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Second Shift: How to live off your passion

An actor and photographer talks about how he turns his creative passions into a career.

Ricardo Birnbaum, 29, says even if he was a famous actor, he would still pursue photography and forms of story-telling as well. Credit: Sergio Parra Ricardo Birnbaum, 39, says even if he was a very famous actor, he would still pursue photography and other forms of story-telling as well.
Credit: Sergio Parra

Name: Ricardo Birnbaum
Age: 39
Residency: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Lives with: His wife
Number of jobs: Two

Our Second Shift series features people working more than one job and finding creative ways to make money. This week, one Brooklyniteshares why he refuses to be defined by one career. Want to be featured? Email Emily.Laurence@metro.us.

You are an actor and a photographer. Do you see yourself ever doing one and not the other?

I'm also a film editor, write and do many other things. I believe that specialization is actually the death of the soul for most human beings. I find that I really thrive in an environment where I can do several activities. ... My photography has informed my acting and vice versa. ... I don't really see one as more dominate than the other. My heart is in story-telling, whether that is through acting, music, film or photography.

What is a typical day like for you?

I wake up very early in the morning to avoid interruptions of any kind. First, I work on my acting craft. I do a vocal warm up, work on my dialect, and do some text. I do that for an hour or two, then I switch over to photography and do that for one or two hours. After that, I focus more on seeking out auditions, or getting in touch with photography clients.

Does searching for new gigs or clients stress you out or have you reached a point where you have enough opportunities and are not worried about your income?

I find the search invigorating. Photography is seasonal because most actors prefer to get their headshots done sometime between the spring and the fall. So winter is a little dead and I sometimes have to search for an additional source of income to provide a little cushion in case I need it. For acting, I've only been in New York City for two years, so it's too soon for me to have a career where I can live off acting. I would say none of them are supporting me individually.

What is the hardest part about working multiple jobs that are all creative endeavors?

For me, the biggest challenge is interruption. If I'm retouching a photo and then I get a call from my agent saying she needs a new headshot or I need to come by the office, I have to shift and talk to her and it takes me a while to get back into what I was doing before. Acting and photography both require a lot of concentration, so for me that's the biggest challenge.

Learn more about Ricardo Birnbaum at www.ricardobirnbaum.com and Birnbaum Headshots NYC.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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