Back to School

I was recently asked to speak to a group of eighth grade students at DECA Middle School. I began by telling the students a little bit about myself and how I got started in photography, about my many sources of inspirations and how photography feeds my soul. I explained to them how my camera often serves as my voice, how it allows me to express how I’m feeling even when I can’t find the words to do so.

Now eighth graders are hard to read… the room was pretty quiet as I was talking so I didn’t know if they were bored out of their minds or simply a well behaved class! When I wrapped up my introduction Mr. Rodriguez opened the floor for questions and I was impressed and inspired by some of the questions that the students asked.

During my introduction I mentioned some of the challenges of learning photography along with some of the mistakes and blunders I had made along the way. This led to one of the students asking “if it was so hard what kept you from quitting?” I explained that I don’t know how to quit, how I enjoy the art/process and challenge of learning something new. That’s something I always knew about myself but never expressed out loud or really gave much thought.

Another student asked if I chose photography to express myself because I was shy or quiet. That caused me to pause because I am somewhat of an introvert and very selective in who I REALLY talk to. Then I went on to explain to the class “and myself that what really drew me into photography was the ability to show people exactly how I feel. How sometimes you have a conversation with someone and you can’t quite find the right words to express exactly what’s on your mind or how you are feeling. Well photography allows me to show them.

One student asked at least five or six questions. I found out afterwards that he’s always quiet and rarely speaks in front of the class. He asked a question that stomped me and one that I had never asked myself before: “what is the most important picture that you have ever taken?” and he clarified, “not the most popular, not your favorite but the most important.” I still haven’t figured out the answer to his question but I promised him I would get back to him with one.

The day finished with a few random questions and me telling the students that no matter what their interest or calling is – there’s inspiration all around them. I suggested that they look into Gordon Parks work and start taking pictures “even if it’s just with their phones,” find their own voice and to get out and just express themselves. One of the female students who earlier asked if I’d be taking their school pictures raised her hand and told me she didn’t know a lot of photographers by name but wanted to make sure that I knew that I was her favorite! We got together for a group picture and a few selfies and I left the school inspired and very impressed with the students!

afropunkfest 2016, Brooklyn

Commodore Barry Park, Brooklyn, New YorkAugust 27-28, 2016


My trip to afropunkfest Brooklyn 2016 began with me not knowing quite what to expect and ended with me planning my outfit, camera gear and logistics for afropunkfest 2017! For those of you that aren’t familiar with afropunk it’s a collection of fashion, music, art, culture and oh yeah… more fashion!


It’s funny how karma works. On this trip I sacrificed my airplane playlist, “The Epic by Kamasi Washington” to talk to an aspiring photographer that just happened to have the seat right next to me. We talked the whole flight. I gave him my contact information and encouraged him to reach out to me with any questions he may have. Well as fate would have it the FIRST person I saw when I got out of our Uber ride was none other than the legendary New York street photographer, Louis Mendes. This man is approaching 80 years old and stays on his hustle! He lectured me about not having my camera out with a portable printer to make money, invited me to go over to Harlem with him on Sunday morning to take in the scene all while greeting each passerby with an infectious smile and an occasional wink of the eye, “usually anybody that had a camera in their hands.”


FASHION

Once I actually got inside the gates I realized that I underestimated the fashion element of afropunk. There were fashion photographers everywhere and with plenty of worthy subjects to shoot! There were people rocking custom made dashikis, African print head wraps, dramatic hair styles, statement t-shirts, I could go on and on. There was an abundance of stylists, makeup artists, beauticians and bloggers on hand all taking notice of the fashion trends on display at afropunk. 


MUSIC

As far as the music at afropunk Cee-Lo Green and The Internet were my only MUST see acts. Cee-Lo was great and I would go see him again in a heartbeat! The Internet left a lot to be desired. They were just there, no energy at all. Other acts in attendance were Janelle Monae, Ice Cube, Saul Williams, Fishbone, Tyler the Creator, Thundercat and Flying Lotus and they provided a great soundtrack for the weekend.


ART

I’m inspired by art from all different genres and there were some very talented artists at afropunk. Art that makes you think, art that makes you laugh, art that makes you fight back the tears, art that makes you second guess everything you that you’ve ever known. There were artists doing body and face paint, spoken word artists, painters, jewelers, fashion designers, graffiti artists, dancers… the whole gamut!


CULTURE

I have been and will always be intrigued by other cultures. At afropunk you see a little bit of everything. You see people from different cultures, backgrounds, sexual preferences, religions all melting together and having a good time. To call the event tolerant would be a disservice. People were engaging with one another, giving out free hugs and genuinely making sure that everyone they came in contact with was having a good time.


And did I mention there were more than a few photographers in attendance? I had a good time talking shop with them. We talked gear, photography approach, the challenges of shooting afropunk and a few other nerdy things that only fellow photographers could appreciate. I also bumped into some of the photographers that I’ve interacted with on social media throughout the years. 


With all this said my favorite memory of afropunk is creating new ones with my daughter. We had a great time at afropunk and it was our first time seeing each other since she went off to college. As you go through your daily life be careful not to get lost in the grind. In fact make a point to find your passion, to find a way to scratch off something on your list of “things you’d like to do” and then add something new under it. Get out and create memories!


