Mike Emery Interview

“I talk a lot, I’m sorry,” concluded my conversation with Mike Emery, one of the sport’s most talented and well-respected photographers. I think he’s so well-respected because he’s truthful in an inviting way, meaning that he makes you more truthful and honest when you hang around him. I solidified this thought after we spent some time together over this past weekend. Some folks got together at Jordan Robert’s place to skate his infamous backyard mini-ramp, the holy grail of all household spots for midwestern skaters. Just a stone’s throw from Buchanan in between RedBud’s one and two, the unorthodox racing schedule allowed some like-minded motocross and skateboard enthusiasts to gather and have a session.

Mike and I spoke about the ramp, dealing with the newfound stress of working under new restrictions, and of course skating. He even showed me a new trick that night dubbed the “Crazy Larry,” which I had been doing for years, the name unbeknownst to me. I was going for some Neil Blender-type shit. No matter, because what mattered was that the session was going off, the vibe was perfectly tuned to the right mood, and fun was had by all. A recipe for a good time that requires good people, and Mike is certainly one of those people. I was so juiced, I even pushed my timidness to the wayside and busted out some new stickers to share with the crew. They were all stoked, including Mike, who gave me some really kind words about the designs. I was appreciative of that.

If you don’t know Mike, he really does talk a lot, but it’s worth listening to. I caught him for this interview at his childhood home, bullshitting over Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and a cold brew.

Discussion includes: Skateboarding, East Coast love, finding his way to TransWorld MX, shooting with Reed, Roczen, and Osborne, and why you should never force anything in life, among other chatter…

Mike Emery: Yo, did you get that text I sent you?

World of Echo: [Looking at a photo of THPS3 on a Playstation 2] I did! Got the classics cued up!

I’m crushing the Foundry level right now. I remember where the secret tape is. I’m playing as Kareem Campbell.

Hell yeah. [Laughs] You were just at Loretta’s, right? Nationals only?

Yep! We were just playing around in the mud at times, dude. I was at the amateur even last year, and that’s where I met you! That was a good time last year. I’ve been there one or two other times, but I love Loretta’s. Unfortunately the amateur event just wasn’t in the cards for me this year. I’m kind of relieved it wasn’t, though, that would’ve been gnarly to go back two or three times. I feel for anyone who did that run, like Tom [Journet]. Whoever did that, mad respect. The two rounds of Nationals were cool, though.

You never know what you’re in for at a National, conditions-wise.

The best text that I got from that event, I got it post-race from Carson Mumford. I’ve known him for a while now, and it’s kind of cool that I’m at the point now where, like, I’m not some veteran in the sport, but I’ve been around long enough to have worked with a lot of kids that are now pro. Seeing people come up the ranks and to have great relationships with a lot of those guys like Carson is cool. I’ve known him since he was a little kid, you know? A little punk on 60s. He’s just a good kid.

Anyway, after Loretta’s, he just hit me up. He goes, “Dude, you have any photos?” I get him some pics and he says, “Thanks, you’re the man! I bet it wasn’t fun to shoot out there.” I said, “Same to you… I guess this is our job’s now, you know?”

He goes, “Bro, I was on the line first moto and I was like, ‘Why didn’t I just stay in school?'” [laughs]

Carson’s a good kid. He’s killing it. Let me ask you this, though. You didn’t hit the Loretta’s Trifecta, but how was that seven race sprint in Salt Lake City to end the Supercross season?

Man, we did seven races in the same stadium! For us as creators, it’s going to get really fucking repetitive or uninspiring. It’s going to be hard to do our job: be creative. Luckily Salt Lake provided a bunch of different styles. There was a night race, a mud race, golden hour sunset races… and of course there’s a lot riding. We walked away with a lot of different photos. I was proud of our work in SLC. Big shouts to Feld for pulling that seven race finale off. We all know it wasn’t easy for anyone, and they came through for the sport.

I really like this shot of Chase Sexton, in his embrace with an audience of none in the background.

