Tony Czech grew up in a “play everything safe, do everything that’s expected of you” town. In the face of pressures to conform his family encouraged his love of the outdoors, enabling him to engage with the world however possible.
Tony studied marketing in college. After graduation, he found himself on the concept side of creative, helping to build ad campaigns, assigning and reviewing the work of other image-makers. He had never considered becoming a photographer himself.
The first time his images appeared in a campaign, it happened by accident. He’d brought his camera along on a North Face shoot just to play around behind the scenes. But the hired photographer was not what the agency expected and ultimately Tony’s snapshots were selected as the face of the campaign. This happened a second time when he assisted a friend on a shoot in Yosemite. Again Tony made pictures behind the scenes, and ultimately the company preferred his images to their hire.
Tony’s bosses warned him he was now working in competition with their talent. They encouraged his photography, but advised that he move on from the agency. Tony heeded the call. He moved out of his apartment, into his truck (before it was cool, he says) to pursue a life in photography. That was nine years ago.
Tony now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, a place where he can afford to work as a creative while raising a family and maintaining an active lifestyle. He says clients are often shocked to find he lives somewhere other than California or New York. They’ve even laughed in his face.
These days Tony is a bit more particular about who he works with. “I’ve done the agency thing. I’ve done the photo rep thing. Now I’m on my own. I like working with people I can be friends with.” That said, he takes the work he can get. “There’s this perception that people who are doing well are only doing the sexy work. You have to take the jobs that keep you going.”
Commercial photography is Tony’s bread and butter, but on his website he’s an adventure photographer. He also has an archive of personal work that has yet to see the light of day. Lately, he says, “I’ve been stuck in the grind of making a lot of work for clients and not enough work for myself. I have to be better at saying no.”
Amidst everything, Tony makes time every year to teach a photography workshop to kids, age eleven to fourteen, somewhere around the world. His advice to new photographers is simple. “Go places where people say you shouldn’t go. So many people say ‘I can’t believe your going somewhere like ____. You’re going to die!’ Well, if you’re asking yourself whether or not you should be doing something, this probably isn’t your calling.”