As a Content Producer for leading public relations agency Pead PR, Izak van der Merwe gets to bring his creativity and passion for photography to work every day.
In his younger years, Izak says he would’ve been described as ‘sports mad’ – playing Auckland level cricket and planning to make a career from his sporting prowess. But creativity was in his blood, and a knee injury in 2013 eventually saw fate take its course.
“I come from a really creative family. My grandpas were painters or musicians, my mum’s an extraordinary quilter and my dad is really creative with his hands. But, up until high school, sport was my life. When I injured my knee, I think it gave me the space to shift my focus to something new!”
A new perspective through the lens
It was on a fishing trip that Izak discovered his passion for photography, while playing around with his dad’s old film camera.
“When I looked through the camera it was incredible – you could frame the world however you wanted. I decided to pick up art at high school, and ended up spending my PE periods in the art room while I was injured. My passion grew from there and I started wondering if I could make a career out of taking photos.”
That’s certainly what he did. After high school Izak completed a Bachelor of Creative Enterprise at Unitec, and today works as a Content Producer at Pead PR – one of New Zealand’s most renowned public relations agencies. His role sees him working with clients such as Loreal, Nespresso, Uber and Dulux, creating photography and video campaigns and working on brand development and graphic design.
“I love what I do! Pead has several different departments, including lifestyle, beauty and wellness, tech and corporate, and I’m fortunate in the fact that I produce content across all genres. It means I get to meet all of our clients and the people who come with them. That’s probably one of the things I love most about my job – working with people who are doing inspiring things or are just extremely good at what they do.”
Unitec’s practical pathway to Creative industry
Izak was first introduced to Pead PR in his second year at Unitec, when he was recommended by one of his lecturers, Nina Seja, to shoot some video content for the PR company. Pead loved what Izak produced so much that they continued to give him contract work throughout his degree and offered him a full-time role upon graduation.
“The Bachelor of Creative Enterprise opened so many doors by equipping me with a really broad range of creative skills. My core skill was photography, but I was able to add many more strings to my bow – story telling, conceptualising, videography, brand development, graphic design, as well as a little bit of entrepreneurship and basic business principles. It made me far more employable and helped me get my foot in the door at Pead PR.”
Izak also says Unitec’s practical, self-driven approach throughout the three year degree suited his learning style perfectly.
“I like doing things with my hands, it’s definitely the most effective way for me to learn. Unitec gave us practical, real-world assignments that allowed us to put what we were learning into practice. Our group work was especially relevant. It’s a rarity in my industry to work on a job alone, you typically need to collaborate with a range of people. For example, we shot a new campaign for Rodney Wayne recently and there were so many different people on set together – hairstylists, makeup artists, the art director, the client. Unitec replicated this situation and taught us how to collaborate and drive towards a common goal.”
As a goal oriented, driven person, Izak says the fact that Unitec’s lecturers and tutors aided and guided their learning, rather than dictating how things should be done, was ideal.
“Unitec allowed us the flexibility to choose our own focus areas. For my final year project I went back to my main passion, lifestyle photography. I rebranded my personal brand to give it more of an industry quality – redoing my website and brand identity, then crafting images of work that I wanted to be hired for. It was a great opportunity to focus on what I was passionate about, rather than being given a brief that was the same as everyone else’s. That’s what really makes the difference at Unitec.”
The road to mastery – just go for it!
When Izak looks back at the path he’s taken to get to where he is today, he says the one piece of advice he’d give today’s students would be to take any opportunity and go for it – don’t hesitate.
“I remember when I was asked to do the first piece for Pead PR, I was so nervous I almost didn’t show up! If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone because that’s when you’re going to grow the most.
“My ultimate goal is to become one of the best creatives in Australasia – not for fame or fortune, but simply to be good at my craft. I appreciate people who have become masters in what they do and I’d like to reach that level of mastery. Especially in a creative industry, I think there’s something beautiful in people being good with their hands – it’s a skill we’ve lost to a certain degree. If what I do inspires others to take a creative route or think differently, then that’s success to me.”