Thanks, I appreciate it. I posted that photo and explained it a little bit on my Instagram. I like when you go into an event and you have visions of a shot you have in mind or, you know, like an idea in your head. We’re not in control of our environment as shooters, you know, like we’re at the mercy of the races and angles we’re allowed to get. I really wanted to get some photos that were telling of the times, and that was an angle that I was really hoping to capture. Sometimes it just works out like that. I was pumped when I got it.

We’re always on a closed course, like I said. I have lot of friends who shoot skateboarding and we’ll talk about skate vs. moto photography now and again. Everything we do, aside from freeriding, is closed course. We have to deal with what we get, whether it be confined shooting in a stadium or whatever. It doesn’t get as intricate or creative as skateboarding photography, where you go and find spots in an open environment. Or if you’re really nutty, you might do something like wear a red shirt to compliment a red wall in the background. I grew up geeking on skate mags and that is really where my spark for shooting stems from.

I think what’s special about shooting motocross is that it’s just so out of your control, you know? When something comes together, it’s truly like some universal plan-type business.

Dude, I agree. And capturing a photo like that of Chase, to me, made me really feel when I left Salt Lake City a sense of accomplishment. “Dude, we did everything. We left nothing on the table.” We worked our butts off, got as many cool angles as we were allowed to get, and that was that. It was was really tough to go back to that stadium seven times with not much of a break. A lot of people were calling it Groundhog Day, but it was still cool. To get that shot [of Sexton], that photo to me was one of my favorites from the whole trip. That was also really cool to capture because he proved to everyone during those races that he wasn’t some one championship guy, you know? He really earned it big time this year.

And it’s crazy now, like he shows up a few months later and he’s a big 450 guy. New gear deal, you know? I’m like, dude, look at you! He’s here, he’s arrived. It’s pretty cool. I feel like we have a pretty cool group of riders right now that are just stoked to be doing what they love.

You shot some great stuff of Chad Reed as well, in his final moments as a full-time professional.

That set of images was another highlight from Salt Lake City for me personally. It was the honor to shoot that. I feel like everyone thinks he’s going to race again, but I mean, that was his official exit. So whether he races again or not, it was still really cool. And, I mean, he was really emotional. So to be able to capture that, those moments of a legend I grew up watching? Unreal. He’s one of the dudes, the best of the best.

The last of the old guard. You would think somebody who might reach the numbers Reed did would be a privateer, some three-digit guy grinding away. He’s not just your run-of-the-mill racer, he’s an icon. One of the biggest there’s ever been.

He’s so clever and smart, the way he did his whole career is just genius. I give him so much respect. His ability to troll people is pretty legendary as well, because he just always knows what he’s doing. He can say something and people will go, “Why’d you say that!?” He stirs the pot in a witty, low-key way. I love that.

Mike, I wanted to ask why you weren’t a pro skateboarder.

That just wasn’t on my radar, dude. [laughs]

It seems like you certainly had the chops for it!

From age eight to like, fifteen, I rode dirt bikes. From a Z50 on up. My dad was a motocross racer, so I was a full-on moto kid from a young age. However, when I was twelve years old I got my first skateboard after watching my neighbors skateboarding. He and his friends would skate outside the front of their house. One of the kids was legit and once I saw him do an ollie over a soda can, my mind was blown. I couldn’t believe it.

I remember being in middle school and telling everyone that I was going to be a skateboarder. I identified as a skateboarder early on because I was so enamored with it. I still rode dirt bikes from time to time, but skating pretty much just took over. We never had crazy money anyway, and skateboarding is cheaper than racing motocross. It’s easy to get hooked on skating when you can just step onto your driveway and go.

Where’d you ride, then? Moto.

We were District 6 heavy, Pennsylvania moto. Hurricane Hills was a spot we frequented. I was never really that fast, more like an intermediate to slow rider. I used to line up against Bobby Kiniry, because we’re around the same age, and one time he lapped me in a four-lap race. He came around so fast that he scared me, genuinely scared me. He was wide open and I… I just never had it like that on a motorcycle. Once my Dad and brother stopped riding as often, skating completely took over. We really rolled as a family to all the races and local riding spots, and with my brother off at college and myself 100% into skating, the moto days sort of fizzled.

