This month I interviewed Erik Holladay-McCann about his experiences as an LGBTQ business owner and employee. Keep reading for his insights.
Question: Tell me a little about yourself and your business?
Answer: My name is Erik Holladay-McCann, the proud owner and operator of Holladay Photography. I launched my own studio in Michigan in 2009, after leaving the press corps following 25 incredible years as a photojournalist, a career that I broke into at the (now unbelievable) age of 14. Combining my passion for storytelling and documentary-style photography with my creative aesthetic derived from a bold cinematic standpoint in my photographs is something I truly love and am privileged to do as a career. Pulling that fledgling business up from its roots in West Michigan and transplanting it to the much bigger planter that is Denver inspired biblical levels of anxiety, though I’ve been able to channel those nerves in ways that have helped my passion flourish.
Question: What makes Holladay Photography unique?
Answer: Visual storytelling is my ultimate goal for any photograph. I first fell in love with that approach during my days in the news media, and that method has since served me well in my private endeavors, especially with wedding photography. I thrive on the challenge of finding those fleeting moments in everyday life that demand to be captured and crafted into a work of art. When done well, it’s something that can transcend genre and pull the viewer in deeper.
Question: You’re new to Denver, like many of us. Tell me a little about what you’ve noticed about the Denver business culture compared to places you’ve worked previously?
Answer: Michigan is a great place, but breaking into a new market there often meant fighting tooth-and-claw for every inch. Hard earned loyalty is the currency of that realm, and everyone has a “guy” for whatever they may need. Having said that, though, I owe a debt of gratitude to my home state, as I would not be where I am today without the lessons and lumps I took there.
On the flip side, Denver is the proverbial fertile soil for wild ideas, creative solutions and bright-eyed start up ventures. There is plenty of passion and energy to spread around, which makes it a wonderful place and time to participate in the local business culture.
Question: Let’s do a fun question – what is something people may not know just by looking at you?
Answer: I used to be able to dunk a basketball pretty easily. I may only stand 5’ 10” tall, but I had a freakish vertical leap.
Question: What factors contributed to your decision to align your business with the LGBTQ community?
Answer: I am a gay man and an “out and proud” business owner. I feel a certain sense of duty to help businesses and consumers find quality products and vendors within our community.
Question: Have you always been involved in the LGBTQ business community?
Answer: While the demographics of my home town region are shifting younger and toward a more progressive mindset, the community there was, and still is, quite conservative. Though I was engaged with the community on a personal level, I couldn’t enjoy the pleasure of being able to comfortably operate an “out and proud” business. Relocating to Denver was a breath of fresh air which afforded me the opportunity to fully embrace the LGBTQ community from a professional standpoint.
Question: You’re a member of the Denver Gay Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. What value has it added to your life and business?
Answer: It’s a great honor to be a part of an organization such as the DGLCC which stresses the value to be had in forming new relationships with other community organizations. Learning about the different chamber members and their unique businesses puts a wealth of resources within easy reach, and I have made many friends as a result. I am proud to be a contributing member to the DGLCC, and always look for ways that I can drive new business to other members.
Question: Do you remember a time it was difficult to be LGBTQ in any of your workplaces/work experiences?
Answer: My first newspaper office served a small town in the early 90’s, largely comprised of the “fire and brimstone” parishioners of the local Christian Reformed Church. Extreme animosity toward the LGBTQ community was an accepted part of daily life in the community at that time, so I played it safe and remained in the closet. Phrases such as “that’s so gay”, or “don’t be a faggot”, were regularly used in conversation around me or with me. Seemingly innocent words such as those made it very difficult to come to terms with my sexuality, and the bearing it had on my identity.
Question: For business owners interested in being more inclusive and appealing to LGBTQ consumers, what advice would you offer?
Answer: The LGBTQ community is incredibly diverse, but is also tragically stereotyped and misunderstood Show that you care about the many different types of people in our community. A genuine effort to provide them an avenue to see and relate to your product can go a long way.
In my own professional experience, I strive to always be conscious of the content of any marketing copy I use, along with using the appropriate pronouns or titles. For example, something as seemingly small as using “partner” in place of “bride and groom” can help clients feel more comfortable working with you and your company.
Question: What is something in your business right now that you’re really excited about?
Answer: I’m putting plans in place to incorporate videography into my portfolio for the next wedding season, along with some fun ideas for social media. I also want to give back to the community by helping small businesses with their visual marketing efforts, using means such as social media take-overs as a way to build brand recognition and awareness.
For nearly 30 years Erik Holladay-McCann has blended documentary and fine art photography as a photojournalist. Holladay started shooting professionally at age 14 for the Advance, a weekly newspaper in Grand Rapids, MI. After earning a bachelor’s degree in photography from Grand Valley StateUniversity, he worked at several Michigan newspapers including the Grand Rapids Press, The Flint Journal and The Jackson Citizen Patriot. He moved to Kalamazoo in 2009 to start a new chapter in his life by starting his own photography business. He then continued the adventure by moving to Denver in 2015. He has won numerous national and state awards, including Michigan Clip Photographer of the Year in 2002. He was honored by having his work included in the Associated Press Photographs of the Century in 1998. Holladay was also an instructor at Michigan StateUniversity, where he taught a class in photojournalism. A sports enthusiast, he enjoys any game that requires a ball and recently discovered the challenges of yoga. “As an artist, I am always trying to find the moment of getting lost in the process of transforming ideas into photographs. I enjoy waiting and watching the light hit the subject in just the right manner and letting the composition develop. Time seems to slow as I become more aware of small details and graphic elements.”