Passion Ward

Passion_j_Ward_photography

Miami, Florida 

How did you get your start in photography?

I rekindled my love for photography when I picked up a camera again in 2013. I would choose one of my friends as a subject and set up these photo shoots in my backyard. It was perfect since one of my favorite places to shoot is in nature. The fact that I can create or be a witness to fleeting moments and capture them however I want. I love the freedom in that. Sometimes I still feel like I'm just starting.

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How would you describe your photography style?

Emotional.

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What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

Anticipation plays a large part in my process since I love to capture raw emotion, feeling, and reaction. Sometimes that requires holding my camera up to my eye for what feels like super awkward lengths of time. But hey, the photo is usually worth it!

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What other photographers have influenced you the most?

I just recently started studying other photographer's work. When I first started, I didn't have any specific reference person or influence. I'm glad though because it allowed me to explore my perspective and style without mimicking anyone whether it be subconsciously or consciously. Now I am at a place where I am researching the ones before me. I have been asking people I come in contact with (ya know, to give Google a break and provoke conversation) if they have a favorite photographer or know of any who have made great strides in photographic history. Gordon Parks, he told stories of the people, culture, the times. His work is...cómo se dice...Goals.

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What are some of the challenges you have faced in pursuit of your career?

Transitioning from photography as a hobby to photography as a business was challenging. I had to understand the value of my work for others to see it as well. There were times where others saw it, and I didn't, it was so strange. Thankfully now I am at a place where I am more confident and sure of my gifts, so that confidence translates in my work and how others perceive me as a professional photographer.

What's next for Passion?

Finding my voice. It's time to go deeper. Reach further. Color outside of the lines even more. There are stories to be told, and I want to tell them. 

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What motto or mantra do you live your life by?

"Purpose is not static; it is dynamic. Purpose continues to be applied throughout your life and how you apply it changes as you live life and go through different stages. All of the gifts God gave you, use them."

For more on this artist, please visit www.passionjward.com and follow on social media @passionward

Artimio Blackburn

artimio_blackburn_photography

Atlanta, Georgia

How did you get your start with photography?

Initially, I wanted to get into modeling. A friend volunteered to shoot me to start my portfolio. As we traveled around the city to find abandoned places to shoot, I began to get inspired to step behind the camera. I purchased a Nikond3200 and began shooting every day.

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How would you describe your photography style?

My style is very raw. I'm attracted to shadows and darkness. I like to playing around with lines from natural light.

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Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

I like to look through fashion magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and GQ. I also get a lot of inspiration from Instagram.

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What is your dream job?

I would love to shoot a campaign for Adidas or Puma.

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What is your process for capturing a great photo?

I’m a very visual person. I can see the angles and the symmetry before taking an image. I use Lightroom and Photoshop to help bring the image in my head to life.

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What are some of the challenges you have faced in pursuit of your career?

Money. Getting paid is always a challenge when you are starting out.

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On current projects:

I'm working on a series where I blend black & white photos with color photos to make these cool saturated images. I'm calling "Idiosyncration", a word I created that means "to make something unique."

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What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Improvise, adapt, overcome.

 

For more on this artist, please follow on social media at @artimio.black

Nas Abraham

London, England

When did you get your start in photography and what drew you to fashion photography?

My background is in fashion illustration, which I studied at the London College of Fashion for my degree. I fell into photography after needing to take my own reference shots for my illustrations. One of my best friends started a small photography business, and I used to help him edit photos, I ended up using his setup and fell in love with how the camera worked, what you can do during a shoot and after. My background in fashion gave me a deep appreciation for the high fashion aesthetic, and as social media grew, what was considered "fashion" became experimental. I think that's where I started to appreciate how certain brands explored themes visually, frequently through the medium of photography.

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How would you describe your photography style?

Experimental. I don't believe I have a style, but I've been told my style of photography is quite recognizable which is cool. I try to blend a few creative elements whether it be artificial lighting, some digital manipulation and nailing the type of tone I want.

What are some of the things you consider when taking an editorial?

Styling is hugely important for editorials, as it pretty, defines the type of shoot I'm doing. I would say it's as important as how the editorial is shot. I also care a lot about the hair and makeup, but I'm blessed to have an incredibly talented makeup artist as a girlfriend, Rebecca Keates, so, like a good foundation, that side is pretty much covered. You can see how she rubs off on me. Like a bad foundation. I'll stop.

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What has been your most memorable shoot?

Probably the Lock Hatters' SS17 women's shoot, where I had an idea to shoot the model who was wearing a beautiful turquoise two piece suit (styled by The Style Siblings), to pose against a wall which had an almost identical color to the suit. Thinking it would clash, I was hesitant, but my colleagues encouraged me to try it. I took the first shot and almost collapsed from how powerful the shot looked; it was instantly my favorite shot I had ever taken. Speaking of collapsing, about 20 seconds after I took that shot, the model fell down the stairs and broke her ankle...What's creepy is the fact that her boyfriend, who is also a model, was also shooting that day, and had also broken his leg and was in another hospital in London at the same time. Bizarre. So yeah, that was pretty memorable!

Which photographer influenced you and how did they influence, photo taking and career path?

My absolute favorite at the moment is Kikixue; he has such impact with his photos in a 15th century Renaissance painting kind of way. I aspire to have that kind of impact with my visuals in the future. I think in general, it's image makers on the web that inspire and influence me. I get hit deep in the heart when I see compelling visuals, and I often have a running dialogue in my head asking, "Why did they do that? What made them decide to add that or shoot it like that?" Those are the questions I want people to ask themselves when they see my work too.

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What does style mean to you?

Style is a reflection of you; it's what you consciously or subconsciously decide to portray and that comes from experimenting, pushing yourself, overcoming fears, learning, etc. I have been tripped up in many areas in the past trying to decide "what is my style" when it pertains to fashion, art, photography. I keep coming back to the fact that my style is an amalgamation of my influences, of the things that I like, which is vast and therefore not easily defined.

Editorials are a collaborative process. What is it like to always work with new stylists, models, & designers?

It's great. I like working with new creatives, but I'm also a fan of keeping a smaller core team of people I get along with really well. I love it when people own their areas of expertise and push their creativity to the maximum, it allows me to match their effort and come out with something powerful.

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What's next?

I've got myself a little art/ photography studio. I will be working on a LOT of fine art/ photography blends very soon. Also exploring an interesting topic of "synaesthesia," which I strongly encourage everyone to Google. I'm very excited for it!

For more on Nas, please visit nasabraham.com and follow on social media at @nas_abraham

Elton Anderson

Los Angeles, California

How did you get your start in photography?

In 2008, I was working in corporate sales and won a camera through a perks program at my company. I had never picked up a camera prior or taken a class, but it began to become a passion almost immediately. I began to study about photography on my lunch breaks, read photography blogs after work and shoot on the weekends. After a while, people started paying me to shoot them. Although I didn’t need the money initially, I soon realized I could make a living off taking photos. Someone suggested I start shooting weddings and it took off from there. Within a year I quit my job and photography has been my life ever since.

How would you describe your photography style?

I do a lot of commercial and celebrity work. I think my photography style is fun and real. I try to uncover a different side of every person I shoot. I believe that is one of my gifts, not just photography but being a "people person."

What has been your most memorable project?

I got to shoot Sean “Puffy” Combs aka Diddy for his cologne campaign. As we know, Diddy is a very intense person. I had to meet with him five separate times before shooting with him. I never had the opportunity to meet with a client that many times before shooting. We were able to build a rapport through the many meetings allowed him to let me be really creative on set. I hired an amazing team; close to 80 - 90 people, and we created a dark urban play on Alice in Wonderland. We got to paint everything black and play with perspective. It was one of the highlights of my career.