From age twelve to about twenty-five, skating was everything to me. Like I said though, I always kind of knew I didn’t have the skills to become a pro but loved everything about skating and filming clips with my friends. I remember skating at times with local East Coast guys like Josh Kalis, Kerry Getz, or Chris Cole at spots and watching those guys in person, just being dumbfounded. I’d look at them and go, “Now that’s a professional skateboarder.” Those guys are really, really good. I did learn some tricks, though.

Mike “learned some tricks.” Sick part with fellow Homebase Skateshop rider Wes Buck.

What really kept me around skating was hanging out with my friends, filming videos, shooting photos, and traveling. One of my best friend’s owns Homebase Skateshop in Pennsylvania, and they’re still going right now and he’s killing it. We’d just have the best times filming back in the day. I was good enough to get free shoes and boards from time to time, but I was always working normal jobs and what not. I had the homie hook-ups, that’s it. I had a friend who worked for Converse and he’d hook me up on rep flow with Chuck Taylors. Before that it was Supra. I was skating Chad Muska Skytop’s, the one’s Lil’ Wayne used to wear. [laughs] They actually skated pretty well.

Can you tell me about the time in your life when you traveled to Spain? If ever there was a peak in your skateboarding, it seems like this would be it. Right around the time the Homebase video dropped (Where the Heart Is…)

I would recommend anybody to just travel, especially when you’re young, before you start to give a shit about certain things. Don’t worry about life. Go to college if you want, but maybe take a year off before that and just have fun. I took my time with everything. It helps that in skateboarding, I think traveling just comes with the territory. Skateboarders are cut from a different cloth. You just live your life in a different way, you look at life differently.

We had a really good group of friends in Pennsylvania that would all link up through Homebase, and that was a great platform to have fun with. We were all riding that same wave of East Coast skaters coming out of Philadelphia and New York, so the scene was really great. We were far enough away from those hubs that we had a bit of our own flavor, though.

A group of us went to Spain for three months, and we just found this tiny apartment in Barcelona and moved in with a family. It was actually insane. To think this Mom, Dad, and like five year old daughter took in a group of skaters to split rent was pretty different from American life. We were all crammed into that apartment, like homemade triple bunk beds and shit. There was also another dude who would randomly stay there that looked like the Spanish version of Kramer from Seinfeld. [laughs] That living situation was a perfect example of stepping out of your comfort zone and diving into a different culture.

We got the chance to skate and run into so many top pros like Jesus Fernandez, Chris Pfanner, MACBA locals, just really lived the Barcelona life. It was really tight. When you’re young, that’s the time to do stuff like that. When you’re young, you think you’re older than you actually are. You can actually get away with a lot of dumb shit in your early twenties and still be OK. You know what I mean? Some people take life way to seriously. They need to chill out.

Triple bunk-bed. For real.

Brendan (@thesecrettape) getting after a kickflip fakie.

Emery chilling on a melon in the streets of Barcelona. Photo by Max Zahradnik.

I think there’s something to just going out and leaving the bubble. You have to allow things to happen to you, and you’ll have crazy adventures. It starts by just going.

Yeah, and I think the biggest take away from those years is that I’ve always been responsible to a certain degree. I’ve had jobs, did the adult thing, but I made sure to have fun and pursue my skating, always. I’d skip lunch while changing oil on cars to go film a hill bomb with my friend Andy. I’d get back in the shop all sweaty and my coworkers would look at me funny. That’s just skating. That’s what I wanted to do.

That’s the advice I try and give on anybody, whatever you’re trying to do. If it feels right, then do it. If you feel like you’re forcing something, if you have to push it, maybe that’s not the right thing for you? I don’t know, really. I thought I’d get more wisdom after I had a kid, but I’m just as immature as before. [laughs]

You’re probably on level three by now, right? The first contest run in Brazil?

