MTCC Voices- James Hughes

James Hughes, a 2015 graduate of the Photographic Technology program at McDowell Technical Community College, is well on his way to leaving his creative mark on Marion and the surrounding areas. While at McDowell Tech, James was the kind of student who always took his work seriously and pushed the creative limits on each-and-every assignment.

In 2018, just three years after graduation, James co-founded a video production company in McDowell County called Au Media, where, James says, “we create digital content that is presented through engaging, unique, high-quality stories.” He counts local businesses like Burrito Bros, Workout Anytime-Marion, and The Makery among his list of local clients.

Imagination and creativity have been part of James’ character from very early on, starting at age four when he won tickets to the circus by entering a clown-coloring contest. “Adults would later ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and all I could think of was that I wanted to do something creative.”

Like many students, however, James sometimes questioned whether he had the necessary skills and talent to pursue his dreams. “Confidence was a huge hurdle for me in the beginning and it wasn’t until I took my first video class with Blake Madden in my second semester at MTCC that I found my footing. At that point, I knew exactly why I was there, in that program, and what I needed to do to actualize my dream.”

“In so many ways, it’s where my journey began. You aren’t entitled to a career in the creative industry just because you’re a creative person,” he said. “The photography program at McDowell Tech taught me and my classmates how photography could become a rewarding career, not just a skill to learn. It also allowed me to try new ideas and succeed—and also sometimes fail—but in a constructive and safe way.”

After graduation James worked with Lifetouch Photography for 3 years while going to UNCA in Mass Communication. It was after he left Lifetouch that he and a friend co-founded Au Media.

James is a real go-getter and is always looking for ways to use his creative talents. Today, in addition to Au Media, James is also working full-time with JC Property Professionals doing marketing and photography.

“Every day I’ve been on a job, I can attribute a skill I’ve learned from my studies at MTCC” said Hughes. “From assignments, peer reviews, one-on-one sessions with professors, it all helped build the foundation for working in the videography/photography field.

“Life is very good at throwing curveballs,” says James. “Getting fired, breakups, deaths, depression… you know, as of recently, a global pandemic, but life is also very good at throwing home runs at us IF we keep swinging, and there have been far more hits than misses for me.”

“James is the kind of student we love to see at McDowell Tech,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President.  “In our photography program, he found his calling in life and developed a clear vision for where he wants his dreams to take him. More importantly, he has shown that he has the passion, will and drive to turn those dreams into reality.”