You founded the platform, Creators of Color. What was the inspiration behind for this project?

I started Creators of Color two years ago during Sundance Film Festival. Every year I work with a really cool organization that is geared to promoting diversity in film called Black House. That particular year I wanted to give a gift to the organization, so I came up with the idea to set up a small portrait studio in the back of the Black House lodge during the festival. I made it super interactive, and it attracted a ton of celebrities from Journee & Jussie Smollett to Erykah Badu to Spike Lee. That became the catalyst for Creators of Color.

The lack of visibility of people of color behind the scenes also served as an inspiration for the platform. We usually see the actors, the singers and sometimes the directors, but we rarely know the casting directors, hair & makeup, or the audio engineers. Creators of Color is an opportunity to use the platform of the larger celebs to highlight the efforts and the expertise of the people behind the scenes.

What’s next for Creators of Colors?

We are currently working on a book that is set to come out very soon. We are still shooting a lot of celebrities. We are developing a “behind the scenes” series to feature a lot of dope television shows that are currently filming. The series will highlight three stars of the series and three people who work behind the scenes. We have a few shows confirmed already, and I’m really excited about it.

What challenges have you faced in pursuit of your career?

The biggest hardship I faced was before I move to LA. Being successful in wedding photography doesn’t mean you will be successful in commercial photography. The transition was really hard, mainly due to the fact I focused on what I didn’t want instead of focusing on what I did want. Most of 2011/2012 I refused to shoot weddings, but I didn’t shoot much else. I was super broke, super depressed and trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

A good friend of mine, James Bland, told me to come out to LA and sleep on his couch. The moment I moved to LA I began to focus on what I did want. One of the first things I did was reach out to Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl/Insecure) and ask to shoot her for free.

The transition became easier when I focused on what I wanted. I came to LA doing free shoots, and then the money began to come. It all started with a change of mindset.

What photographers have influenced you the most and how has their influence shaped your craft?

Mario Testino, he is the master, in my opinion. He can do fashion, commercial, shoot the Queen of England, and ASAP Rocky just the same. That breadth of talent and career span is something I really admire.

Peggy Sirota, she frequently shoots for GQ Magazine. She captures an energy and fun that oozes from her imagery. You can tell from her photos that her sets are fun. That’s the type of energy I try to give to my shoots. She also works with a lot of a natural light as well, so to see this big productions set in the elements is truly inspiring.

What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Jump and develop your wings as you fall.

You can’t learn how to fly if you aren’t out there.

For more on this artist, please visit eltonanderson.com and follow on social media @eltonandersonjr

Steven Tucker

steven_tucker_skywatcher

Oakland, California

How did you get your start in photography and what inspired you to begin taking landscape photos?

While I do not label myself a “photographer,” I think there's a photographer aspect in all of us, a part that wants to capture moments in time through a small window and share our perspective. I have always had a love for photo taking. I believe my earliest recollection of using a camera was way back in the early 80s; my sister had one of those instant Polaroid cameras. I remember taking pictures and waving the photo as it developed.

In 2015, I started the 1000 Paper Cranes Origami project; there is an old Japanese legend that anyone who folds 1000 origami cranes will be granted a wish by the Gods. I was making up to 3 or 4 a day. While making the paper cranes in my window view of my apartment, I realized I was capturing these consistent, beautiful visuals of the sun. I began taking photos every day of the sunrise. Before I knew it, I had this mass collection of sunrises on my iPhone. So I started to share them via social media as a way to bring positive daily starts by showcasing the beauty and diversity of sky patterns and life.

Through this process and series, I've become “Skywatcher” if anything. I've become very intimate with the sky, Oakland, and the Bay area in particular. Beyond that, I dove into astrology, and now track stars, galaxies, and horoscope signs. It's pretty cool stuff and often enlightening.

How would you describe your photography style?

For the most part, I'm pretty casual with photography, but lately, I've been exploring an intersection of morning sky watching and holistic living.

What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

I have incorporated taking photos into my morning ritual. There is an order in alignment with the rising of the Sun as I get up and get ready for work. I take photos from first light until I leave my apartment. I take a lot of pictures of an idea so that I can find the best later.

What particular technology/software do you use to help with your photographic process?

I currently shoot all my photos with my iPhone. I use mobile applications such as Spark for video collages, Lapse it and PicFlow for time-lapse videos. Since I cater to mobile platforms, phone applications are preferred as I am usually processing my work on the move.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in developing your craft?

Consistency can be challenging. There are times when it is not easy to get up super early every morning to begin my day and take photos. Do I get up at 5 am every day? No. However, I have found opportunity in waking up early. Those morning hours are so precious, and personally, I've experienced huge positive impacts in life when my mornings are finely tuned. Waking up 3-4 hours before work can have a huge impact on your day, psyche and goals.

On current projects:

I’m currently working on a Sunrise book, comprised of 1,000 sunrise photos. I have committed to this being a three-year project. I also want to use my architecture background to develop digital lightscapes that will simulate the alpenglow of sunrise to help people experience the sunrise and sunset naturally in their living spaces.

What is your dream photography project?

I would like to do a Sunrise series in various countries. Maybe not 1000 photos in length as my current project but a few months out of the year. I can see myself not wanting to leave a country so it could get tricky. (Lol)

What is one motto/phrase/mantra you live your life by?

I don’t have a specific quote or phrase, but I live with a mission to “keep positive mental images in your thoughts.”

For more on Steven, please follow at @catalog_of_light on Instagram

Jessica Page

Feature Contributor: Glo(w) of ART-BAE.com

There is beauty in both the seen and unseen. In the current age of expanding ideologies, the importance of perspective is understood. Each new angle we experience in life grants us an opportunity to grow into ourselves. Though nothing is new under the sun, there is a continual introduction of newness as each being discovers new perspectives. All things are defined by these discoveries. All preferences are reinforced or altered as we discover the bits of ourselves that has always existed.

Visual artist Jessica J. Page uses her personal experiences and beauty preferences when practicing photography and videography. Through her love of nostalgia (cue the hues of Lisa Frank and the energy of Nickelodeon), Jessica J. Page creates visuals that are simple expressions of joy. Fueling her work is the need to create for her own sake. Jessica J. Page understands the need for creatives to create as a necessity. As she consistently collaborates with local artists rising to prominence, she understands the importance of infusing yourself into the work you present to the world. Her images and videography are directly tied to the bits of herself that are linked to happiness. Her ability to emit sunshiney emotions through art is the evidence of her talent. Page’s imagery reminds all creatives that your best work is your most authentic.

Get to know Jessica J. Page and view her work below.

For the record, what mediums of art do you partake in?
Photography, Video

How long have you been creating?

Forever technically, as a child I was always the art class type student and listened to every word my instructors told me. I always asked to be taken to buy paint and pencils and paper. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I really got into photography, and I was 19 when I bought my own camera.

What’s your most prized accomplishment thus far?

My accomplishments are personal. Investing in equipment and executing looks/ideas. A lot of what I do is for myself and pleasing my own need to see aesthetics brought to life. Whether this means new lights, bigger backdrops, sharper lenses, or a new pair of combat boots to make me feel good while I’m holding the camera.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself through your creative process? What inspires you?