[Laughs] No, I paused it because I have A.D.D. You’ll be asking me a question and I’ll stop paying attention because I’m trying to nail my combo. I’m definitely on Yeungling three, though! Have to enjoy the PA delicacies while here.

How’d you get into shooting motocross if you were so enamored with skateboarding?

Skating has always been there for me, and it always will be, but at a time in my twenties I just needed to take a step back from this weird existence that I was living. Filming, being “sponsored,” or whatever it was that I was doing with no ultimate goal in mind, if that makes sense?

My brother started riding again, and I’d go out with him to the track to ride and hang out. It all felt so fresh to me. I totally ruined myself at one of our local tracks though, on a CR250. I wasn’t wearing any knee pads and my knee ballooned up like crazy when I crashed. I felt like if you’ve ever seen that one sketchy guy at the track you want to stay far away from… that was me at that time!

Photography had always been something that was an interest in my life, whether it was a camera I got at a young age, or being around skateboarders and shooting photos, I always had it around. So being back at the motocross track, I started shooting photos of my brother and other dudes, and it was such a nice change of pace from skateboarding that I dove head first into it.

OG Emery with the Kodak, strapped up.

I always had the vibe of just walking out onto the track. Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness, right? I would be safe about it, but I just shot photos until I’d be told not to. I got some opportunities to shoot for Jace Wade at East MX and Matt Wozney at MXPTV early on, lots of East Coast type stuff. Shouts to those guys!

Then California came into the picture…

That felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the time in that I only had one shot to actually move out there. I was a bit over skating at the time, but skating will never leave me, and California is obviously one of the places any East Coast skateboarder wants to go to. It’s on our radar from the beginning. My good friend Kyle and I drove out and took this epic road trip all across the United States to get there. It was all-time.

In California I grew even more interested in shooting, specifically moto, and I bought a Nikon 70-200mm lens not too long after arriving. I also decided to buy a ticket to Anaheim 1 (2012) that next year, a $20 nosebleed seat, and roamed the pits all day shooting photos for fun. I made a blog about it back when I had a blogger page back in the day. I sent that link to a couple of moto sites wondering if anyone would check it out, and Austin White from Insider MX shot me a message back right away. I was working in an auto shop at the time and he invited me to come help him shoot the third round in L.A. at Dodger Stadium for Feld. This was before Feld was really popping off, by the way. I think I shot some photos of Nathan Kress for a press release junket.

Nathan Kress? iCarly Nathan Kress? [laughs]

Yeah dude! [laughs] It was bizarre. He was there to watch the race and they wanted me to get photos of him. It was like I was the paparazzi guy!

So you shot L.A. that year?

Yeah, it was nuts, dude. My photos were terrible, well, maybe there’s a few good ones, but like I had no business doing what I was doing. I remember Reed winning that night and riding towards me. I could hear him screaming, so fucking psyched. That is the coolest thing. You’d never hear that unless you were where I was, you know? And that goes back to the photos I just took in Salt Lake. I’m like, dude, from then to now? That’s pretty cool, right?

After that I worked with Austin a bunch and took every opportunity that came my way. I sacrificed my work at the auto shop. I would use my week vacation to go work my other job for a week. This is really where the grind started and I cut my teeth to earn my spot in the industry. Same shit that a lot of people in this industry do, you have to earn it.

How did you manage that?

It was just a grind, really. This is what people don’t realize, and I’ve told this to others, it’s not easy to get to the level where you can actually do this for a living. Like, it’s really fucking hard. I completely enjoyed working at the auto shop, but I was working forty hours a week in Oakland and I’d have to drive to SoCal every weekend the second I got off work just to make it to another race. I’d go, leave the track Saturday night, drive north and park at the Iron Skillet to sleep in a sleeping bag in my pickup truck. I’d look at photos all day on Sunday and go back to work on Monday.

