Griffin Harrington: The Man, the Myth, the Soon-to-be Legend

In honor of inconnu’s fake it til you make it week, I decided to have a chat with one of the most hardworking and driven people I’ve ever known, Griffin Harrington. As a sophomore at James Madison University, he’s already made a name for himself in the photography world by adhering to his personal philosophy: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

Alejandra Buitrago: What is your life passion?

Griffin Harrington: Photography is the easiest way to say it… But, I guess this sounds cliché and terrible, but I try to create interesting images using technology. I want to make an impression.

AB: How did you get started in photography?

GH: Well, it kind of started when I was 16 or 17 and I was trying to figure out, with my dad, what it was I wanted to do with this hobby, essentially. He gave me, like, a proposition for my birthday: that if I gained 10,000 page views or 2,000 unique visitors to a Weebly website, then he’d pay for the domain rights of my own website for a year. And I thought to myself, “that’s a good idea.” So, I sold my soul to Facebook and got my friends to click like crazy, and after all that he bought me my own website. Having a website is so huge, because automatically, you’re real.

AB: Ok, so list all the things that you do, right now. Classwork aside.

GH: I’m James Madison Athletic Department’s Student photographer, so I go to all the major home and away games for practically every sport. I work for our student newspaper, The Breeze; I’m photo editor for Port and Main, the student magazine. I’m the videographer for Party Cartel (a roaming college entertainment company). I’m the Executive Director of Video Production for Sparks Entertainment, more corporate events and even weddings. Also, I’m the Photo specialist for P-Dub Media, a company just outside of Richmond. And then, I own my own little shop, Griffin Harrington Media. I’m also a part of the Society of Entrepreneurs here at JMU, which just a group of students that own or aspire to own a business and we meet regularly to help accomplish that. I think that’s everything…

AB: Just everything…

GH: Yeah, I know.

AB: Well, with all these things you’ve got going on, how do you intend to make that impression?

GH: My biggest thing is that I want to build myself to get in a position where I can help more than hinder. Through my success, I want to give back some support and words of encouragement and advice to someone like me. A JMU grad, Casey Templeton, when I was just starting out, did that for me and I’ve always been grateful for that. Just him, taking the time to write me and lead me in a direction that I would be successful in, was invaluable. I’ve been lucky, in my life, to have these opportunities and I’d love to help someone out. I should start my own version of Fame! You know? I want to get there, to that point and help out cause I’ve been helped.

AB: That’s a good goal to have, to pay it forward.

GH: I try to keep in contact with these guys, because, me, I’m trying to fake it ‘til I make it. I think starting your own business is the biggest example of that, too. Cause you have no idea what you’re doing and you need all the help you can get.

AB: On another note, in all your experience, what was your favorite shot you’ve ever taken?

GH: My favorite photo, that I’ve ever taken, was my junior year. I got to have a photo shoot with Michelle Obama. That was awesome, even though I was a junior and I didn’t really know what I was doing… It was amazing.

AB: Where, then, do you see yourself in like ten years, faking it?

GH: Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver… wouldn’t mind having a house in each.

AB: Not New York? I know you told me you lived there for a little while.

GH: Yeah, I did when I was interning at Getty Images for the summer. I was lucky enough to meet some of the best photojournalists in the world and sit down and buy them lunch and edit their pictures. That was actually the first time I actually used that slogan; technically, you were supposed to be 18 to get the internship, and I was 16 and was about to turn 17 during the internship and no one found out until the last week. But it didn’t really matter; no one cared. What they cared about was that I wanted to do the work and I was happy to be there. I once heard this Nerdist podcast that always hit me, where this comedian said, “Book the venue before you write the material.”

AB: Which boils down to, “Fake it ‘til you make it”…

GH: Exactly! It’s important to realize that if you can produce the work, no one cares how old you are. No one cares if you have any experience. You just have to produce quality, timely work. I haven’t missed a deadline since I was 16, and that’s one of the things I’m most proud of.

AB: Last question, is there anything you’d say, other than “Fake it ‘til you make it”, to someone like you, trying to get into this field, trying to make it?

GH: Well, ok, so “Fake it ‘til you make it”, but that doesn’t mean lie. You have to never lie to someone about previous experiences, or you know specific jobs. This gets into a grey area… but it’s all about how you frame it.

AB: No pun intended…

GH: But it really is.  Right now I’m reading this book by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, where he talks about how in order to perfect something, some craft, you have to reach ten thousand hours worth of work. I’m working on mine now; so I can perfect, to my best ability, my photography. So another piece of advice I’d give: start on your ten thousand. Hour twenty will be hard, but if you’re on hour two hundred, you’re on your way. So get rolling on that. And also, never think that art is a selfish job; it’s a collaborative effort. There are as many jobs as there are talented people, so don’t think that you shouldn’t help out your fellow artist in some small way.

Befriend Griffin on Facebook or check out his website for a look at how he’s making it.

-Alejandra Buitrago, Staff Writer

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About Alejandra Buitrago

TV addict, anglophile, and aspiring screenwriter currently seeking her "Great Perhaps". Moonlights as Staff Editor for Inconnu Magazine, though her romantic involvement with Netflix is a priority.

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