I’ve learned what it truly means to not only be an artist but live like one. I am simply here to create. I simply want to use colors, objects and humans to describe feelings I have. I’m living through my emotions and what fuels me to happiness, and what I feel is important. I am inspired by bone structure, cool tones, mysteries and good times. When I’m hired for photos I need to know what you’re wearing and how your hair and makeup will be. It sets the tone for me to select my colors, location, and lighting ideas.

A lot of artists pull inspiration from past creations (like older music artists, movies, painters, etc.). Do you do this at all? If so, what are some of your favorite eras to pull from?

I love the new millennium and I’m happy it’s in right now. Disney Channel and Nickelodeon from 1996-2003 is what makes me the happiest in life. I naturally love the 90s. It’s my birth era. With this, I feel my latest work is like Lisa Frank meets 90s rap culture.

What’s on your music playlist? Who are you listening to?

Honestly too much. Follow me on soundcloud and shuffle through my likes. https://soundcloud.com/jessicajpage

What do you think about the way mainstream media portrays artists?

I understand being an artist is the in thing, and I have to watch my words about that. I feel like at the end of the day, artists do what they want to do. Including myself. How you are portrayed can be on your mind, but can’t be the main concern unless that’s what you’re into. Sometimes image has a huge impact on your message being received. From growing up not really being a good socializer, considered cool or considered a priority, I basically feel everything I do has to be for self.

How do you feel about the emphasis on beauty standards and preferred aesthetics in mainstream media?

It sucks, and I think it’s far from realistic. The mainstream media can catch up if they ever decide to, but we have to spread acceptance on our own. I see things that surprise me occasionally but overall they have a long way to go. My complexion, stretch marks, weight and hair texture were things that once bothered me. To be honest, other people have over the years taught me how to embrace my beauty when mainstream media did not. We have to complement each other.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

What larger themes exist in your work? What is the most important idea you want people to get from your art?

For the most part my work is always going to be providing a good representation of the subject. I usually like my work to show personality and almost be biographical. The more I work with subjects, the better I get with them.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t tell me how to art.

-Unknown

How do you think the creating process would be different if money wasn’t a factor?

It would be phenomenal. Right off the bat, I can picture a larger studio, being able to rent out areas, build sets, get equipment and fly out models lol.

Do you think it’s important for other artists to congregate and work together?

I feel like artists should always support each other. Working together isn’t always necessary. But that could be the lone wolf in me. I feel like I spend a lot of time in my own world and that’s where I am able to think freely. When I am viewing other artists work or speaking with them, it is less about me and more about them. I’m personal about my work.

When can we expect a project to be released? Where can people consistently view your work?

I am currently working with (music artists) Eric Donte, Teszla, and Bloom. You will see more work throughout the months. There is always work on my website: www.jessicajpage.com.

For more visuals, follow Jessica J. Page at @jessicaj.page 

Special thanks Lead Writer and Curator, Glo(w) of Art-Bae.com

Jamel Shabazz

jamel_shabazz

Brooklyn, New York

How did you get your start in street photography?

My father is a photographer. He picked up the craft when he went into the Navy. My home was rich with photography. So early on, I remember reading various books on photography. I developed a deep appreciation through these publications although I didn't physically pick up a camera and start making images until I was 15-years-old.

I had a friend whose cousin was a member of a gang and a street photographer. I remember going to his home and looking in his photo album, being astonished by his images of young men on the street of Brooklyn. It was at that point I decided to pick up a camera and shoot in a similar way.  It started with me shooting portraits in my community. When I returned home from the Army in 1980,  with the increase of homelessness and prostitution at the time, I became passionate about documenting the streets to try and better understand what was going on around me.

Your photos truly embody the essence of young black urban life in 80’s, what messages should viewers garner from those photographs?

My primary focus is people from my community. Sadly, a lot of men and women died from that era. When I share these photos with individuals who grew up and understood what occurred in the community at that time, it can be very personal and emotional for them. I want to them to remember the time, and the impact crack and war had on our community. My photos serve as a form of visual medicine. Some of the people I photographed never made it to 25 years old, so I'm finding a lot of the children of the men I photographed who died prematurely, reaching out to me and thanking me for having pictures of their loved ones. I've had young men whose picture I took back in the day hit me up and tell me they didn't have pictures of themselves from that time and I was the only person to photograph them.

On a global level, I strive to show the world a counter-narrative to the negatively we all too often see in the predominately black and brown community. I aim to show images that display friendship, love, unity and style at the same time.

You have a new book "Sights in the City: New York Photographs." Can you give us some insight on what we can expect from this release?

Unlike my traditional work that typically consists of posed portraits of people I meet on the street, the majority of the work is hardcore documentary and street photography. This work is more intense and very political to a degree. I've shot veterans who had just returned home from war, poverty, despair, as well as friendships. I'm also introducing a lot of prostitution images that I had documented over the years as I was doing proactive work to get women off the street. This book has a different feel; I collaborated with a different publishing company from my previous books, and a lot of the images in this book have never been seen before.

What I wanted to do with this particular book is give balance to the misinterpretation of my work. Many people speak to me about my photos are posed, but over the past 30-40 years I have been taking pictures, there has always been a balance of posed and spontaneous photos. I decided to put a book out with images that are predominantly spontaneous moments.    

Gentrification is constantly changing the landscape of New York, what are your thoughts on the evolving culture shifts and its effect on street photography?

Regarding street photography, [gentrification] has brought new people into the community which has increased your ability as a photographer to capture diversity. Now, you can find people from France, Japan, and China living in Harlem and Brooklyn where you didn't see that before. As a photographer, your eye can go beyond the local people in your community, and you can enhance that by documenting these new people.

Do you have a favorite photo?

All my photographs are special and dear to me, but the covers of my books do resonate greatly with me. The cover photo for my new book, Sights in the City, is special because it represents me following the instructions provided by my father who guided me into photography. He told me to carry my camera everywhere you go regardless of the weather conditions, always have it set at 1/25th of a sec at 5.6, and keep your eye open. When I look at that photo, I remember it was raining, I had my camera, and it was correctly set; so when I came upon the man swinging the dog, I was able to capture it instantly. It went on to be one of my most iconic photographs.

With the introduction of camera phones and social media, what direction do you think street photography will go in the future?

I appreciate the fact so many people are picking up photography and they are using their camera phone as a tool to capture those moments. I see some excellent work, and I'm impressed by that. It has become this global phenomenon where everyone in this generation is a photographer and seeing the beauty in visual storytelling.

What’s next for Jamel?

 I'm working on two new book projects, one featuring all my subway photographs from 1980 to the present. I spent a lot of time in the New York City subway system over the years, so I'm gathering up all those images and putting them in book form. The other will feature the neighborhood I grew up in, East Flatbush, which is the community I have documented more than any other community throughout my travels.

I was asked by the City of Philadelphia to participate in A Mural’s Art project, where I will be developing a mural on African American veterans in Germantown, Philadelphia.

What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Yasiin Bey (also known as Mos Def) has been a great inspiration to me over the years. His song Umi Says is reflective of what I feel each and every day. There's a verse in that song "I ain't no perfect man/I'm just trying to do the best I can with what it is I have" I live by that verse, and it keeps me humble. In addition to what Confucius says: "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."

For more information on this artist, please visit jamelshabazz.com and follow on social media at @jamelshabazz

Messay Shoakena

messay_shoakena_streetmatic

Washington, D.C. 

How did you get your start in street photography?

I started several years ago when I moved to Washington, DC from Atlanta, GA. I fell into street photography; before that, I was taking the standard family shots. When I moved to DC, I didn't know many people so I would walk around and explore the city with my camera. I began taking a lot of photographs of the landscape and scenery and some of the many protests happening during that time.