I was doing that for a long time, flying in and out on my weekends off from the shop, building my name through Insider MX and reaching out to people. It all came together when I got a message from Chris Kimball, who used to be the managing editor for TransWorld MX. He reached out to me after Brendan Lutes left his photo editing position at the mag. Chris said I should apply, and I thought he was out of his mind, but it worked out. I met my now-wife Isabel a year prior, and applied for that job around the same time that I quit my auto shop job to be a full time freelancer, so that was a great period in my life. To land a job at TransWorld, right next to the skate department… I could skate at work, basically. It was crazy.

Mike and the TWS crew getting down.

What was it like working at TransWorld? What kind of environment did Donn and the boys conjure up?

TWMX was a badass gig, man. It was super tight knit there, just an office filled with people that were genuinely stoked on what they did. There’s all the test bikes, there’s gear with endless goodies. Donn’s office was like a mini moto museum. It was crazy job. Plus, the fact that I could kick it with the skate division of the magazine as well as countless other talented creatives in that building, that was just the cherry on top.

I’m not the guy that is quick to throw everything out there trying to tell everyone my life deal, but it’s been a cool ride. It’s been gnarly too, especially in the early days with Austin at Insider MX. We would do things like shoot the Arizona Supercross on Saturday night and then book it to SoCal in the early hours of the morning to be at Glen Helen by Sunday. He shot some TV show and I shot another gallery. Just the craziest grind shit, and we had some great laughs during those sleepless nights and early mornings.

Props to Austin, man. If he didn’t respond to that email I sent all those years ago, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now. I probably wouldn’t be talking to you? [laughs]. Thanks dude!

I wanted to talk about some of your covers at TransWorld. I think even before you got on the team, TransWorld always had a knack for scoring some really unique covers, leagues above the other motocross publications.

I agree, man. TransWorld has always been more artistic and lifestyle based and I like that. The art direction of that TWMX visual magic was all on the Art Director, Shane Kinman. He’s so good, dude. I learned so much from Shane when I worked at Transworld. He was really a guide for me to learn the relationship of photography to an art director or creative director’s needs. Anyway, the covers…

The first one I wanted to bring up is the Christian Craig fire shoot.

That was actually Donn! That’s a Donn shot! That’s a crazy cover, isn’t it?

Damn, I thought you shot that. They don’t have it credited anywhere.

Yeah, they never did have cover credit for some reason… but that cover ruled. Donn and Christian became super tight over that period of time and I feel like that helped the dynamic. I wasn’t there for that shoot, but for them to think of lighting the track on fire and actually pulling it off… like, who are these guys? That’s fucking sick. It turned out rad, obviously.

This goes back to what I said about motocross being closed course. How much can you really do with a pro rider? It’s a job for them to shoot photos, and I’m not knocking that because they are so focused on actually racing and that makes sense, but there’s some guys who love the creative process and they are a real treat to work with. As a photographer we have to be creative, time-oriented, tactical, and I always try to keep the vibe fun. Fun usually equals a great outcome. This cover, for example.

I think this shot really shows what a cover can be.

I agree. They were thinking outside of the box and putting in an effort. You just gotta try, man. Try and try hard. Something great will usually happen. Props to Christian and Donn on this one. Moto doesn’t always cater to that, I know it firsthand. It’s hard to get some guys to go all-in for a photo. Like I said, it’s another part of their job for the riders to shoot a photo, and sometimes they don’t want to do it. I’ve shot dudes that couldn’t care less about the cover, which trips me out because I’m so heavy into it. A cover shot for a photographer is, in my opinion, the highest honor you can have, you know? Taking my selfish creator nerd attitude out, I can 100% respect why riders might not have the bandwidth to care about a photoshoot. They are hired to do a really hard job that requires twenty-four hour a day dedication.

It can go the other way though, and Christian is a perfect example. He had to stay after his training session that day to shoot that photo. He stayed late and he was down, and that’s rad. I have mad respect for riders and the job they do, it’s just difficult sometimes when your background is to be as artistic as you can be and push the envelope, and the rider is there to train and win races to make money. Shooting a photo could be that extra pain in his ass! [laughs] I get it.

