Dream comes true for former CCHS student | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | April 26, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: April 25, 2018 at 10:09 am
Chris Cavanaugh lands job with BET Network in New York City.
Not many people achieve their life’s dream at age 25. But Christopher Cavanaugh never let his youth stop him. And on April 18, his dream became a reality when he landed a job as a photographer with BET Network in New York City.
The son of Micheal and Aquilla Cavanaugh grew up in Walterboro and attended Colleton County schools until he was in the 10th grade, when the family moved to Summerville. (His mother also grew up in Colleton County, the daughter of Mildred and Paul Yates of Red Root near Ruffin.)
In high school, “I was always that kid who had a camera, taking photos of the kids around school,” Cavanaugh said, with a Sony A230 that was a gift from his mom. About 10th grade, his love of fashion “started to overtake my love of photography” and he decided to begin taking more fashion-oriented pictures of his classmates. He credits CCHS teacher Amy Welch as “my teacher who pushed me and inspired my photo career.”
After the family moved to Summerville, his photography career began to take off. In the 11th grade, he got the opportunity to start working with Charleston area modeling agencies, then moved on to magazines. “That’s when the quality of my photos started to really grow,” he said. His first photo spread was published in “The Prom Magazine” that same year.
While others went off in different directions after graduation, Cavanaugh kept his focus on photography. He continued working with different Charleston-area agencies and then traveled to New York City “on a leap of faith” to work in fashion photography. “I’d never been to New York City, but my best friend wanted to be a model, so we just went and knocked on doors.” He found some who took at a look at his work and were impressed enough to let him shoot photos of their models.
But that still wasn’t enough. “I wanted to take my career to the next level: celebrities, directors, makeup models.” So he sent some of his work to celebrity makeup artist Perell Mulin in Los Angeles and was surprised to find he wanted him to come to California to photograph a project.
But Cavanaugh had a small problem. “I was right out of high school and just didn’t have the funds to travel to California and spend a week. I got kind of down on myself, wondering how are these things going to happen?” Just a couple of months later, however, he got a second chance when he was contacted to photograph singer Tina Campbell for her first solo gospel album. That time he made it to California, and his portfolio expanded.
And a whole new window opened when he went back to Los Angeles a short time later for a shoot arranged by Dorion Renaud with his friend Malika Hagg from “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
“That opened up a whole new level of bigger clients and publications and helped me move up to a bigger network,” Cavanaugh said.
But his heart was still in New York. “I was going to move to LA, because that’s where everyone thought I should go. But in my heart, I wanted to go back to New York.” Then his pastor told him that he agreed he ought to go to New York, because “that’s where I was going to get my next big deal – that’s where it needed to be.”
The pastor’s intuition was right.
Cavanaugh had started working for Uber in Charleston and picked up a woman named Maureen Carter at the airport. On the way to her hotel, the two began talking and turns out, she is vice president of BET Network. When he mentioned he was considering moving to New York City, she asked why, and he told her he was a fashion photographer. And as the conversation continued, it turned out he had done a photo shoot for her aunt.
She gave him her business card.
And he flew to New York on April 17, met with the BET director of digital and design and the vice president on April 18, and walked away with a job as a BET photographer. He’ll be taking photos at the BET awards and other events, as well as doing fashion photography — basically whatever the BET Network wants him to shoot.
“The next step of my journey will be to move mid-summer,” he said. “My mom pushed me to start my own photography business since I was 16. When I make it big, she and my dad will be returned 10-fold. It’s the best feeling in the world when you can do that.”