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3/15/2013 12:49:00 PM
Life after Graduation: TJ Turner

by Connie Bickman

Note: This column features "hometown folks," specifically Cannon Falls and Randolph High School graduates - of any year - and their unique or interesting careers. If you know of anyone you feel would make an interesting feature, email cbickman@gmail.com - their email address must be included.

TJ Turner, a 2005 Cannon Falls High School graduate, knew early on what he wanted to do for a career. He set goals and feels he has done pretty well striving to achieve them thus far, noting that he has lived in New York, worked for one of the biggest magazine corporations in the world, and is currently functioning as a professional photographer. He now lives in Minneapolis and has spent the last few months photographing for Minnesota Monthly and HGTV.

Of his photography career, he admitted, "It's been a whirlwind. I've been pretty devoted to this career path and it has been my life since high school."

The son of Todd and Laurie Turner, Cannon Falls, TJ and his brother, Travis, lived in Southwestern Wisconsin before they moved to Cannon Falls. Travis, 24, is working professionally for a sculptor in New York and recently returned from a trip to Kiev as a sculptor's apprentice.

TJ admits that his family didn't have a whole lot of input toward his choice of career.

"My family has been extremely supportive, but there had been a lot of talk about biology and education. Both Travis and I went to school for art, so it was a different direction than our biologist and teacher parents."

TJ said he has a lot of fond memories of Cannon Falls.

"I grew up playing outside in the mud! I liked playing football for Cannon, as well as participating in the Knowledge Bowl. Three years out of my four in Cannon Falls I was in the spring musical, which I always enjoyed."

TJ said that he also grew up appreciating people and everything around him.

"I think that's the glory of small towns - you have more time to appreciate what's going on around you." He continued, "I also feel that hard work while you're young carries through when you're older, and that's something that was always encouraged for both Travis and me."

TJ admits that the values his parents provided through education and experiences had a big impact on him.

"Our parents opened our minds to a lot of experiences - we went on a lot of family trips where we had a fun time, but we also had educational experiences. Each spring while our dad was working on extended work detail in Washington DC, we would spend much of the trip at the various museums, Smithsonian, etc., and going to the theater, as well as visiting national monuments."

Along with that education, Travis continued his studies by attending Rochester Community Technical College in 2005, Inver Hills Community College in 2006, College of Visual Arts from 2006-2007, St Paul College in 2008, and Hallmark Institute of Photography from 2008-2009.

"I spent time trying to find a college that was the best fit for me," he admitted. "I found that perfect match after three years in Massachusetts, where I finished college at a trade school for photography. It was great because it was commercially focused. I never really wanted to be a fine art photographer, as I've always thought art comes through in any kind photography."

From Massachusetts TJ moved to New York for an internship with the Hearst Corporation.

"It was great! I was working on huge national publications and learning from amazing photographers. I worked there for three months and then came back to Minnesota, where I began assisting other photographers and eventually got a job with an ad agency in Minneapolis working a staff position. After two years, I went back to freelancing. Now I'm currently shooting staff work for Minnesota Monthly as a contract photographer, as well as working several other freelance jobs."

When asked what he liked most about his job, TJ answered, "I love everything about my job! Really - everything," adding that his least favorite would be the business side of things.

"Everyday I meet new people. Sometimes I'm in different states, sometimes I'm working with ATVs and snowmobiles - really everyday is a new adventure. It's great!"

TJ added that he would definitely encourage a career in photography to anyone interested.

"It really does take a lot of time and devotion and is a very intensive career choice, so it's pretty crazy at times, but if you're passionate about it, then by all means - it's amazing and so much fun."

TJ said he gets inspiration from other photographers and has always enjoyed the work of a photographer from LA named Sam Jones.

"His work is fantastic. He also is evolving into the video world, like many photographers are these days."

As far as the future is concerned, TJ has plans.

"I'm hoping to continue shooting for bigger and bigger clients, getting better and better at what I do, and to keep enjoying and loving my career."

It doesn't get much better than that.

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