Where do you draw inspiration from your photos?

Inspiration can be spontaneous for me. I usually will go to a location and see what comes out of me. I also get inspiration from reading books and looking at other people's work. Photographers like Alex Webb and Saul Leiter have inspired me.

What is your personal process for taking a great photo?

It's very unpredictable. I don't scout for subjects; I go to locations that are densely populated and have great light and shadows. Places like metro exits and bus stations are great. I stand and look for minutiae things that people don't pay attention to in their usual day to day. I watch for a person walking by a particular shadow, watch the hand gestures of a person as they talk, the patterns of people walk. I usually will stay in one location and try to find the rhythm of the place. You almost become invisible to people, and that allows you to experiment. I do not like for people to pose for me so I try to blend in so I can capture people as regularly as possible. New York City is one of my favorite places to shoot because you can blend in the scenery and get close to people.

On the transition of color schemes in his work:

You can use them differently to express different emotions. I used a lot of monochromatic while documenting protests; the black and white images captured the intensity and emotional of the environment. I love color and vibrancy.  I want to be in a happier place emotional, and I believe color photography helps me with that.

What is your favorite street photography experience?

I watched a documentary on Netflix about New York Times street fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham. Two weeks later, while I was out shooting in New York, I spotted him riding his bike in Time Square at 2:30 in the morning. I recognized his signature blue coat and ran across the square to meet him. He was very gracious but in a hurry; he let me photograph him while he was locking up his bike. This moment inspired me to keep shooting.

Have you ever offended anyone by taking their photos?

I was testing shooting with a flash on 42nd Street in New York. I took a photograph of a woman with the flash and she was not happy. I tried to explain what I was doing, but she said it was illegal. She called the cops but they did not understand what her issue. I offered to walk with her to the Time Square police station. I tried to smooth it over, but she was pretty upset.

What are some challenges you have faced in pursuit of your career?

Balancing my “9 to 5” with my photography work is one of my main challenges. I began to resolve it by incorporating taking pictures into my daily routine. I take pictures on my way to work or when I take breaks. It can be difficult to manage at times, but it’s all about balance.

Do you belong to any street communities or collectives?

I have gotten requests to join street communities; I think they are ideal for connection and to expand your networks. I try to keep myself in a bubble, in a sense. to help develop and refine my style. There are pros and cons because you miss out on the connections. As I evolve as a photographer, I believe my opinion may change.

What’s next?

I’m coming off a sabbatical this summer. I’m doing some work with Photoville and a few collaborations with other photographers I met on Instagram. Long term I’m working on a book project that will be comprised of street photography from different cities. I have already shot in Ethiopia and Mexico this year and plan to photograph in Tokyo or Hong Kong at the end of 2017.

What advice would you give a young photographer?

You have to understand yourself. To be a true artist of photography, you have to know your personality, your experiences, and why certain things happened in your life. You have to be in tuned with your strengths and weaknesses. Every day I ask myself “How can I improve myself today?” If I can understand myself, I will understand other people and situations around me.

For more on this artist, please visit Messay.com and follow on social media at @streetamatic

Christopher Parsons

christopher_parsons_photography

Los Angeles, California

How did you get your start with photography?

I was studying architecture at Florida A&M University (FAMU) and found myself feeling lost. I love architecture, but I was having a hard time with some of the math classes. I decided to switch to graphic design and got an internship with Mark Starr Graphics. There I met Justin Huff, and he opened my opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities as a creative. My dad gave me a small point-and-shoot camera for Christmas, and I started shooting friends and a modeling organization on campus. They were terrible pictures, but I kept at it and got better.

How would you describe your photography style?

An expression of emotion.

Every person I shoot is unique in their special way, and my photography is a manifestation of trying to pull these emotions out of them. Also, I have found a way to take the emotions I feel and use the subjects as a vessel to express all the words I necessarily can't say with a pen and paper. My photos are about power, geometry, and shadows. Lately, I've been more into black and white, but I'm beginning to explore more color, so I will be putting more of that out soon.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

Life, movies, my phone is full of screenshots. I'm always looking at old photo books and studying the masters. Photographers are always taking inspiration from each other, especially now with social media. Musicians have to list how they take their samples from, and I often wonder what if photographers had to list who they took their ideas from. One photo would probably have 20 different samples.

On first celebrity jobs:

My first celebrity job was Chris Tucker. I use to do graphics work on his website back in college. In regards to photography, T- Pain was the first celebrity I shot.

You went on the road with Kendrick Lamar & TDE as their tour photographer. How was that experience?

It was an incredible experience. I learned a lot from [Kendrick], watching his work ethic. I got to explore the world. Being that close to someone so successful, you quickly realize how dedicated you have to be; it's a 24/7 commitment to your craft.

Who are some other photographers that have influenced you?

Helmut Newton. He always shot women very powerfully in black and white. There are also a lot of shadows in his work. I love Richard Avedon; he shot a lot of people on white backgrounds and was all about the performance of the performance. He was able to capture people very well. Henri Cartier-Bresson was really about geometry and architecture and people just happen to be in that space. He had a love affair with shapes. Another is Jonathan Mannion. He shot a lot of the early Jay-Z album covers. I got to watch him work, and he is magnificent at bringing out the best in people and having fun.

How do you mentally prepare for a big shoot?

Everything comes from music for me. I listen to music and thinking about the subject I'm about to shoot. If it's a celebrity, I do my research and think about what I want to learn from this person, like what questions do I want to ask about their life. I'm encountering someone who has it figure out and in that conversation is where the photos happen. It's less about the camera and more about the psychology. I have to think about what I'm going to say to this person to make them feel comfortable and drop their veil to show me who they are.

Do you prefer strobe or natural lighting?

Natural Lighting is simple and the less distraction you have, the more attention you can pay to your subjects.

Do you plan to pursue your graphic and film work further in the future?

I had started in graphics before I jumped into photography full force. Now, I rarely tell people I do graphics. I only do graphics that inspire me. I've been really into collage work. Film is my main goal and something I'm exploring more. I started in photography to learn about film. I couldn't afford to go to film school, so I use photography to tell stories in freeze frames. When I shoot video, I want every frame to be a photograph. I want to shoot more music video, more fashion films and eventually movies.

What risks or sacrifices have you made in your career pursuit?

My biggest sacrifice has been time away from my family and missing my nieces grow up. Relationship and friendships tend to suffer at times. Some people don't understand why you are so obsessed or always working. However, I am blessed with great friends in my life who understand and support my journey.

On upcoming projects:

I'm working on my first book right now. I have been shooting the series, and it's going to be pretty incredible I can't wait for everyone to see it. I'm planning to a May release.

What quote or affirmation do you live your life by?

Dream big.

Always dream to the point it scares you and follow that fear.

Video Feature: Mshon Pulliam

mshon_pulliam_photography_videography

Atlanta, Georgia

Photographer/Videographer, Mshon Pulliam speaks on his start with photography, motivation, family influences, and how he balances life as a "multipotentialite"

Watch here:

For more on this artist, please visit MshonP.com and follow on social media at @mrpulliam

Ron Hill

ron_hill_photos

Atlanta, Georgia

How did you get your start with photography?

At age 16, I started taking photos of my family.  I got serious during my senior year in high school. I did my first shoot for a local clothing store in North Carolina. I got this feeling that I can't quite describe but I remember how I felt after I finished shooting.  The sense of accomplishment lit a fire in me. The rest is history!

