George Brainard is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Austin, Texas, and a sixth-generation Texan. Formerly a working musician, George loves people and focuses his work on story telling.

Who or what influences and inspires you?
It’s people and their stories that really inspire me more than any one photographer. For me photography is about telling a story. I like the challenge of trying to tell a person’s story in one photo or a series of photos. But as far as photographers, I’ve been inspired by Wyatt McSpadden and Michael O’Brien. They are friends of mine, I’ve worked with them in the past, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

It’s people and their stories that really inspire me more than any one photographer

You worked as a photo assistant full time prior to going to full-time photographer? How did you make the transition?
I started assisting my senior year of college. I was also a working musician through most of my assisting years. I worked for about eight years as an assistant. I had a choice to make whether to be a musician or a photographer. Once I decided I was going to be a photographer full time, I quit doing everything else. All the time I had invested in promoting the band, I just invested in my photo career.

What was your first big break?
I can’t point to one moment in time where everything changed. I’m hoping that moment’s still to come. The first time I shot for The New York Times was a big deal. Getting hooked up with Getty Images has been big deal. When I first started I shot for Rolling Stone Magazine. Those are ones that stand out from early in my career.

Best career decision so far?
Doing personal work has become really important to me in the last five to six years. I’ve had a tremendous response to my personal work and have even gotten some jobs from it.

One of your larger projects is about hot rod fans? What made you decide to make these portraits?
I have some friends who have a car club, The Kontinentals, and they host two different events each year. For the past 11 years, I’ve been shooting the events for them. Several years ago, these things had gotten popular enough where everyone had a camera and everyone’s out there taking pictures of the cars. I sort of felt that the need to document this event wasn’t as great as it once was. I also realized I was actually more interested in the people than the cars. In 2008 I started taking portraits and have shot around 600 since.

Favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
Texas is my home and always has been. I know Texas well and love Texas. Texas has its own story and it’s a strong and interesting story. Many times the story and culture of Texas bleeds into what I do. It’s also great to shoot here because everyone is so laid back. For the most part people in the business here are cool and nice. That’s more pleasant for me than highly intense situations.

How do you stay motivated?
Hunger. Hah Hah. I just love what I do. I’ve never really done anything else. I’m qualified to deliver pizzas, be a photographer, or a singer. The business side is hard and discouraging. The money roller coaster is hard and discouraging. But I’m always going to be a photographer – no matter what. If I won the lottery I’d still do what I do. It’s not hard for me to be motivated because I love going to work everyday.

I’m always going to be a photographer – no matter what. If I won the lottery I’d still do what I do.

Do you have a favorite or memorable photo shoot?
One that comes to mind was the last book cover I did for Kinky Friedman where I spent a couple days at his beautiful hill country ranch. I spent that evening hanging out, smoking cigars and drinking whiskey with Kinky at his kitchen table. That was a moment I had dreamed about back in college when I first started reading his books. More recently, I shot press photos for Kat Edmonson, who’s this amazing singer. She’s talented and smart, and just magical in front of the camera. One of the best people I’ve ever photographed and one of the best shoots I’ve ever had.

Current dream assignment?
To photograph Willie Nelson.

Being a musician yourself, what’s it like for you to shoot musicians?
Musicians are people too. I love photographing musicians. It’s a nice way for me to keep a foot in that world. I have lots of musician friends and I’ve been a professional musician, so I understand musicians, I know what it’s like. I can relate to them in a way that a lot of photographers cant. Musicians are creative people and it always gives you a chance to flex your own creative muscles working with creative people.

What else would you want to do if you weren’t a photographer?
I’d probably be a writer. Sometimes I have fantasies about being a writer where all you need is a laptop and not a huge truck load of camera/lighting gear. When you’re a writer there’s no camera between you and the subject. It’s a more direct way of storytelling. Most of what I love is meeting people and making beautiful things.

What’s the weirdest thing in your camera bag?
I don’t know. Nothing too weird. Advil, Granola bar, compass, matches

Any other hobbies or talents outside of photography?
I play music: the mandolin, ukulele, and guitar. I also read a lot. I love to swim – or I should say I love to soak and I spend as much time in natural bodies of water as possible. Also spending lots of time with my daughter.

Anything exciting coming up?
My biggest goal right now is to get this hot rod fans book done. I’m spending a lot of time working on it and I’m hoping to get it done in the next year.

Favorite BBQ?
Going to Opie’s (Spicewood) for lunch and soaking at Krause Springs is a perfect Texas Day. Also the brisket from Snows (in Lexington) and the sausage and ribs from Smitty’s (in Lockhart).

Favorite taco?
I have many. For breakfast tacos: The Don Juan at Juan in a Million or the Migas taco at Donn’s BBQ. The Cowboy taco at Taco Deli, and the al Pastor at Curras.

Favorite drink?
Topo chico or bourbon.

Any advice for anyone just starting out?
Shoot as much as you can. Be kind. Shoot what you want to shoot and stay true to your artistic vision. Don’t follow trends. Be yourself.

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