Interview with MHHS Alum Class of 2010, Davis Gerber

Who are you, what do you do, and where did you go to school?
My name is Davis Gerber, I am a Travel and Adventure photographer/videographer, I went to Mission Hills High School then proceeded to earn a bachelor’s degree from Whittier College.

Tell us about your college experience:
My college experience overall was perfect. I had a ton of fun studying in the smaller student body Whittier hosts. I had keys to the art building within the first semester of my freshmen year, where I spent most of my waking hours, all the while taking a wide array of interesting courses within the liberal arts curriculum, and even managed to play a bit of waterpolo, baseball and track.

What is it you love about San Marcos?
San Marcos is a nice town because while it is close, it is not really a coastal town nor is it specifically mountains or desert etc. but sits in a good position to reach any of those areas, thus so many incredible, some even world class, locations for hobbies and adventure are all a few hours away.

Being a professional photographer, has that helped you view the world in a different perspective? How?
Most definitely! Being specifically a travel photographer for almost 4 years now, I work between two incredible propertiesCuixmala and Hacienda de San Antonio, in Mexico. Not only am I constantly trying to reshape how I see these places and share them, I also have been enabled by my profession and my time here to explore more and more of the rich culture all around, and it is truly one continuous life lesson in fostering deeper and deeper connections with everything around you.

What is something you wish you knew before starting college, during college and after graduating college? 
Before starting college, I truly wish someone had encouraged me to just take a year off before committing to it. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything, but I don’t think had I waited a year it would have negatively impacted my path really at all. I think working a part time job and dipping a toe in the real world before going to college might actually be one of the biggest motivations possible to take college seriously once you’re there. During college, while I do think I really accomplished a lot, I would go back and say ‘work faster!’, as I would have just liked to create more artwork, only at the very end did I really hit a more original stride in what I was doing. After college, I’m not sure actually, I definitely worked some monotonous jobs while I figured out what I was going to do, but as mind-numbing as they might have been, I think it was all par for the course and what forced me to work harder to get where I am now. For most graduates that might go through the same thing, I think I would just say 1. Don’t panic. And 2. More importantly, don’t settle.

Follow up question: entering the workforce, was there anything that surprised you or did not expect?
Well in regard to San Diego specifically, what was a good dose of reality was coming out of college with a student loan payment nearly equal to the cost of a mediocre living space for someone my age. So when you consider trying to find a sufficient job, the reality of earning double what your equipped to do at that point does suck the wind out of your sails. Luckily, I had supportive parents who let me bum around while I worked to get by and still go out and have fun rock climbing or surfing on the weekends. I wouldn’t say I was happy being back at my parent’s house, but I do know how lucky I was to have that option.

Do you have any advice for those who feel lost and unsure right now in their college career? 
Follow up question: what experiences led you to the career you have now?
If you’re lost in your college studies right now, focus on the fact that you are in the most beginning phases of whatever it is you’re working toward. Even years after you graduate you will certainly go through periods of redefining what it is exactly that you’re pursuing. Don’t let yourself get sucked into a trap of worrying that after undergrad you simply launch into that first job and that’s what is going to carry you through the rest of your ENTIRE life! Think of it this way, you will be 20-something, fresh out of college, with no actual work experience to get some big wig job, and that’s OKAY! Start small and work your way up, be creative with the opportunities you see and pursue, and just keep moving forward doing things you are happy doing.

What led me to my career was exactly what I just mentioned, I went from checking ID’s at a brewery, to then working on the bottling line (not fun) all because I saw an opportunity where I could maybe get my camera in the mix, within a year I was running their social media, then providing imagery for all their needs, simultaneously investing back into my equipment and getting outside whenever I could, all the while looking for an opportunity to see the world. Eventually the possibility to work in Mexico, for these incredible hotels came up, and almost 4 years later the days of flipping glass onto a bottling line or editing specs of dust off photos of bottles all paid off.

What strategies did you use to help you in your college career, and do you still use them today? (ex: wake up early every morning, write everything down, asked questions)
I think the most prevalent practice or mentality is not being afraid of working late nights, or when I’m really inspired hardly sleeping at all until what I’m working on is done. When I’m in those times I know I’m doing something that some might say is unhealthy, but I am so happy and motivated, I’m entirely okay with it. I always think of a Charles Bukowski quote- “Find what you love and let it kill you.” Ultimately, I guess I believe inspiration can strike at any time, when you feel it, roll with it; if you ever might say you don’t want to work just another 9-5 job, then don’t ever let yourself say, ‘Oh, I’ll get to that between 9-5 tomorrow…’!

What is the best thing about being a photographer?
Making art out of the ordinary, and the fact that the little black box in my hand can create a bridge between myself and nearly anyone or anything I come across.

Please share your advice to those who wish to pursue photography.
1. Always have a camera in your hand.
2. Find what you love to shoot, then find the people who are the best at it, study what they do, and find a way to make your own style of it.
3. Keep it simple at first, one camera, one lens, learn light and composition, then buy the latest and greatest.
4. Pay for new equipment when the equipment will pay you back.
5. SHARE YOUR WORK! In the digital era, do not let 1,000’s of photos get lost in hard drives to never see the light of day again.
6. Throughout it all, be the fan you wish you had. You’ll be amazed by how meaningful this becomes the longer you pursue any sort of artistic medium. It’s easy to criticize another’s work, try finding what it is you love about anyone’s work, maybe it’s not entirely for you, but always find at least one thing you like. You’ll not only just be a good human, that sort of attitude will attract others.

Check out Davis' Instagram here! Wow- what an amazing talent!

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