You’ve done some great stuff with Ken Roczen.

Yeah, Kenny and I work well together. The first time I ever shot with him he knew exactly what he wanted to do for the cover. He had a scrubber jump at the Moto Sandbox and he wanted to just crank it off that and drag his hand on the top of the hill while looking back at the camera. I thought we were going to break the internet if we actually managed to snap that one, but it didn’t work out due to the jump face being a little jacked that day. We still shot a nasty scrub that made for a dope cover. Ken’s the type of guy that will go the extra mile for a photo. He was in the middle of winning his first outdoor championship with Suzuki, and he still took the time to respect what I was there to accomplish for the magazine, and was stoked to do it on top of that. We hadn’t worked together before this and I was a little nervous to mess up his flow that day, but he made it feel fun. That was cool of him.

Unfortunately, when bad luck struck and he had his huge crash and injuries at Anaheim 2 [2017], that was the next Roczen piece I was tasked with. Writing that story for TransWorld, as well as shooting the cover portrait of Kenny was a task I felt more important than anything I had done prior. The shot had his arm just below his face, so both kind of shared the focal point, telling the story of how gnar his arm situation was. He was riding by that point, just doing some no-jump sprints with the staples still in his arm, but he was ripping. We couldn’t shoot that, though. We were told not to. At that point, nobody even knew if he was going to be able to ride again. I remember watching him ripping and thought, “Holy shit. He’s gonna be just fine.” Impressive to say the least. I still snuck some shots. [laughs]

Before that trip I shot some test photos of myself to get a feel for the lighting. This goes back again to Shane, who I would always turn to if I was unsure of something creatively. He suggested some different pose angles and I ran with it. We shot the cover shot in like thirty minutes in some garage, and that was it. I was really proud of the assignment, though. The article, which was a heavy one, and that cover specifically, because it really blew up in our little journalistic world for a moto mag. We ended up being finalists for the ASME “Cover of the Year” award and they sent out a cool plaque thing. We ended up in the top five, next to heavy hitter publications like GQ and ESPN: The Magazine. Ken was next to LeBron and some other big names. That was an amazing accomplishment for myself, Ken, and the entire TransWorld team. I truly appreciated his willingness to open up about it for the piece.

I really like this shot of Zach Osborne as well, December 2016. You shot that as well?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I did. That was such a fun shoot.

This is my favorite one.

Thanks! It’s not your typical moto cover.

I really like how you guys left the top open.

All credit to Shane, which was a constant theme at TransWorld. Anything you see that’s cool, there’s a 95% chance it’s because of Shane. He still works as an art director, actually. He’s freelancing now. All of these things you’re complimenting me about… like, he laid those out. Photos are cool, but with good art direction they really pop, that’s the difference. So that’s his, that’s all on him.

Anyway, we shot that at Cauhilla Creek. They were kind enough to leave a key for us to open up the track after-hours and I met Zach in his Sprinter van with his Husky in the back. It was just us along with Casey Davis. Zach was such a trooper and stayed super late into the evening to give us amazing light to work with. He’s such a levelheaded and balanced individual, it makes my job so much easier working with guys like that. I’m never one to ask riders to go again. “GIVE ME ANOTHER BIG WHIP!” You know what I mean? Zach was down for anything, though. I timidly asked for another shot as the sun was setting and he goes, “Hey man, I’m here for you. We’ll go until it’s pitch black.” Great memories.

Trooper. You shot a cover with Reed as well?

Yes. I was super nervous for that one, too! That was my first print mag cover ever.

