So tell me a little about yourself?
I am a Brooklyn-based photographer who is an Adobe Creative Resident for this year. I was born in Montego Bay Jamaica and grew up in Fort Lauderdale Florida. I live in Clinton Hill now, one of those many remarkably small Brooklyn neighborhoods that has striking personality. The streets are calm and full of plants and it feels a lot like my college town of Gainesville Florida. Starting my own business is an ongoing process I guess. I never thought of myself as a small business man, just sort of a creative that could move fluidly between full-time and part-time work depending on the project. I've had the pleasure of working with some lovely brands in the short-term like AMEX and Levi's and in the long term like Bevel and State Bags. I mostly watch the office while I edit photos.
Aundre is one of those photographers you must follow. His ability to capture portraits shows his deep passion for the people he is photographing. It's not everyday that you scroll across someone so inspiring on Instagram and I've been encaptured by his work ever since.
Your work is very people focused - what has inspired this?
At first, I was taking portraits because they required only a handful of things: just another person my camera and some light. It was really a question of what had the lowest barrier to entry and was something I enjoyed reasonably. Then I just sort of fell in love with what I could draw out of folks. I started shooting on a minolta a srt-101 a dented slr that a teacher gave me, so I shot what was around me: my friends. First just smiling photos, then just sort of shooting more and more and the in between shots gave me a peek into the parts of ourselves that we intiailly hide when someone asks how we are doing. The more portraits I took the easier it got to direct people and allow them to just fill the frame with the truth of who they are and how they are feeling. I don't always achieve that, but I believe it is so powerful, so that's why I chase it.
“The more portraits I took the easier it got to direct people and allow them to just fill the frame with the truth of who they are and how they are feeling.”
How has your creative process changed over time?
I've become much more deliberate in how I work and how I think about my work. When I was a Creative Associate at Bevel, my Creative Director, Mari Sheibley, pushed me to actually think and plan. It sounds so basic, but the process of planning a shoot, researching a person, reading past interviews to see what they reveal about themselves and studying the work of others helps to build so that I can shoot and react more easily in the moment. In a technical sense, I focus on mood, and shadows much more than I used to which helps give images the weight I want them to.
Can you talk about some of your community facing projects? What have you learned in these cooperative environments?
Yes man. The internet can be such a finicky place. We created it to have actual meaningful community and often fall super short. A good friend of mine, Saunak Shah (@saunakspace) decided he wanted to promote a community of specific portrait takers and it took off. They spend a ton of time encouraging others and promoting real life experiences. It's always lovely to see groups of folks turn out just to be around each other, take dynamic portraits and just be positive in real life. Those meets [Pursuit of Portraits] always remind me that people power is the single most important thing. Not likes or conversion but the ability to inspire and care.
A community facing project I really enjoyed during my time at Bevel was Find Your Barber. The barbershop is a magical place, and getting to elevate the image of it while laughing and meeting great groomers around the nation was a really special experience, specifically getting to see the variations of style in cities that weren't that far from each other in terms of distance.
Who are some artists that you feel have impacted your own practice?
@sashafoto, @elliotstudio, @chrisozer, @papermonday
I have to name a few. Elliot Ross and Sasha have perfectly blended the artistic and editorial worlds for breathtaking portraits that have narrative value. Chris captures sense of place better than anyone else I follow. Paper Monday is an account curated by the Walkers (Bee and Rog) that shows a mastery of tone and mood in portraiture. Outside of design and art? I love watching and reading interviews that journalists do, the art of the interview is not a simple one. You have to read a person, anticipate normal responses and then force them to dig deeper all while being a good listener. Barbara Walters is actually a master at that.
What have been some of your biggest strengths and struggles during your career so far?
Honestly, can I say am surprised that I am this far? I've gotten to sit on the floor at MSG and photograph the NCAA tournament, I've gotten to take portraits of people I admire and I've gotten to travel the US! If you told me at 14 that I could be doing this within 5 years after college I wouldn't believe you. Biggest strengths of mine? I am polite as all hell with everyone I meet professionally. I maintain expectations by over communicating and make it easy to work with me in the future by over delivering. Weaknesses? I probably need a more comprehensive marketing strategy. A lot of my stuff is just instagram and word of mouth which isn't necessarily the most sustainable over time. I also can struggle when it comes to price negotiations.
What's in your margins?
A friend of mine who is a UI/UX designer (Natalie Lew, she's another creative resident), taught me a process that I employ frequently now. I will put on a song or a short record as I start to visually brainstorm and just write every visual idea I have for the project and don't stop until the music ends. After that I deep dive on Instagram, thanks to the save feature, and study portraits that my peers and friends to get ideas for ways I can challenge myself to do new kinds of portraiture.
Edited by Joshua Duttweiler
What project are you especially excited about right now?
My creative residency for sure. I am working on a large portraiture project called Stories from here [storiesfromhere.com] where I am traveling around the country interviewing people asking them about their values and how they have changed as their surroundings have.
My other two projects are: Heading to Church Avenue, a street photography project about how the G Train is changing rapidly because of L train displacement and heavy growth and Please, no Nikes at the Pool a visual study about the CDC statistic that black children are 5.5 times more likely to drown in pools than white ones.