How would you describe your photography style?

I like to say the way I capture subjects with my photography is very editorial, almost cinematic.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

My inspiration comes mostly from the world and discovering new things. I also find inspiration from in magazines and store displays.

On memorable shoots:

Recently I had the pleasure of photographing my three-year-old niece. As I took her pictures, she began to tell me that I'm not shooting her right. I asked her what am I doing wrong and she said: "You have to get low." The fact that she is so aware is the cutest thing. It was one of the most incredible moments of my photography career.

Who are some photographers that have influenced you the most?

Anthony Mandler is one of my most favorite photographers. He is excellent at capturing the mood of a scene whether it's a short film or still. He has an eye for storytelling, and his work has a significant impact on how I see things.

 What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

I’m very detailed oriented. I make sure everything is in place to ensure photos look as natural as possible.

Editorials are a collaborative process. What is it like to work with different brands, models, and designers?

Collaborating with others is great for the art. When you can work with someone and bring their visions to life is always a great feeling. When your clients are involved in the process, it guarantees they are happy with the work I provide.

What are some risks or sacrifices you have taken as a creative?

Being an entrepreneur, I take a risk every day. There are days I wake up and not know where the next job will come from. I still have to hold my head high and exude confidence that I will be blessed to continue to get work. Believing in myself and completely jumping off that cliff to follow my dreams, was a risk I was willing to take!

What’s next?

I have two campaigns that are in the works. I can't give too many details right now, but I'm super excited.

What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Less is more. Always stay true to who you are.

For more on this artist, please visit RonHillPhoto.com and follow on social media at @ronhill

Nana Ankamah

nana_ankamah_photographer

Houston, Texas

How did you get your start with photography?

I got my first camera in the spring of 2015 that I still use today, my Nikon D3200. That's when everything started for me. I've always had a fascination with photography growing up because my family was never really big picture takers. It was almost like a sacred thing that is the camera in our household. Growing up playing sports and interest in fashion, I've always loved sports photos and Harper's Bazaar magazines.

How would you describe your photography style?

My style, that's a tough one to answer. When I first started taking pictures, I was really into nature type stuff like sunrises, sunsets, fall foliage. I lived in Nacogdoches for five years attending college out there so being out there in East Texas was excellent for those things aforementioned and for that I will always have a spot in my heart for Nacogdoches. Now I am really into minimalism or at least trying to transition to minimalism. I'm also big on keeping my pictures as straight as possible.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

A lot of times inspiration for me comes from music. I'll listen to a song and hear a lyric, and it will inspire to go out and take the pictures from what I hear. The music ranges from Kanye to Sam Smith to whatever I am listening to at the time. My girlfriend Karina has also been a big inspiration for me is well. I love taking pictures of her, forever my favorite muse.

On memorable projects:

I just started a hashtag called #MeDɔByNana Me Dɔ in the Twi language which is native to Ghana in West Africa means my love. It's just me capturing black love in all forms, so it is something I am excited about as the year moves along. I also plan on making a book out of the pictures at the end of the year.

What other photographers have influenced you the most? How has their influenced shaped your craft?

Some photographers that stick out to me are Temi Coker (@Temi.Coker) who I had the chance to meet and hang out with for an afternoon. He's a really good dude and of course amazing photographer. Rosebeth Akharamen (@isi.rose), who I went to college and worked with a few times. I've seen her grow as a photographer. Faidat Bakare (@riotmuse) another photographer I went to college and worked with, and have seen her grow so much as a photographer as well. I chose these three because we all share African heritage, and growing up in our culture your talents in arts are never respected by your family, who I feel can be your biggest support and make a big difference in your craft. If you know they back you, if it's not a doctor or lawyer then you are wasting your time. So it's refreshing to see so many creative fellow Africans out there breaking out their shells and showing their artistic side better yet making careers out of it. One other photographer, I want to mention is Farran Manuel I can't mention photographer influence and not mention her (@farranmanuel) she does a little bit of everything and takes amazing travel photos. Her work along with the three aforementioned make me want to get better with this craft each and every day.

What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

For me, it's using a rule of imaginary thirds in my in my mind to make sure I fit everything that I want in my picture. Making sure the angle or perspective is unique as well.

What’s your favorite lens to use?

My go to lens, for now, is my 50mm. I got it as a gift for my 26th bday from my brother and have been in love with it ever since. I love the Bokeh capability and the clarity of the focus. It works well in low lighting situations as well so I love that.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a photographer?

When I sat down with Temi, we talked about how numbers can be an issue, worrying about likes, etc., etc. when you are starting out. For me also working as a 9th-grade teacher and basketball coach just simply finding the time to go out and have time with my camera can be a challenge.

On upcoming projects:

I am thinking about starting another hashtag called #PlaygroundEarthbyNana which would pretty be a fitness concept and just shooting people working out around town. Kind of similar to Nike photos which I love being a former Nike employee. Much love to the Swoosh.

What motto or affirmation do you live your life by?

To infinity and beyond.

For more on this artist, please visit VSCO.co/Nanye and follow on social media at @nana.jpeg

Jeff Hagerman

jeff_hagerman_sloppystick

Atlanta, GA

How did you get your start with photography?

I've grown up, having a camera most of my life, but I only cared about capturing memories from vacations or car shows. Once I started getting feedback from the Instagram community, I started looking at it more artistically and decided I wanted to take it more seriously.

How would you describe your photography style?

Purposeful.

I always put a lot of thought into composition, regardless of how I end up editing it. An easy way to describe it is just abandoned.

You shoot a lot of abandon buildings and desolate spaces, what is the inspiration behind selecting those spaces for your photos?

I've always been a fan of trains and eventually graffiti. That naturally led me into abandoned buildings. I've been obsessed with finding these places ever since.

What has been your favorite area to shoot?

My favorite place I've shot was a hospital in the south that was abandoned since Hurricane Katrina. The history behind it was just amazing with the hurricane and all, but even more so the contents. It was just huge and full of stuff, and it was incredible.

What other photographers have influenced you the most?

I've tried to have my kind of style, even though I love photos that are nothing like mine. Other photographers motivate me, and that has made me grow more than anything.

What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

I'm just a big fan of good composition. I always try (maybe sometimes too much) to try to get a good composition with every photo I take. I probably miss out on other stuff I should at least document.

What particular technology/software do you use to help with your photographic process?

I use both Photomatix and Lightroom. I shoot in 7 shot brackets for HDR shots and merge them with Photomatix, and then I touch them up in Lightroom. If it's just a single shot, I only use Lightroom.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a photographer?

One big challenge that I have this week is going to court in Los Angeles because I was arrested there for taking pictures while trespassing. It could hurt, not only financially, but I also don't want a misdemeanor on my record of at all possible. Sometimes things just don't go as planned.

Do you have a funny or bizarre moment that occurred during one of your photo shoots?

Aside from getting arrested or almost getting arrested, when I first started exploring abandoned buildings, a guy was pleasuring himself in a building! It's probably still the craziest thing ever.

On upcoming projects:

I’m doing a lot of traveling and slowly putting together a book.

 What motto or mantra do you live your life by?

I just always tell myself not to worry about things that shouldn't be worried about. Also, stress is a killer and worrying is nothing but stress.

For more on this artist, please visit JHagPhoto.com and follow on social media @sloppystick

Derrick Hogue

derrick_hogue_photography_kshpeace

Philadelphia, PA

How did you get your start in photography?

