Hailing from Wales, Capture 12 founder Stephen Gittins finds his obsession to be his business. After moving to Arizona in 2008, Stephen received his Masters of Fine Arts degree from Arizona State University in 2011 and soon began teaching at local community colleges. Stephen developed Capture 12 to share his knowledge and experience in the field of photography, which he uses to teach people of all skill levels the art in all forms. We talked to Stephen to discuss how Capture 12 came to be and why he loves what he does.
Words by Nerds: How was Capture 12 started? What’s the history on how you got your business started?
Stephen Gittins: I was basically forced to create a business through immigration reasons and so I thought about it and realized that if I wanted to do something, I’ll create a business in my degree area [of] photography. I had been teaching at ASU for 3 years while I was studying there. I alsoI taught at community colleges but soon I couldn’t actually work at the community colleges anymore, I could only work as my business. So, it’s quite a story to try to get into and to stay in this country.
The irony is that the Visa I have now won’t let me leave. I’m basically stuck in this country to run my business.
WBN: What’s your philosophy with Capture 12?
SG: Capture 12 is really all about teaching photography in all its forms. From beginners to professionals, I teach people how to engage with their images, compare images, work on design amongst images.
In other words, composition in all sorts of ways. I basically use photography as therapy. I allow people to look into their image making in a way not many others would
WBN: What difficulties have you faced with starting a new business?
Downtown Phoenix to me is basically one big collaborative space.
SG: I’m doing a lot of work with LivingSocial and Groupon to try and get people through the door. One of the biggest problems is it seems to be 80% marketing my business and 20% actually doing the things that I enjoy.
Recently I created a group of photographers and it’s called the C12 Collective. I gathered a group of photographers to document change in Downtown Phoenix … that is a kind of sideline [keeping] me creative in my documentary work so it kept me busy while I was doing other things.
WBN: What’s your favorite part about being in the middle of a growing Phoenix landscape?
SG: There’s something about Downtown Phoenix.I looked everywhere for a venue for my business and was looking predominately to find places that were surrounded by affluent areas where people had money and maybe they would come to me as a business rather than for me to work as a passion. [Those areas] just felt so sterile. There was no spark, no creative power within those areas.
[Phoenix] is an environment where people are constantly creating, they’re making work, they’re engaged in artistic endeavors.
Downtown Phoenix to me is basically one big collaborative space. Everyone just seems to be engaging and helping each other to try and form a bond. I’ve been through a few places in the UK which is very similar to that, but they’re few and far between. I think this is really about helping each other build a community.
WBN: What’s been the hardest thing about working online? What hurdles have you faced and what benefits have there been?
SG: I think that the most difficult thing is finding ways to create the business right from the start, creating ways that people know who you are and what you do. Right from the beginning it’s been the driving force of getting my name out there and people.
Seek the help that you need, don’t keep quiet, and just keep pushing through.
The upside of that is the amount of knowledge I’ve gained along the way which I never would have dreamed I would have gained. It’s kind of strange, but [I’m] always amazed about the amount of things that create a website and having to constantly update websites with things I never did… learning how to create HTML newsletters and sending newsletters out on a monthly basis were things that I never thought …
It’s been a constant change in perspective. As a photographer, I’m constantly looking at the world with a different perspective, but I rarely look at myself with a different perspective and I think that’s what has helped me is that I’ve realized that this is an investment in me and who I am, not an investment in the business and what it is.
WBN: What do you like to nerd out about?
SG: When you ask a question like that it makes me realize just how much that I’ve been immersing myself in my business of video and photography because that’s all I seem to be doing lately. Everything is being geared towards making this thing work!
WBN: If you could offer advice to anyone starting a company and a business, what would it be?
SG: I think the biggest one for me is not giving up. A lot of these things are made for you to give up. You think you’re going to run out of money. You think it’s never going to take off the ground, you think you’re never going to learn the tools that you need to actually run the business.
I was actually surprised because most of the people I was in the masters program with….none of them even entertained the idea of having their own business. It was very strange to be the only one who knew if I couldn’t get a job I would create one.
I guess it’s just made to make you give up and my biggest suggestion is don’t. Seek the help that you need, don’t keep quiet, and just keep pushing through.