Fall is my favorite time of the year, and each year I look forward to attending the State Fair.
I love the sights, the sounds, the smells. All of the different people interacting, having fun. The lights, the rides, the colors. It’s really a beautiful experience. It’s also a literal playground for photographers.
With that being said, I’d like to share a few moments from my trip to this year’s fair.
Today my family and I will quietly celebrate my 22nd year as a photographer together.
To most people it might not matter, or you may even feel like why celebrate something so arbitrary? Well, let me explain.
When you know my story, my personal struggle, you understand why every moment of positivity in my life is worth celebrating. When you come from a world of gangs, drugs, alcohol, poverty, violence, death and destruction, yet you somehow manage to make it out, EVERY win counts! No matter how big or small.
Twenty two years ago digital cameras did exist, but most digital cameras back then used tech that would be considered prehistoric by todays standards. Plus, most of the more professional grade digital cameras were far beyond what the average consumer could afford. Consumer level digital cameras were underpowered and low quality, but still gave us a glimpse of what to expect in the future.
My first camera was a Polaroid instant camera gifted to me by my mother in the late 80’s. I loved it! I created many memories with it, until I decided that owning a camcorder would be a cooler decision. Fast forward a decade and now I’m taking a photography class in high school. I loved the process of working with film, and I considered the possibility of adding photography to my artistic arsenal. Unfortunately, I moved on from photography to continue with my God-given gift of traditional pencil drawings, and painting. I also fell deeper in love with writing poetry during this time. It’s something I’ve done off and on ever since I was a child. But my first true love was always music.
I wanted to be a part of the music business more than anything! So all of my other artistic endeavors took a backseat while I pursued a career in music. My friends and I came very close to signing a professional recording contract, but with music rapidly descending into negativity I started having second thoughts. After the loss of one of the founding members of our group, someone who was like a big brother to me, I decided to redirect my energy back into photography.
I had my first child and I needed something to document her growth and development. At that time I wanted to learn to use a computer, so I bought one of the first colorful iMac in hopes of making short family films. I thought about film making in the future, so once again I purchased a newly designated “digital” camcorder. The digital aspect of this device was a built in low resolution digital camera feature. I thought it was so cool because, it was 2 devices I needed wrapped up into one small package. I filmed and photographed my daughter for a few years, swapping out one device for the latest and greatest. This was also around the time my music producer gave me my very first copy of Adobe Photoshop, which I also didn’t know how to use. Yet my photographic journey would come full circle in the year 2000, as my mother would give me my first real camera. At the time she was dating a former military man that was also a professional photographer. After he passed away she gave me his beloved professional film SLR camera. I had no clue how to use it, but I was determined to learn.
After a few years of practice, the world of digital photography started to evolve rapidly. It finally evolved to a point that I felt it could be a reasonable option to shoot alongside of my film camera. Around this time my Uncle Billy, who was a photographer during his time in the U.S. military, bought a small, very expensive, fully digital camera. When he found out that I was interested in photography he reluctantly let me borrow it. I used this tiny digital camera in unison with my film camera, but the images from my film camera were far superior. Despite the low quality from the digital files, I fell in love with the immediacy of seeing my photos right away. It reminded me of my days using instant cameras. Although I loved film, I was totally hooked on digital photography.
As soon as I received my next income tax refund I decided to fully dive into digital. Against the wishes of my better half, I purchased an entire digital setup, even though I had no idea what I was getting into. My thought process was, if I can make decent pics with the film camera, surely I can learn to make them with the digital. It took years of trail and error, but eventually I started making photos that rivaled my film photos. After years of photographing with both cameras side by side, I made the tough decision to retire my film SLR. Digital was quickly taking over and I was all for it.
