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How One Technical Manager Uses Photography to Succeed in Work and Play

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
creativity

danny rontondo

Creative education and pursuits of side projects have both been shown to make workers both happier and more productive — but one of our CreativeLive Honor Roll students is a living example of that practice. Danny Rotondo, who works full time and is a photographer in his spare time, says his education has helped him further his artistic endeavors, and made him a better employee at his day job.

“I was always a creative person,” Danny explains, “in 4th grade I remember I wanted to be a writer, and wrote short horror themed stories. As a teenager, I loved music and wanted to be a guitarist in a band. I never had the right mentors or encouragement to follow any of my creative dreams, so I always felt lost and never had or a passion for a 9-5 type of career. I was fortunate as a teenager to get a job in one of the world’s greatest museums and that allowed me to work and grow in a creative environment.”

Danny still works in the museum circuit — in fact, his day job is in client service and technical support at the the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. And while it’s a great job, he says, he has other aspirations. Specifically, he says, he’d like to photograph full time. Right now, he takes pictures in between his work shifts at the museum, and posts one every day to Twitter. He also shares his work on Flickr, where it’s got quite a bit of attention. And, he says, he makes sure to stay inspired by watching the work of others.

danny rotondo“Photographers, artists, and people who I believe are better than me — I see their work, or what they are doing, and I get ideas and motivation from their work and accomplishments.”

So far, says Danny, he himself hasn’t had a major break-through. But he has had two victories, which he says has driven him to keep going.

“Two of my photographs were used for a magazine article…when I received the magazine and saw the pictures, my head pretty much exploded,” he says, “the other is when my idol, Howard Stern, started following me on Twitter because of my photographs.”

And while walking the line between having a day job and a passion project is tough, he says he’s still very committed to his daily work.

“My biggest challenge is to make money with my photography while I continue with my full-time job. And getting past what holds me back the most, which is me,” he explains, adding, “everything I do, I put in 100%, so even if managing tech support isn’t my dream job, I put in the same amount of passion as I do my photography,” he explains.

Danny, who says he learns “mostly from CreativeLive,” even manages to use his creative education to help make his day job more enjoyable and functional.

“I take what I learn from them and apply it both to my photography and how I manage my tech support team. I’m in the customer service business, so regardless if it’s running your own photography business or supporting the staff of the museum, the principles remain the same.”

Hard work is also important to Danny, who says one of the most important things he’s learned is that “there is no such thing as talent.”

“A person isn’t born with the ability to play amazing guitar. They may be born with the passion to play, but it’s the thousands of hours of working on it that makes them great. There is no easy way of becoming amazing at what you love without the blood, sweat, and tears.”

When asked what the best advice he’d every gotten was, he told us this:

“It was from the controller of the Museum when I was a teen. He said, ‘volunteer for jobs and assignments no one else wants, you will learn more, it makes you valuable as an employee and it will help you grow.'”

All images courtesy of Danny Rotondo. 

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.