I mean, it’s Chad Reed. What I learned quickly about Chad is that he doesn’t fuck around. I showed up for the day to shoot, and the TWMX crew thought it would be cool to have Reed to throw a couple of nac-nac’s because he’s got a good nac-nac and that would make for a great cover. I set up my lights, but Chad was testing SX suspension with Yamaha this day as well, so it wasn’t a super one-on-one shoot. We discussed the nac-nac and out of nowhere after his sprint laps he began throwing nac’s off this jump. I scrambled to frame it all how I wanted, and he did probably five or six nac-nac’s, pulled in, took his helmet off, and was back to debriefing with the team. That was it. He asked, “Did you get it?” I was frazzled, probably gave him a super unsure “Yep!” but we did get a killer shot that became my first TWMX cover.

Chad’s the man, though. Luckily I got that shot, Shane killed the cover with some blue typography, and that was that. Talking about it all, I’ve shot some great stuff with Reed over the years. I remember I even sold a print to Ellie of him and his kid doing a fist-bump on the podium. She was really stoked on that and I was stoked to capture that special moment for their family.

It’s been well-documented, but I wanted to ask how you picked up the pieces after TransWorld folded, and how your wife and family were integral in getting you through that time.

What’s crazy is that, we knew TransWorld was going to be sold. We all knew that for months leading up to the acquisition. That wasn’t news to us, because before that TransWorld had been bought and sold a number of times. That’s just how it goes in the magazine world, larger conglomerates buy up magazines in bulk and rearrange things as they see fit. What we didn’t anticipate was that the company that bought us (American Media Inc.), would have zero interest in housing any action sports publications.

My son, Theo, was born in October, and this happened in January of the next year. I had a three-month old and a wife at home, and I just got laid off from my job. It was a scramble, to say the least. The entire staff was confused, because while the publications around us were dwindling down to six issues a year, four issues a year, etc., we were pumping on all cylinders. TransWorld MX was holding strong at twelve issues a year with no signs of slowing down. We all thought we were safe, we really did.

My wife, Isabel, was great throughout all of this. I was bombarded from a lot of people the day it happened, all asking me what I was going to do and what my plan was. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. I was like, “Yo, chill! I don’t know! This literally just happened!” Isabel was supporting Theo and I through that unknown period, absolutely. No successful married man can reach that success without that backbone support. I was able to land some solid freelance stuff in those following months, and she is the General Manager at a café and was making money throughout the downtime I used before forming Align Media with [Rich] Shepherd and Simon [Cudby]. She assured me that everything was going to be ok.

So you’re back shooting moto full-time… it’s been awhile now for you, right? Similar to Matt Rice, you’ve been in the game for a long time.

Yeah man! What a wild ride, right? Matt rules by the way. It’s so cool to shoot now because I’m lucky to have done it long enough to have formed great relationships. I’d like to think that people look at me as an easy-going guy, a positive part of their day. I hope to continue that trend, because really I’m just here to have fun, you know? We all do our jobs, and they’re really hard to do. They’re taxing, long, hot, sweaty days, but we all love it. If you’re able to do something that you love and get paid for it, you should never take that shit for granted.

Also, I just want take a second to shout out our new venture Align Media, and thank the clients that came on board and believed in the vision. It’s a weird year to launch a business, but I think it’s going as well as can be all things considered. I want to direct the people reading to cruise along for the ride on Instagram if they want to see some of our collective work. I take a great deal of pride in curating our work and making it a follow no one will regret. We don’t post every day but when we do I hope it gets people stoked. Quality over quantity. It’s @align.with.us for those that want to nerd on some photos!

I’ll give you one last parting piece, because I know I talk a lot. But this is one of those moments that makes you realize your vibe really is so important. I was working with TransWorld at the time, and we had some stuff to shoot for Honda at what’s now Fox Raceway. Their team manager, Eric Kehoe, made it a point to chat for a minute that day, and he’s like, “Hey man… I thought I’d tell you that I really appreciate your attitude. You’re always having a good time and reminding me that even though our jobs are stressful, it’s important to keep it fun and smile.” It solidified the idea that I need to keep having fun with this. Eric is the man, and that was nice of him to say.

My Dad was stoked to hear that one, too. [laughs]

Thanks to Mike Emery for the time. Check him and his boys out at @emeryphoto and @align.with.us, as well as on the web at www.alignwith.us.