After a few years of using digital, my family and I moved from our home state of Illinois to Georgia. I setup shop in my new city and quickly made a name for myself. Some time in 2014 while cleaning out my closet I saw my old film SLR. It instantly brought back memories, making me realize that even my latest digital equipment just couldn’t compare. There was something about the all metal build quality and weight of the film camera that the more plastic feeling digital camera just couldn’t compete with. For fun I decided to go to the local convenient store and buy some cheap film. That decision helped me rediscover my love for film, and I’ve been shooting film again off and on ever since.
Throughout all these years I’ve encountered many issues. When I started there wasn’t a ton of young Black men interested in pursuing photography. There weren’t very many resources, so I had to get information wherever I could. Many of my family members and friends thought I was crazy for even trying. The opinion of most Black people at the time was, photography is only for old white men. Most of us hadn’t been exposed to all the great Black photographers of the world. We had no clue about all the great Black photographers making huge contributions to the world of art. Even as I dug deeper all I discovered were more white photographers. All of the photographers considered to be “masters” and “greats” were always white. Organizations like Magnum were said to be the best of the best. Unfortunately, most Black artists from the inner city hadn’t been educated on the great Black photography collectives such as, The Kamoinge Workshop. Some of us knew about Gordon Parks or a few others, but that’s it. We had no idea about the racist history of photography, or about the prominent Black photographers throughout history.
So as I went about my journey I had many people looking at me funny. A Black man walking around in the hood with a big camera around his neck was typically cause for concern. Cameras in general are frowned upon in most Black neighborhoods. People thought I was working for the police, or that I was some nerd doing something totally lame. I believed in myself and what I was trying to accomplish, so I pushed forward. Often times I would receive warnings about going out with my camera, and I put my own safety at risk many times just trying to pursue this art form. I wanted to progress so badly that I started reaching out to established professionals. I basically begged for every position from apprenticeship, to assistant, only to be rejected over and over again. I was turned away from jobs and opportunities simply because I was a young Black man interested in photography. Some of the white artists I contacted questioned why I would even apply for certain jobs. They would suggest I try something more “urban”. I could only stand by and watch as less experienced, less qualified, white people received every job opportunity that I applied for. I had to watch all of my dreams be fulfilled by someone else. Even as I built up a successful business of my own, I was still denied the chance to move up another level. That was until I reached out to a Black celebrity photographer out of Atlanta named, Shawn Dowdell. He believed in me enough to give me a chance. We quickly formed a friendship, and he was always there to offer helpful advice whenever I needed it. He was very instrumental in my early development. His motivation helped me accomplish my short term goals of being published by multiple magazines and releasing my own calendar projects. I’m forever grateful to this man for taking a chance on a complete stranger, sharing his knowledge and wisdom to help further my career.
With the advancement of social media platforms I’ve watched young people with little to no experience go from unknown to celebrity status. From unheard of to influencer. I’ve watched the whole art world change. I see more young Black people receive opportunities that I’ve been denied for years. And honestly it’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’m overwhelmed with happiness for any Black person that can achieve any form of success, but I can’t help but feel left out. It’s like, people like me have suffered so others can make it, but we’re still here too! I’ve never asked for any handouts, I’ve always been proactive in my artistic pursuits. I’ve always jumped out ahead and put myself out there when everyone else was afraid. I’ve always worked hard for the things I want in life. I endured all of the criticism, racism, classism, and discrimination while finding my way. All this because, I was trying to fit into an art form not designed for Black people, at a time when it wasn’t acceptable to do so. Back when being a photographer wasn’t cool at all. Making pictures wasn’t something a Black person would seriously consider a legitimate career choice. And it certainly wasn’t encouraged or celebrated like it is now. I know many of the OG Black photographers, such as my mentor, feel the exact same way.
