Andy Best lives a life of adventure and exploration. Often living in a camper as he road-tripped across the country, Best, who is one of the founding members of the Alpha Imaging Collective member has photographed one incredible outdoor experience after another. The breathtaking scenes he captures and shares on Instagram have earned him over 616,000 followers, and while his creative peak continues to rise, Best’s lows have taught him the most throughout his career.
Best has always immersed himself in art. As a young kid, his summers were spent at his grandmother’s house taking art classes and he continued to follow that creative path to film school for commercial filmmaking. “I've always been into photography,” explains Best, “but I never really wanted it to be part of my daily job because it was such a passion. I was afraid if it became work, it wouldn’t be as meaningful and I wouldn’t find as much joy in it.”
After film school, he was developing his own content company and looking for different places to share his work with the world when he was introduced to Instagram. It was early on in the life of the app, so he would research to see if other big brands had accounts to affirm the validity of the platform. This is when it first started to click that Instagram could be the perfect place for him to find work.
“I would have all of my materials dialed in – my website, my reel. Then I would apply for jobs at a big company, find their hiring team on Instagram and start engaging with their posts by liking their photos. After a week of pestering one company, they reached out to me and flew me out. I ended up doing a ton of work with them, all because I was persistent. So I just kept targeting brands this way by following and liking their work. It was a great way to start a conversation and to get them to look at my portfolio.”
When Facebook bought Instagram, his account exploded and he shifted his strategy to be more about his own brand of adventure. The outdoors meant a lot to Best, and it’s where he felt the most at home. He lived life on the road and gained more followers, and thus a larger audience wanting to see things through his lens. As his audience grew, personal complexities in his life developed, which led to major problems.
“The way you approach your work is everything,” explains Best. “My approach went from pure joy and passion in creating to being hypercritical. I was always telling myself, ‘This won't work,’ or ‘I'm not going to capture that.’ Creating has been a part of my entire life. I was a bit of a class clown and have always had this need to entertain, so I’ve always created that pressure on myself. I’m really super-critical of my work and where I’m at, or where I’m not, and I started to let my photography play into that. I became so hard on myself and I began struggling with depression.”
Best knew he had to make a change, so he left life on the road to take the time to mend the person in him that broke. Now, in a much better place where he can stand on his own two feet, he’s continuing to persevere by sharing his story and getting back to why he started photography in the first place.
“The biggest thing that’s saved me,” Best explains, “has been getting back to the basics of creating. I’m focusing more on the joy of creating something and giving less attention to how it will benefit me. It’s about starting to capture again and stopping the worry over how it will be portrayed or what it will do out there in the world. Also for me, it’s about getting back outside and immersing myself in the outdoors again. I love to mountain bike and do other outdoor activities, so it's really the combination between getting back to the craft of it, and remembering the basics of where I started. Then add in being outdoors where I love to be, and it’s been a big help to get me on the right track.”
As this article is being published, Best is on the other side of the world, creating in the outdoors of New Zealand with several other members of the Alpha Collective for #AICdoesNewZealand. As they explore the South Island all week, Best is looking to capture a lot of timelapse.
“I love shooting timelapse. There's a lot of reward in putting so much time and effort into what you intend only to be a 12-second-long clip. I’m really looking forward to seeing the night sky there because I have never seen it in the southern hemisphere. I’m a curious person and that’s why I love timelapse and astrophotography. You really have to educate yourself in advance in order to know what you’re looking at, and then you can tell a better story when you get to share the images afterward.”
More than shooting timelapses and capturing the night sky, Best most looks forward to the opportunity to be in his element with like-minded creators.
“I’ve been a member of the Alpha Collective for a long time, so this trip has been a great opportunity to see old faces and friends. I like watching other people work too. As a photographer, you can be pretty isolated, so seeing other people’s perspectives and asking each other questions is really helpful. It feels like there is less pressure on me, and more time to enjoy what I’m doing and to appreciate being a part of this creative community.”