At sixteen, Noah Willam started playing around with a camera his dad brought home and joined his high school yearbook staff. Nine years and three continents later, Noah has worked as a pizza delivery man, spent time on a commercial spearfishing boat, ran a helicopter surf company (yes, it’s a thing!), and photographed people from countries around the world.
Upon graduating from high school, Noah won a scholarship from National Geographic to participate in their Student Expedition program and spent a month in Ecuador photographing the country. He then returned to his native Madison, Wisconsin and worked to save money for his future travels. Over the next two years, he spent time in Australia—where he was the photographer for Melbourne’s ice hockey team—Columbia, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand.
Out all of his travels Noah says his favorite place was Thailand. “It was a huge cultural difference, but there was a big backpacking scene, so socially it was comfortable to be there.” While teaching English, he says his most memorable time was photographing the traditional Songkran water festival.
Though much of his work was shot outside, Noah says he prefers shooting in a studio, as “it’s better to be able to control your environment.” This became his norm when he headed back to Madison where he worked for publications like Madison Magazine, continued his headshot work, as well as doing some web design.
Ryan Suter of Minnesota Wild for Madison Magazine.
Once back in his hometown, Noah joined a nonprofit coworking space, “It was very social, very collaborative. I was on my own as freelancer, so there were events where I could make connections and get feedback on my work.”
This was important as Noah was learning the business-side of being a self-employed photographer. “It was a lot of trial and error. I read a lot online and books on various things, like how to hire an assistant. I reached out to other photographers to discuss how they ran their businesses, and I build on that knowledge as I go.”
Noah took on a new adventure when he moved to Washington last summer and now spends his free time exploring DC’s Shaw and Columbia Heights neighborhoods, and has started getting into yoga and woodworking. Although he loved his travels, he says he’ll be sticking around the area for a while. “I’m ready for consistency,” he said.
In addition to joining groups like the American Photography Association and the American Society of Media Photographers, Noah says being in a new city has led to personal growth. “I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone, meeting new people, and pitching my work.”
Even though he’s still learning, Noah is happy being his own boss these days and the work he’s doing.
Current project with the Alexandria Boxing Club.
“Freelancing is my ideal job, being in control of your day and the direction your work is taking. That said, my favorite thing is the people you get to meet through the work.”
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