Leibovitz, a select few have been able to become nearly as successful in photography as they were in their initial professions.

We spoke to five people who were at the top of their fields — a software engineer, a surgeon, a forensic pathologist, a financial advisor and a business executive — before taking on a secondary career in photography.

Today, all have received high praise and recognition for their photography via published books, touring exhibitions or both.
Together, their successes are proof that creative and motivated people no longer have to decide between the careers that they love and the careers that they need to pay the bills.

Business Executive to Photographer

Photography opened a whole new avenue of learning and excitement for me," says Hal Eastman, a prominent businessman who divides his time between Boise, Idaho, and Carmel, Calif.

Eastman graduated from Stanford Business School and enjoyed a long, diverse career as an executive in various industries before retiring to devote most of his time to photography. "Eighty percent of what I do now is photography," he says. "I'm doing projects that I really care about."

After working hard as an executive through his mid-40s, Eastman says, he decided that he wanted to do and be something different. "I had in mind that I wanted to explore the artistic part of life instead of business at that point," he says. "At first I didn't think of photography as an art form; to me it was just recording what was there."

His eyes, however, were opened to the artistic possibilities after he started taking classes. In 1995, he began to take photography seriously, starting out as a nature photographer and spending time in the remote areas of California, Idaho and Hawai'i.

"A defining moment came for me when I was photographing one of the big islands in Hawai'i," he says. "I noticed a woman skipping down the street." Eastman was impressed with the fluidity, grace and beauty of her movements. "I took a chance and went up to her and said I admired the way she was skipping, and asked if I could photograph her."

That encounter piqued Eastman's interest in dance and movement. "I became so fascinated that I wound up taking a night class in dance at Stanford," he says. Today, his photography focuses primarily on dance and movement. "I love the power and strength displayed by women dancers," he says.

His first book, "Natural Dance," showcases the elegance and spirit of the dance as an art form. The photographs have the look and feel of Impressionist art.

Two other projects, "Dancessence" and "Venice Dance Projects," are currently being developed. "Dancessence" will capture dance movement in a softer way, sans flash photography.

He donates part of his earnings from photography to various dance studios. "Dance has given me so much," he says. "I try to give back to some dance studios that have trouble staying afloat."

Eastman says that he's been fortunate to have had many great teachers along the way, including Sam Abell, a National Geographic shooter, as well as famed dance photographer Lois Greenfield.

Now that he is spending most of his time as a photographer, what was the transition like? "It's both frightening and exhilarating," he admits. "It's a big step, but you learn more when you're a little scared."

Eastman says that he loves being able to devote so much time to photography, but some of his friends aren't so enthusiastic. "Sixty percent think that I'm crazy, 20 percent don't understand and 20 percent are jealous."

Eastman's work can be viewed on his website at peregrineimages.com.

Marilyn Morgan
Story Author: Marilyn Morgan

Marilyn Morgan is a Seattle-based freelance writer and photographer.

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