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The Hustle

Name: Ned Averill-Snell (Stage Photography of Tampa)

Posted By Bill DeYoung

One of the most prolific and respected actors in the Tampa Bay area, Ned Averill-Snell is uniquely qualified to photograph stage productions, as he's intimately familiar with the way light and shadow intersect with movement and color on the performance stage. He'll next be seen in the Tampa Repertory Theatre production of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons," June 1-18.

Years in Tampa Bay

I’ve lived in Tampa since 2001. Stage Photography of Tampa LLC was founded in 2022.

Hustle (job)

Stage photographer.

What do you do?  

I create exceptional images of stage plays, used by theater companies for marketing, brand enhancement and archival purposes.

Why do you do it?

Three reasons: 1) As an avid theater supporter, I like helping stage companies put butts in seats. 2) It’s thrilling to open up a photo and see that I nabbed lightning in a bottle, a moment expressing the essence of theater: drama, humor, movement, conflict, romance, something else jazzy…. And 3) I like the extra coin. I hope to retire from the 9-5 world in a few years, but to keep making pictures. The cash will come in handy, and getting out and about to do the job will keep me young (ish).

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I wanted to build a promotional website for the terrific stage lighting design work by my wife, Jo Averill-Snell. Stage companies hereabouts have mostly abandoned the tradition of having photo calls for designers, so we had too few good pictures to showcase Jo’s work on her site. I bought myself a good camera and set out to start documenting her work. To entice theater companies to let me crash dress rehearsals to shoot Jo’s designs, I promised them they could have my pictures gratis, to use however they wished. Turned out they really liked my photos, and I really enjoyed making them. I spent the next two years offering my work for free while learning my craft, then I hung my shingle at the end of 2022. (I finished Jo’s website too.)

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

I don’t pose pictures. I grab ‘em live, in performance, usually in final dress rehearsals – when the lights, costumes and sets are all ready but there’s no audience I’d be distracting running around with my camera. Actors acting are always more interesting than actors posing.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

I’ve become good at selling shows with my pictures, but I’m still bad at selling myself. I’m grateful for the theater companies that use me regularly, but I need to do better reaching out to the ones that don’t know me yet. I’ll get there. Next week, I promise.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

I always want to make something that’s a great photo in the abstract: well-composed, good focus, good color … But I don’t see my job as making art. My work isn’t going up in a gallery. My pictures have a job—their job is to sell tickets. Sometimes a photo is only so-so as a photo, but it reveals something great about the show, so it’s a keeper. Sometimes a photo is small masterpiece of photography—but it doesn’t really sell the show, so it goes in the bin. The success of my work is measured not by the beauty of the pictures, but by the success of the play. If they sell more tickets with my photos than they would have without, it’s a win. I try not to forget that.

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