My start in photography is a sad story. I had a son born in March of 2013, and he passed away two days later. I was in a dark place mentally, and emotionally. I discovered the VSCO app, and I got into looking at the pictures via the #vsco hashtag on Instagram. In 2014, I started shooting with the iPhone. I would walk around Philly for hours and take pictures of the buildings. People began to contact me asking how much I charged and I didn't even own a professional camera. I got my first camera in March of 2014, and I've been shooting ever since.

Would you say photography became a unique way to mourn?

Definitely. My IG name [ksh].peace is my son's initials so, through his passing, photography was a form of therapy for me.  I internalize a lot of my emotions. I believe photography became my coping mechanism. My grieving process translated through my photos. I looked at my feed and realized a lot of my pictures could appear very dark and moody.

How would you describe your photography style?

Moody, melancholy, sometimes gloomy. Philadelphia is a very “blue-collar” town, and I try to incorporate a lot of that into my photos.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

Music plays a big part in my editing process. Sometimes I am inspired by a song, a conversation with a friend, a movie or documentary I have watched. I also keep notes on my phones of ideas that I would like to create.

What have been some of your favorite projects?

I have been blessed to have a lot of friends who have different projects and brands. I am currently working with a young brand designer in Philly, and we have been meeting with various designers and collaborating on conceptual designs. I enjoy shooting my friends and coming up with fresh concepts. The goal is to do fashion/lifestyle photography.

What other photographers have influenced you the most? How has their influence shaped your craft?

When it comes to portraits, I like Carrie Mae Weems, Gordon Parks, and Roy DeCavara. I love the way they can capture moments in their community and convey a story in a very simple manner. Fashion wise, Steven Ezell, he doesn't care about what's cool, he just does what he wants. 

What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

Patience.

Street photography is all about timing. Being able to improvise and wait for the right moment. Sometimes it might take 20 to 40 minutes to get the shot you see in your head, but it's worth the wait. With my earlier work, I rushed a lot just to get it done. Now, I place more focus on composition and placement to capture a good picture.

What is your favorite lens?

Sigma 35mm 1.4.

35mm is perfect for me because the focal point is not too tight, not too wide and it is good for landscape. 

What are some of the challenges you face as a photographer?

Being that I'm self-taught, there are times I get discouraged trying to figure out how to do things. Any creative wants to be excellent at what they do, but it takes more time when you are self-taught. Your first stuff is going to suck, but if you stick with it, you will get better. You have to put the time in and not worry about what the next person is doing. I am working on being a better photographer, a better creative, and a better person. I have to trust the process.

What is your dream project?

My dream brand to work with would be Adidas. I have been a huge fan, before Kanye, I was rocking Adidas.  I would also like to shoot a big festival. 

What quote or mantra do you live your life by?

Never talk yourself out of your dream.

When we are kids, we have all these dreams. As we grow up, we have a way of talking ourselves out of those dreams. I know what I want, I know how I want to live, and I'm going to put in the work to get me there. Even if it takes me twenty years, I will get there. 

For more on this artist, please visit vsltruths.com and follow on social media at @ksh.peace

Tyrone "Syranno" Wilkens

tyrone_syranno_wilkens

Baltimore, Maryland

How/when did you get your start with photography?

I bought a camera in 2009 to take pictures of my son and document his moments growing up. I put it down for a period, and my child's mother began using it. She got good enough to pique my competitive nature, so I picked the camera back up and never put it back down. A year later, a friend introduced me to owners of the event company, Hush Society, and I began shooting different socials, mansion parties, and celebrity events. During that time, I did some photo work for Carlos Allen, who later became one of the people who crashed the State Room Dinner party during Obama's first administration. Jet Magazine reached out to me to request imagery of the party crasher. I took a chance and inquired about other opportunities for work and got assigned to photograph entrepreneur Mike Humes for Ebony Magazine. Around 2011, I met Aaron Williams, Editor in Chief of Iconography Magazine and he became somewhat of a mentor to me. My interest in fashion photography began through his guidance.

How would you describe your photography style?

My style is more industry standard at the moment. I'm still developing and grooming my style, but I try to stay within the higher market industry standard. I try to step out of the box and use my childlike imagination to bring a twist to my photos.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

I am an avid Pinterest user. I look at a lot of history photography from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I draw a lot of my inspiration from vintage fashion photography. History always repeats itself, and it shows itself in style on a regular basis.

On notable features:

My work has been featured in Huff Magazine, Elements Magazine, and some work I did for a makeup line was featured in Fader. I also snagged the cover of ECHO Magazine, a biweekly publication located in Arizona. In March, I will have a feature layout in Elegant Magazine.

How have other photographers influenced you the most? How has their influence shaped your craft?

Initially, Richard Averdon was a huge influence. More recently, John Ellis, a fashion photographer in New York and also a friend. Danessa Myricks, she is a beauty photographer and also owns a makeup line, and she's a beast. They each have helped spark creative ideas for my work.

What particular technology/software do you use to help with your photographic process?

Lightroom is the only technology I use outside of my camera. My team is important to make sure I don't have to retouch a lot. I feel Photoshop is overused at times.

 

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a photographer?

Finding good models and wardrobe stylists in my market. Some people say they are experts in particular areas, but when it's crunch time, they can't produce.

On upcoming projects:

My primary focus for the entire year is a seven editorial project. I'm looking to have them all published throughout the year. I'm excited to take on this challenge. I know it's going to be great.

What is your dream project?

I want to work with Nick Knight on a fashion film. I  want my work to be featured in Harper’s Bazaar as well.

What quote or affirmation do you live your life by?

It is not always about you.

It's hard to separate business from personal but a lot of times. When things do not go your way in business, it's usually not about you; you are just on the receiving end. You have to have tough skin.

For more on this artist, please visit PhotobySyranno.com and follow on social media at @photosbysyranno

Dante Marshall

dante_marshall_digital

Los Angeles, California

How did you get your start in photography?

I started in 2010. My dad used to take pictures, so I would go to his photo shoots and play around with his camera. One day I asked if I could use his camera to take pictures of a young lady I was dating at the time who was into modeling. I took a few pictures of her and people loved the way they came out. I got a good vibe from that experience, so I kept it going.

How would you describe your photography style?

It's weird trying to describe my style.  I would say minimal, timeless, organic, authentic, and classic. A lot of my work depends on my mood. Whether I'm happy or sad, etc. I'm from Detroit, and in the past few years, a lot of work was black and white or had very saturated muted tones. Over the past months, a lot of my work has been super vibrant with poppy tones.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

I live in downtown Los Angeles, and there are so many interesting places and people here. California has so much to take in. The barber shops, the old motels with the big neon signs, the strip clubs, and tarot card reading signs. There is so much character in the buildings here.

On memorable projects:

I've worked on campaigns, but the most fun I've had on shoots are typically when I get a chance to work with friends or when I'm working on passion projects. There is no pressure to make something for a client. We just go out and make dope shit. Those pictures make clients go "That is so cool do something like that for me."

What other photographers have influenced you the most? How has their influence shaped your craft?

My dad taught me the technical side of things. He was still a student of the craft. Back then, you picked up a camera and you went to school for it. Today, some of the Instagram guys can pick up a camera or phone and every shot is going to be good. Having someone learning while I was beginning to learn as well helped me a lot.

There are a few fashion photographers I look up to like Richard Avedon, Steven Klein, Helmut Newton, Mario Testino, and Craig McDean. They are photographers I have studied to find their work outside of the fashion magazines. Also, I love Gordon Parks, he is a legend.

 What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

Two words. Time and lines.

