Blog > Interview with Digital Photography Grad | Emily Cook

Interview with Digital Photography Grad | Emily Cook


Emily Cook graduated from the Digital Photography Program at Centre for Arts and Technology’s Kelowna Campus in September 2012. Since that time, Emily launched her own business, Emily Cook Photography, has shot with top fashion photographers, and her photographs have been published in Vancouver Magazine and Western Living. Aspiring photographers take note: Emily’s successes weren’t handed to her, they required a lot of hard work, dedication to her craft, and determination to achieve her goals. Emily is an inspiring example of what can happen when talent meets drive.

We caught up with Emily recently to chat about her experiences since graduating. Here is what she had to say!

Centre:  What led you to pursue a career in Digital Photography? Why Centre for Arts and Technology?  

E.C.: After realizing that I had wanted to pursue a focused art genre such as photography I needed to find a program that specialized in just that. I found the photography program at CATO that April and applied right away. It provided me the skills I needed while being close enough to my home town which was important to me at the time. I was eased into a bigger city and felt ready for something more when I graduated—hence moving my career and life to Vancouver.

Centre: Tell us about your journey from graduation to working.  Where did you start, and where are you now? 

E.C.: I started working for Gary Fong Incorporated as a studio manager in Kelowna right after graduating. In April I relocated to Vancouver to focus on my career as a photographer.

When I first moved here I spent the first month getting to know the right people, constantly emailing local photographers, designers, companies, magazines, modeling agencies and anyone I could whom I thought would be good to know.

Getting your foot in the door with the right people is very important. Knowing the right people to refer you, or work with is the best thing you can do for your career. I was shooting with top fashion photographers within the first week of moving there. I got the opportunity to work with modeling agencies that same week.

Over the spring and summer, I shot occasionally while working a part time serving job at a wonderful restaurant called Forage. But it wasn’t enough. I found myself in a bit of a rut. I sent over 25 emails with my resume attached to multiple people and companies but nothing came up. I lost motivation for about a month and didn’t shoot at all.  I was frustrated that all my hard work wasn’t paying off. So I decided I needed to do something differently.

Centre: What did you do next?

E.C.: The day after my birthday I always make two lists. Achievements that I’ve made in the past year, and goals for the upcoming year.  As I was writing out my achievements I found myself disappointed at the length of it.

Then I thought, ok, well, what am I going to do about this? I needed an action plan. Over the next week I planned, researched, talked to as many people as I could.  I found a company called Global Experiences. I inquired and within four days I was accepted to an internship in Milan, Italy with a fashion photographer. Why not hit two birds with one stone, right? So that was it, I had done it, turned my life around in the right direction with a plan and amazing things to look forward to.

Two months later I received an email from Vancouver Magazine. I was asked to apply for the photographer/photojournalist intern position. Later that day I was accepted. This was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. Luckily I was able to postpone my internship in Italy a couple of months so that I could accept my acceptance with the magazine. 

Now I’m shooting about three times a week for Western Living and Vancouver Magazine, meeting the most amazing people and yet another goal checked off the list—having my work published. I leave for Italy in May for a two month internship. One of the best parts is that I keep my position at the magazine and will be doing travel features for them while I’m away. 

I am so excited to finally see all my hard working paying off. 

Centre: How did your education at CATO prepare you for your current job/business/venture?

E.C.: CATO taught me all the technical things I needed to know about photography. However…as a business owner and photographer it is all about self-motivation and the effort and your own work that you put into it that will get you somewhere.

Centre: Any advice for our current and future students?

Take advantage of school as much as you can. Talk to teachers, get extra advice and help, put everything you can into your schooling because you don’t always get the opportunity to do it over again. Take advantage of the knowledge of your teachers—experience is the best thing to learn from.