Hope to see you in Brooklyn for afropunkfest 2017!

Something Old, Something New


Growing up in the Residence Park neighborhood of West Dayton my mother always accused me of having an old soul. This was usually related to music which has always been a constant in my life. She’d walk past my room and stick her head in to hear me listening to music from well before my time. Songs from her teenage years. I’ve always had an appreciation for things that managed to stand the test of time.

Being a photographer in this digital age it’s easy to get caught up chasing the latest and greatest gear on the market. This is an expensive “and often unneeded” habit within the photography industry. Early this summer I was at a thrift store and decided to buy an old Super KSX film camera “it was 50% off!” with thoughts of using it to decorate my studio space. The camera came with a roll of film so I decided to test it out. The whole process was stimulating. From the way that it felt in my hands, to fumbling around the old mechanical dials to the unnerving anticipation of waiting to see how the film came out.


Since that time I’ve added an old Nikkormat FTN and an old Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL to my collection of film cameras. The Mamiya/Sekor is special to me because it belonged to my late “and favorite” Uncle. He always had a camera out during family events. I love shooting with the film bodies because it forces me to slow things down and focus on what I’m trying to accomplish.



These old film cameras have sparked a new flame for me. I love the anticipation that comes along with shooting film. There‘s no screen on the back of the camera to show you what you’ve captured. No blinking lights to let you know if your image is under or over exposed. I love the look and feel of images captured on film, especially black and white images with just the right amount of grain so I’ve decided to only use Ilford black and white film and to also develop and process my own film.

So the next time you want to try something new consider something old…

Captivated by the Stroke of a Brush

Inspiration, we all need it and find it in many different forms. This year I have made a point to make time to seek out art from all different genres that inspire me. It’s been a wonderful experience for me and has been even more impactful than I ever imagined.

This particular painting is by Tim Okamura. And although I have only been able to view his work on Instagram and on his website it has still left a lasting impression on me. This painting embraces strength, passion, beauty and  feminism with an urban edge. I imagine it hanging on my wall every time I look at it.

It’s made me challenge myself to visualize and capture images that will have the same impact on my audience. To inspire women to be confident in their beauty, to stand strong and embrace their purpose in life.

Follow at:

website – timokamura.com

instagram – @timokamura

 

John Lee Hooker & “My” Black and White Images

I have a thing for The Blues… I’ve always kinda listened, laughed and related to Blues Music but in the last year or so I’ve really developed a great apreaction for it. My favorite Blues artist happens to be John Lee Hooker. His music is RAW, simple but attention grabbing and definitely has some stank to it. His catalog is extensive with many versions of the same song.

I stepped back and looked at my images from the past year and noticed that John Lee Hooker’s music has made a undeniable impact on my black and white images. There’s one song in particular that puts me in a zone when I process my images in black and white, Black Night (live.) I can see the formula in my head every time that song comes on. Dark, strong contrast, a little bit of grain, that old film look. Black and white photography done right. I usually produce my best black and white images as night too, lol!

Just another reminder that you never know where you’ll find inspiration or the impact it can have on you and/or your work.

Inspiration & Mentors

This brother right here! been an inspiration since day 1! 

I met Uncle McGyver about four years ago at a photography convention in Las Vegas and we’ve stayed in contact every since. Always quick to give advice, provide inspiration and is definitely one of the DOPEST photographers I know!

Don’t underestimate the power of a mentor!

 

X

X caught my attention back in January when we both attended “Redeem The Funk” a function held by Jair Crooms of Redemption Dance Company at Therapy Cafe in Dayton, OH.  We nodded at each other that night but never exchanged a single word. A few weeks later fate brought us together again when I went to meet up with a videographer to sit in on a project he was launching.

I had NO idea that X would there or that he was a spoken word artist until that day. I was moved by his passion, word delivery and sense of style. I was inspired. I took two or three photos of him that day and reached out to him about getting together to do a shoot as part of my Art Inspires Art series.

During his shoot we talked about life, dreams, passion, the Dayton art scene and the pursuit of happiness. We developed a mutual respect for each other and have crossed paths numerous times since our initial meeting.

Follow X on:

instagram @proph3ssorx

twitter @proph3ssorx

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Fate is a Tripp…

This February I started a project photographing creative people from multiple genres. The first in this series is Dayton, OH native Tripp Fontaine. Tripp is a spoken word artist and member of The Underdog Academy. He is also a rapper that is quickly making a name for himself.

Every now and then I will cross paths with someone that captures my “creative” imagination. Tripp is one of those people… We crossed paths working on another project and I reached out to him about linking up. The day of his shoot I was going back and forth trying to pick out the perfect location for our shoot. We ended up at a place I had been wanting to shoot at for quite sometime but never used. As fate has it the location was a block away from Tripp’s childhood home.  Needless to say we vibed on his session and his pictures came out DOPE!

Follow Tripp on:

soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/trippfontane

twitter @TrippFontaine and @underdogacademy

instagram @TrippFontaine