There are times when I'm doing shoots; I will have another photographer there, and I will have the model look at the other photographer a lot of the time. While the model is doing the straightforward "eyes to camera" pictures with them, I'm off to the side capturing the moment from the right or the left. That is a secret way to get the juice. I think the behind-the-scenes photos look better than the actual pictures, so a lot of my photos look like behind-the-scenes of someone's life.

What's your favorite lens to use?

24 to 70 is a cool, all around, all purpose, go to lens. I will use a 50 for most of my film cameras.

What particular technology or software do you use to help with your photographic process?

I use Lightroom and Photoshop.  For film stock, I use Portrait 400.

You recently began shooting videos, tell us about that experience?                   

Yes, I'm just getting into to film. It's a different process; you have to pay attention to various things than you would with photos, so I'm learning a different way to create.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a photographer?

The challenges I have faced are mostly internally. Things a lot of artists go through. I get tired of the photos I shoot fast. I'm never satisfied with my work. Keeping relationships and dating is hard. I shoot a lot of models, and even though I'm a faithful guy, these are some of the most beautiful women in the world. That can bring certain insecurities and energies into play. These are the realities that come into play with being a human in the industry.

Do you have any bizarre or tragic moments that occurred during one of your shoots?

I did a cool campaign for TGI Fridays. For 12 weeks I drove to different cities and states to shoot various locations. In Houston, someone stole all my equipment from a rental car while I was getting lunch. I was in the middle of the campaign, I didn't have insurance, and they took everything. My laptop, audio gear, lens kit, 2 or 3 cameras and I lost it all. That was crucial; I was in a position to bounce back, but it sucked. I have insurance now.

On upcoming projects:

I plan to do a lot of personal projects this year. I may even start vlogging even though I'm weird about being on camera. I'm definitely doing more studio work and would like to work on a few photo series.

 What quote or affirmation do you live your life by?

If you build it they will come.

Keep going.

People are always starting things and then they stop. If you stop you never know what could happen. Keep going.

For more on this artist, please visit dantemarshall.com and follow on social media at @dantedigital

Vanessa Granda

Vanessa Granda

Brooklyn, New York 

How did you get your start in photography?

I was fascinated by art at an early age but never really considered photography until later in life. I started shooting photos for my college newspaper because I was never a great writer and that was the position open. I then would photograph friends whenever I had spare time and the medium really stuck with me.

 How would you describe your photography style?

I see my work as an integration of graphic elements, provocation, and color.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

Usually by watching films, rummaging through old school vinyl (they have a unique color combination) and from the big fashion house editorials from the 80's and 90's like Fiorucci.

On notable projects:

My most recent project was with Sunglass Hut. We teamed up to create 27 images from around the city which were then put together to create a gradient effect for fall, from green to yellow to orange to red to brown. It was challenging finding locations according to specific colors but the whole project was sort of an adventure and an easy way to explore the city. However, my favorite project is my #SOILANDSOLE series; I love sneakers, so I wanted to showcase them in a feminine and fun way by combining them with flowers and plants. It's fun thinking of ways to make the two things work.

What other photographers have influenced you the most? How has their influenced shaped your craft?

I really enjoy the work of Venetia Scott, Juergen Teller, Charlotte Rutherford and Collier Schorr. Each photographer is very different but I believe it's important to study different styles of whatever art you choose to pursue. I try to grab the best parts of each, Venetia's dreamy like sets, Juergen's shock factor, Charlotte's humor, and Collier's ability to create an emotion.

What are some of the things you consider when taking an editorial or beauty photo?

Definitely lighting and composition, but that's all technical. The most crucial part is my team, got to have a good team. I choose my stylist, makeup artist and assistants very carefully. I like to be part of every decision made, from the makeup to the wardrobe, to the backdrop/location.

Vivid colors seem to play an important part in most of your photos. Is that intentional?

I come from Miami; it's a city full of color. Honestly, it's just embedded in me. When I first moved to New York, I was fighting the urge to create in color so badly because I felt like no one would appreciate it. My work suffered when I tried to constrain myself. As soon as I started photographing colorful subjects, I felt myself again and I think my creativity skyrocketed.

What are some of the challenges (personally or professionally) you have faced as a woman photographer?

Thankfully, none

I feel that in a creative space, there's rarely any gender prejudice. However, there was an incident, not sure if it had anything to do with me being a woman, but a fellow photographer told me I wouldn't make it in NY if I was shooting landscapes and street style, which to that I said 'F off. (Laughs)

On upcoming projects:

I'm working on some great campaigns later this month that I can't wait to share. I'm also really excited to venture out of the photography world and work on something I've been waiting to bring to fruition for a long time.

 What quote or mantra do you live your life by?

Eject the hard drive

For more information on this artist, please visit VanessaGranda.com and follow on social media at @ohmynessa

Aaron Ricketts

aaron_ricketts

Philadelphia, PA

How did you get your start in photography?

My interest in photography started around my sophomore year of high school. My digital media teacher, Catherine Patelli,, introduced me to the whole medium of photography. Then I got introduced to Photoshop that really blew my mind. I saw that I could shoot photos and take it a step further to create different viewpoints that I see in mind.

How would you describe your photography style?

I’m really versatile as far as my style. I can shoot concerts, weddings, lifestyle, and surrealism. My style could be considered simplistic and futuristic. I like geometric shapes, architecture, and modern clean colors.

What's your favorite lens and why?

My favorite lens right now is Nikon 18 to 85. I like shooting wide but I also like to get tight shots. The lens has a great versatility to go from wide to really tight. I also have a Sigma 17 to 70, it’s kind of similar to Nikon put it goes to f2.8 so it’s really good for low light environments.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

I’m a really big kid. I’m 24 and I still watch cartoons, anime, and I’m also a big movie buff. Those are my three biggest inspirations. I want my photos to resemble movie posters. That’s the look I’m currently striving for.

On notable projects:

I did a project with K-SWISS, the photos actually aren’t out yet, it’s for their Fall/Winter 16 campaign. They have used one of the photos recently for a trade show. We shot the project at a racquet club in Philadelphia. It had this gigantic all black room, black walls, black doors, so that was really dope to shoot in. I also did a project for the clothing line THEORY. They were introducing this new material and wanted to highlight its durability, so I took a lot of shots of figures jumping overhead. I had a really fun time working with them.

What other photographers have influenced you the most?

For the most part, I try to keep to myself because I don’t want to get to the point where I’m looking at someone else’s work so much that I begin to copy them. There are a few photographers that really inspire me: @thebrightesthour, @creationsofla, and @shotsbycones.

What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

I have an unique process for taking photos. I don’t draw out my ideas on storyboards. I visualize all my photos and translate what’s in my mind through my shots.

What technology or software do you use to help with your photographic process?

I use Photoshop is for the composition of my photos, for editing I use Lightroom and that’s where I get to the "nitty gritty" of my aesthetic. I’ve also begin shooting video and I've use Premiere for video editing.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a photographer?

Photography and the media field in general are highly competitive. You have to really bring the heat to stand out. Finding consistent paying work can be challenging as well. Networking is also a big challenge. Now, I always keep business cards on me. When I’m shooting at these events, not only do I want to get my shots, but I also what to know who’s throwing the event and meet the significant people I can reach back out to and invite them to see my work.

On upcoming projects:

Along with building my client base, I am working on a project with a big shoe retailer. I’m also reaching out to Complex because they are hosting this big event in November called Complex Con. So I’m doing this whole campaign on my Twitter to work with them. A producer from Complex actually contacted me, he liked my work and is going to pass on my portfolio.

