Mike Anderson: Hey Now!Mar 01, 2017 08:30AM ● By Jason Huddle
Six years ago, Mike Anderson was a prime example of a restless spirit. Working in the food service industry, he worked his nine-to-five to pay the bills, but was miserable.
“When I grew up, I wanted to be a painter,” Anderson recalls from childhood. “I sketched, doodled, entered contests and won all kinds of art awards in high school. I love landscapes and architecture and that’s what I took pictures of. It’s always been a hobby. I still have photos of my mom in Memorial Garden.”
After high school, Anderson admits that he partied, sowed his wild oats, met a nurse, became a father and got a grown-up job.
“I was just worried about paying the bills, working my Monday through Friday job,” he says. “One Christmas, I was at a party. I hated my job but I had friends who saw my landscapes, liked my pictures and told me I should get into photography.”
That got his wheels turning, so he pulled out his camera gear and started practicing. “It was a struggle for a good year, year and a half, because I didn’t have a style. My stuff looked like everybody else’s,” Anderson shares. “Then I found one picture that looked different from anything
else I’d shot. The lighting was different and I knew it. And when I edited it, I started looking at the camera settings, how I set up my lighting. After about two weeks, I got it. I’ve been shooting that way for the past five years.”
Anyone who knows Anderson can’t deny that he’s a Type A personality. “I couldn’t sit in an office,” he says. “I’m always looking for the next shot; it never turns off. How does the shadow fall? When I see it again, I’ll remember it and I’ll know what I need to do to get a really cool shot. I analyze and critique all images.”
What sets Anderson apart from other entrepreneurs – and could be attributed to that Type A personality – are his wicked self-marketing skills. He’s taken social media to a new level with regard to business promotion.
“Facebook was the first thing I did – on January 2, 2010,” he explains. “It’s all about building a brand, a style that separates you from the crowd. If you shoot and look like everybody else, then you’re going to be just like everybody else. Once I developed my style, then I was, like, how do I market this?
“Facebook travels to 50 cities each year and has seminars on how to grow your business. When they came to the Charlotte market in May 2015, they reached out to Congressman Hudson’s office. A staffer there told them about me and they approached me.”
As part of that seminar, Anderson was asked to sit on a discussion panel that fielded questions from the audience. “They liked how I spoke, ranted, etc. I even spoke over the Facebook rep, raising my hand and asking to answer a question. The video was replayed at Facebook.”
That event got Anderson noticed at the Facebook corporate office in Menlo Park, CA. Representatives there requested that he sign a marketing agreement that would see his story go national.
“Then they emailed me again and said they were having an event at their headquarters. They invited me out and spotlighted me. They displayed photos I’d taken, one being a photo of the old historic Cabarrus County Courthouse. I couldn’t help but think, wow, little old Cabarrus County, North Carolina.”
But that wasn’t the end of Anderson’s relationship with Facebook. Last year he was nominated for Facebook’s Small and Medium Business (SMB) Council; his placement had to be voted on.
“I got a phone call that said, ‘Michael, you’ve been selected.’ We’re talking 50 million businesses on Facebook worldwide…on the entire planet. I’m one of 24 businesses they picked and one of 12
nationally. They said, ‘We’re flying you out again for a summit.’ There were business owners from all over the country. I got to meet Sheryl Sandberg again (Facebook COO) and we met the heads of every department at Facebook.
Anderson is serving a temporary term on the SMB Council, which offers advice to Facebook about the development of their online tools.
Aside from the self-marketing, Anderson says the community is what built his business. “Jason Huddle (Cabarrus Magazine) gave me my first opportunity: Cyndie Mynatt in front of a yellow Camaro. From there, it was the Cabarrus CVB and being their photographer for the past four years…Special Olympics, BBBS Pancake Day, JoyProm, the Concord Police Department, Cabarrus County Government and the annual Christmas tree lighting.
Anderson describes the tree lighting photo as the one that changed his life. “It was the catalyst that made me known,” he says. “Concord Mayor Padgett called wanting to enter it in a statewide competition and we won. We beat 63 other cities.
“The one thing that brings me joy more than anything is the community. I grew up in Harrisburg and have lived in Concord since I was 15. I like to help promote and enrich the community I live in.”
Anderson also did what financial advisors would call the right thing. He initially retained his nine-to-five job while shooting part-time. Once he saw the photography business taking over, he felt confident enough to quit his job and take the plunge. And to go along with his marketing technique, he’s created a persona: his trademark fedora.
Anderson likes where his business is today, but still worries that he isn’t busy enough. And while he’s approached by soon-to-be brides from all over the U.S. to shoot their weddings, he says, “Landscape will always be my first love because it never says to me, ‘Do I look fat in this dress?’ I love shooting cars, concerts, sports, anything that’s in the moment.”
That’s a fitting segue to the new UpTown Suites nearing completion in the Concord Mills corridor. Anderson has been approached by local management there to put his photos in all of the hotel’s 125 rooms. Cabarrus Magazine will follow up with Anderson on that front.
If that’s not enough, Anderson recently leased the old Oxford Studios on Union Street in downtown Concord. Little did he know at the time that he’d walk into another dimension, as Rod Serling would say. Photographers Claude Oxford and Lawson Bonds were the last two photographers to occupy the studio space and left everything just how it had been…everything.
“It’s such a time capsule,” Anderson says. “I’ve found negatives, prints and old photo equipment. I’ve had photographers and camera stores from all over the country reach out to me wanting to buy it. I tell them it’s not for sale. I’ll get all this stuff into the right hands: the Historical Society, the library. Some of this stuff hasn’t been opened up since the ‘40s…the mall getting built, the parade, Raiford Troutman from 1964.”
Anderson has made it his mission to reunite as many people as possible with their old photos. He’s documenting the process by taking shots of the subjects with their reclaimed pictures. Many can be seen and appreciated on his Facebook page. He also urges those with an interest to see the space to send him a message via his Facebook page or website.
In the meantime, Anderson will continue doing what he does best, and loves. “I’ll never stop shooting,” he says. “I’ll be buried with a camera. I’m only as good as my last shot and my next one will be my best.”
Article by: Kim Cassell
Photos Courtesy: Michael A Anderson Photography