BEING A MARINE taught Alex Neumann lots of job skills, but it also set him up for success to run his own photography business.
“It gave me the focus and drive that I needed and the discipline to make decisions.”
Neumann’s military career started with an appointment to see an Army recruiter. After waiting about an hour past his scheduled time, a Marine recruiter stepped in and asked him to just talk a little in his office while he was waiting. After the conversation, Neumann said he was sold on the Marine Corps and enlisted.
His training covered aviation ordinance and he served for nine years, including a deployment to Iraq.
“I worked with bombs, missiles, rockets and all the equipment that went with it.”
Working logistics, Neumann spent most of his time on base, but the Forward Operating Base, or FOB, that he was assigned was the northernmost outpost that the U.S. Military had, located two miles from the Syrian border.
Always a visual person, Neumann said he looked to find the beauty in the area.
“That was the first time I saw the Milky Way,” he said. “There was nothing out there. I woke up in the middle of the night and looked up. I pulled out my camera and tried to take some photos.”
Moving through the area, Neumann was stationed at Al Asad to store ammunition. He pulled guard duty and befriended a desert fox that came by for food.
Neumann said that every night around midnight, the animal would check in for a snack, eventually getting within two feet of the Marines on duty.
Neumann equated deployment as something to be compared to the movie Groundhog Day, getting up and performing the same tasks for 12 hours a day and going to bed, only to do the same thing again when he woke up in the morning. With only a half day off, the days blurred together.
“I was just doing my job.”
On one occasion, Neuman said he was given the opportunity for leave and a plane ticket wherever he wanted, so he traveled with a friend to Thailand. He said had a whirlwind of experiences, including riding jet skis, seeing a giant golden Buddha, having an elephant walk over him and holding a baby tiger.
Neumann said he appreciated the order of the military. He said he learned to work within the system and that rules were put in place for a reason. As he neared the end of his military career, he also appreciated the benefits.
Becoming a photographer
Thinking about moving back into the private sector, Neumann decided he wanted to pursue photography, a lifelong love. The GI Bill even paid for his college.
He said his mother was the first to foster his love of photography. On a trip to Puerto Rico when Neumann was about 12, she gave him his first real camera, he said. He keeps it on his desk to this day.
In middle school, he took pictures for the yearbook. “Everyone knew me as the photo guy.”
High school was more of the same. Neumann took a year-long photography work course and as a senior, became the photo editor of the yearbook. That volume won a national award for photography.
Neumann was stationed near Charleston at the weapons Naval station when he began to apply for college all over the east coast. He ultimately decided on SCAD, appreciating the laid back, easy vibe of Savannah, he said.
The Marines, however, weren’t quite done with Neumann. He received orders to go to Korea and was stationed there for about a year. His last day in the Marines was Dec. 22, 2018 and he started college in January 2019.
SCAD proved to be not only an educational opportunity, but set Neumann up with local internships that taught valuable skills, he said.
At Dynacraft, Neumann helped build the photography guidelines for products and he worked in the marketing department at Gulfstream as a photographer. He also started his business, AI Neumann Photography, while still a student.
“I specialize in commercial and advertising photography,” he said. “I do lifestyle photoshoots or work a product on location.”
After graduation, Neumann and a partner opened Real Estate Video Group, which is a photography and videography business focusing on the home market. They are busy with the expanding sales in the area.
“We can have someone to the listing in 24-48 hours,” he said. “The photos are done by the next business day. Our goal is to be efficient, low-cost and high quality.”
Neumann said he hasn’t forgotten his military roots. He is a member of the American Legion Post 135 and an inductee to the “Forty and Eight,” a historical service organization open to veterans and currently serving military.
Neumann said he uses his photography skills whenever possible.
“We are a community of brothers and sisters. We stick together. That philosophy of watching each other’s back is still true within the military veteran community.”