What quote or phrase do you live your life by?

“You gotta want it” and “Just ask”

You can have these insecurities in yourself, even when you know you are good at what you do, that prevents you from reaching out or approaching certain people. I have knocked out the fear of asking people. They are either going to be with it or they aren’t.

For more on this artist, please visit Aaron Ricketts.com and follow on social media @aaronricketts_

Charles "Chad" Etoroma

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Raleigh, North Carolina

How did you get your start with photography?

It kind of happened by accident. In 2014 one of my New Year's resolutions was to stop and be more appreciative of moments around me. I was noticing too many times where I would see something or be present in a moment that I could capture and just pass by it because my friends were or because I didn't want to stand out. So, my goal was literally to just take one photo a day, whether it was good or of something "meaningful." Over the course of the year I realized that I had a pretty good eye for it. So the following year I kept up the same thing. This time, instead of using my crappy iPhone camera I got into my dad's collection of all Dslr's. Late last year, I met an amazing group of photographers at a Worldwide Instagram meetup in Raleigh. They had fresh new perspectives and they were extremely gracious with their knowledge. I was never made to feel less than even though the quality of work I was producing wasn't nearly on their level. A few months after that I bought my first camera as a symbol of an investment in myself to get better at photography. It's almost been a year since I made that decision and it has been one of the best things I have ever done.

How do you describe your photography style?

When I think about my style there are two things I focus on when shooting, creativity & authenticity. I want to be one of those people that can match an amazing image with an authentic/real moment. It's part of the reason I don't edit my photos to perfection. I love seeing the flaws in photos. It gives it a very "real" factor. I would say that my style is not at all technical and I am so proud of that. I am glad that I didn't take a class or have any formal training on photography, because I don't know or understand the constraints around the industry. I don't know what can or should be done vs. what can't or shouldn't be done. I just do what I feel. I had to improvise for a while because the gear I was using just wasn't up to date (I didn't realize that until I started hanging out with the photography meetup). I used my IPhone for a while and then an old camera so figuring out new ways to shoot things to make it stand out was what I had to do. While everyone I was shooting with was finding the perfect angle for shots, being a rookie, I stood back, watched and found different ways of shooting around them, so I wasn't in the way. (Hah) I had no idea what I was doing.

Where do you draw inspiration for your photos?

I draw inspiration from a few things, namely storytelling and lighting. I am a big storyteller so people constantly inspire me… their experiences, their struggles, their emotions. I also love the symbiotic relationship between light and dark. Shadow play is something that really inspires me as well. I think it's because each shadow created is so different and there are endless possibilities when working with shadows.

On notable projects:

I think one of my favorite projects to date is a shoot I did with some Bose headphones. The story how I even linked up with them is a big laughing point for me. I was scrolling down the #MondayMotivation on Twitter, which I rarely do anymore, and caught glimpse of an awesome caption, picture, quote combo from Bose. So, I retweet it and commented at them that I loved their headphones and that I thought their headphones were way better than Beats by Dre (I truly believe this as I am a big fan of Bose because of my dad). The tweet quickly made its way around several different people within the Bose organization and they soon reached out saying that they had loved my tweet and my vibe and wanted to send me two of their latest limited edition noise canceling headphones as a token of appreciation. After I got them, I created a mini Instagram campaign (charlesetoroma.com/bose) to highlight the story and feature their product. This was also the first time a huge brand I respected reached out to me about anything.

Which photographers influenced you and how did they influence your thinking, photo taking and career path?

That's a good question. I wouldn't say there is a specific photographer that influenced me but a collection of things. I honestly don't even know that many famous photographers. A lot of my close friends in Raleigh have been big influences. Looking at their work and how good it is continues to inspire me to get better. Plus looking at content hubs like The Creator Class and seeing the amazing talent there has been great. If I had to pick a few names of people, when I was originally starting, they would be:

@brandonharvey

@cubbygraham

@1924us

@fursty

@alexstohl

The first three people really influenced my love and need to be extremely open with my audience and tell stories that could actually help inspire and be more relatable. I try extremely hard with every picture I take to have a caption that is worth reading. I want my audience to be able to take something positive away when they look at my account and it's because of those guys that I actually realized the importance and profound impact it can have. The last two photographers just have an exceptional handle on their specific photography style. I don't think I'll ever have that consistent, same-look per photo style, but seeing what these guys have done is amazing. Their work is all just so good. If I could get remotely close to these guys in terms of mastery, I'd be a pretty happy person.

What is your personal process to capture a great photo?

Honestly there isn't a personal process hah. As I have gotten more into photographing people the way I see it all is just about capturing authenticity. I don't plan shoots. I see them as a dance where I am getting to know someone and figure out how they move or what makes them works and vice versa. Once a good level of rapport has been established, creating magic isn't too far behind. Once I get into editing I view each photo as a story. My job is to figure out how to best tell that story. I err for extreme creativity when editing and I try to make it as different as I possibly can. So, my only process is to act as a conductor to creatively tell a story with each photo and help evoke an emotion from the audience.

On upcoming projects:

I actually do. I have been working on a personal project much like this called Espirer (espirer.com) where I am putting together a collection of story/interviews on young, millennial, creatives, all across the country, who are daring to forge their own path and create something of value for themselves. I have talked to people from multiple industries, doing vastly different things. I am super proud of where this project is going and want to show that creativity can be found in multiple disciplines and as young creatives we have the ability to create something of value if we believe in what we do.

What quote or motto do you live your life by?

"I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me" -Philippians 4:13 &

"Strive not to be a
success, but rather to be of value."
-Albert Einstein

For more on this artist, please visit Charles Etoroma.com and follow on social media @hipsterchad

Donte Maurice

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Atlanta, GA

How did you get your start in photography?

I started photography around June 2013, and I started because there was something about portraits and fashion photographs that I was always drawn too. Whether it was the style, the composition, or the personality, it caught my attention and it was something that I wanted to create for myself.

How would you describe your photography style?

I would describe my style as simple & sweet. It's pretty minimal but it still draws your eye to it.

What are some of the things you consider when taking an editorial photo?

One thing I consider is making sure that I direct everything properly, and that it comes out exactly how I envisioned it.

Which of your projects have been the most fun?

Honestly, it's so hard to say! Every project that I've gotten to do this year has been a joy! I wish I could narrow them down.

Which photographers have been your greatest influences?

The photographers David Urbanke, Raul Romo, Alasdair Mclellan, Lachlan Bailey, Mario Testino and Billy Kidd are my favorite photographers in the world! Looking through their work they help me realize that having a simple photographic style is okay. You don't have to own the topnotch equipment or have these elaborate sets to make a shoot good. It's all about your eye and what you can create.

What does style mean to you?

Style is something timeless to me. A person that has style can wear anything and make it look phenomenal

What has been some of your greatest challenges?

The huge challenge is getting out of my comfort zone sometimes when it comes to different clients and assignments. I have to approach everyone's shoot differently and not focus on what I like for them. It's hard because it feels like I'm relinquishing power.

What is it like to always work with new stylists, models, and designers?

I think it's completely fine! I always become very comfortable with the people I collaborate so every shoot is literally a great time.

Any upcoming projects?

You will have to keep watching! ;)

What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Rome wasn't built in a day.

 A lot of times I get a little down when things aren’t happening fast enough for me but then I remember it takes a while for great things to happen and a long development makes for longevity.

For more on this artist, please visit dontemaurice.com and follow on social media @dontemaurice