Self-taught freelancer travels throughout Washington state documenting recreational cannabis farms.

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FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER
Kristen Angelo

What do you do? I’m a freelance cannabis photographer. I travel throughout Washington state documenting recreational cannabis farms and gardens for editorial, commercial and stock photography assignments. My work has been published in Cannabis Now Magazine, Dope Magazine, Culture Magazine, Marijuana Venture, Sungrower & Greenhouse, and MG Magazine; exhibited as part of the Oakland Museum of California’s Altered State exhibition; and is due to be published in several books in 2017. I also create visual content for Weedmaps, the world’s largest cannabis-based technology company.

How did you get started in that field? I shot with a Minolta film camera as a hobbyist for about a decade. Aside from a black-and-white film photography course in college, I am completely self-taught. In 2007, I acquired my first digital camera — a used Canon 40D — and began shooting portraits professionally part-time. In 2014, I was presented with the opportunity to photograph a legal recreational facility. It quickly became my sole photographic focus. I built a substantial body of work that enabled me to market myself as a cannabis photographer and pursue the medium as a full-time career.

What’s a typical day like? 6 a.m.: First, coffee. Social media follows. Instagram has served me well in developing collaborations and connections, so I make it a priority to share new content daily. Then I follow with any email communication that needs immediate attention. 7:30-9 a.m.: My focus shifts to preparing my kids for the school day. From there, I’ll shoot on assignment, whether it be at a recreational cannabis shop, farm or processing facility. I usually return home around 1 p.m. to focus on transferring and post-processing images. I’ll spend some time scheduling, drafting invoices and emails, researching and developing future projects, and other things of that nature. Technology is such a lifeline as a freelancer so I’m constantly uploading, emailing, connecting, or engaging online in some way. I try to finish up with any work related tasks by 3:30 p.m. so I can focus on family.

What’s the best part of the job? There are so many bests with my job. Creative freedom. Schedule flexibility. The interesting people I get to meet and the stories I get to tell. To be involved in a powerful grassroots social and political movement that’s making substantial progress is exciting. Using my craft to dismantle preconceived notions and mainstream stereotypes lingering around cannabis culture is incredibly fulfilling. It’s definitely a do-good, feel-good job.

What surprises people about what you do? Most people are just completely bewildered and intrigued with the idea that being a freelance cannabis photographer is a viable career path. Nearly everyone I speak with immediately wants to know how to get a job in the cannabis industry. My answer is always the same: Strike while the iron is hot.

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