The Curliest Photographer You Know: Meet Phillip Van Nostrand, Photographer Extraordinaire

Meet Phillip Van Nostrand aka “The Curliest Photographer You Know”. I met Phillip a little over a month ago and immediately introductions were flying all over the place and our worlds were becoming smaller and smaller. Before becoming a photographer in the Big Apple Phillip was teaching math in Santa Barbara. He’s now shooting weddings, conferences, bloggers and making us all gawk in terror as he throws his trusted camera 10 feet into the area to capture that perfect moment. 

1. You went from being in front of the class as a math teacher to behind the lens as a photographer. What inspired you to make the switch? 

I call photography “the hobby that got out of control.” I was taking pictures for fun as I traveled around the world once a year since 2003. By the time I was getting into teaching it was 2008 or so and I was really into photography. I shot my very first wedding the same year I started my teaching program, in 2009, and I was hooked. The following year I made it a goal to shoot 12 weddings by the end of the year no matter what. I was still teaching but also shooting a lot. I yearned for the freedom to meet people during the day, go to photo conferences, and basically just be my own boss. I “retired” after teaching at a middle school for three years (middle school math=hell). I basically told the school I was going to try to work at a high school, which was my original preference, or go back to subbing and tutoring and taking pictures. I didn’t get the job at a high school so I pursued the freelance life, which has proven to be the best decision I ever had handed to me.

2. As a self proclaimed nomad, what are some of your favorite places to shoot and travel.

I’ve been loving Cartagena, Colombia. I went there two years ago for the first time and it’s super inexpensive, very easy to get to from New York (4.5 hours, and around $300 in the winter), and so colorful and lovely! About three years ago I took the Trans Siberian Railway from Moscow to Siberia, down into Mongolia and finished the trip in China. That was a true trip of a lifetime for me. Highly recommended, safe, and awesome.

3. Photography is only one of your passions at the moment, you also sell beautiful la rousse boxes and shared drives online as well as have your own blog. What motivates you to have so many projects? 

I think more than being a photographer, I consider myself an entrepreneur, and I love entrepreneur-minded books, ideas, and conversations. Being my own boss allows me to stretch my creative endeavors in as many directions as I am capable. I want to build an empire and and love the idea of passive income, so I’m slowly but surely working in that direction.

4. What do you like most about being your own boss? Do you ever crave the structure of a 9-5 gig? 

I never ever ever crave the structure of a 9-5 gig. I love watching daytime movies, sleeping in, working whenever and wherever I want (currently in the lobby of the Ace Hotel on a Monday afternoon, enjoying the atmosphere and music playing over the speakers). Mainly I love having the freedom to work from wherever and I take advantage of that as much as possible. I know some freelancer/entrepreneurs who try to create a 9-5 structure for themselves and I think it’s missing the point.  

5. As our resident optimist, what are three wishes you have for 2016?

Haha I’m not THAT optimistic. I just see a lot of beauty in the world. My wishes for 2016: 

That I get repped by a photo agent. That people like Emily Merrell continue to show up in the world and in my life. That the right person gets elected president.

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