In a world dominated by numbers and popularity, I can’t count how many real life people I’ve influenced over the years? I don’t have the largest social media following, I’m not well known all over the world, but I have had a very real impact on those around me. I paid for a website before it was the thing to do. I started a blog, which I still update even though they’re no longer popular. I used an iPhone to challenge myself in my spare time before Apple started rewarding people for it. I schooled plenty of people on film photography when digital was taking over. I know people who started their career based on my influence. People nowadays get life twisted. They forget all about the real world. They believe that in order to reach people or do anything of any real significance you must do it online. You have to have the numbers to back up your work. And if you don’t, then in their delusional world you’re worthless. I’m living proof that’s not true! For twenty two years I’ve been influential in the lives of real people. Not just to pursue a career in photography, but in many other areas of life. I’ve helped people discover their passion in life. I’ve helped people chase their dreams. I’ve helped people realize their capabilities. I’ve given people confidence and made them recognize their own beauty. I’ve helped people acquire new skills. I even helped people find success in areas they never thought of for themselves. I still help people try harder to push forward despite the obstacles they face. And honestly, I’ve done all this without so much as a simple “thank you” the majority of the time.
I’ve alway been a big proponent of giving credit where it’s due. In my eyes, it’s all about being fair. I’m just one of MANY Black people who has put in the work for years only to be largely ignored. This story isn’t about sympathy, it’s not about entitlement. It’s about real people, like myself, dedicating themselves to something they believe in despite the odds set against them. It’s about perseverance, passion, belief, and love. I love what I do even if nobody else cares. But of course we all want some form of recognition for the time, work and effort we commit to our craft.
I’ve lost so many loved ones during this journey, it’s hard to even comprehend. I’ve faced so many hardships, setbacks, and struggles along the way. More than I’m willing to even share in this particular post. But throughout all the pain, all the bad days, my immediate family has always been there for me. My team of 4 has always had my back. They always encourage me when I’m weak. They keep me motivated and focused. They never let me quit or give up. They show me unconditional love and support. When the rest of the world says, “you can’t” they say, “yes you can!” And “you will”. Even if I never receive any credit for all I’ve done, I’ve already won by having such an amazing group of people by my side. A group that has allowed me to explore my art for as long as it takes, without judgment or negativity. I’m so thankful for my family that it’s difficult to express my appreciation in words. I’m content knowing that even if no-one ever publicly acknowledges my influence, the positive influence I’ve had on my kids will always sustain me. They know the real me. They know what I’ve done and for who. My family and God know my heart and my intentions. If I never make a lasting impact outside of my home, at least I’ll be happy knowing I was given the opportunity to follow my dreams. That in itself is a precious gift. I cherish this gift with my whole heart. I was born an artist, and I’ll always be one, whether the world notices me or not.
This is why my accomplishment of twenty two years means so much to me, as well as my family. We know not very many people get to actually do something they love in this life. And we know most of the people where we’re from never even have the opportunity to simply live. The fact I’ve made it this far in life is a sad, but very true, miracle.
As I’ve done in the past, I will dedicate this anniversary to all the Black people who were never given a chance. To all my people that never made it out, that are still a part of the struggle, I’m right there with you. Don’t ever let anyone, especially someone that hasn’t lived your experience, tell you what you can or can’t celebrate. Celebrate every win! Celebrate every moment, every accomplishment, every move you make towards evolution and progression. Keep your dreams alive, and always believe in yourself! Even if no one gives you your flowers. Let your belief in the Most High along with the belief in yourself carry you forward with peace and love. Do what you love out of love and you will NEVER lose!
As for my foreseeable future, I will continue putting in the work. I’ve accomplished many of the goals I initially set for myself, but there’s definitely more I want to achieve. Early on I wanted to work with celebrity clients, and I’ve reached some of those goals. But over the years my priorities have shifted along with my personal interests. I’ve switched my style over time to reflect those changes. My mission now is, simply to do what I love to support myself and my family. I want to be granted the same opportunity to succeed as any talented white artist. I to want spend the rest of my journey traveling, making new work, making books, prints, and having my art exhibited in galleries. That’s all.
Until then, the story continues…
It’s no secret that fall is my favorite season, but now this time of year has taken on a whole new meaning.
Living in the desert for the past 4 years has made me both miss and appreciate the fall even more. Living in an area that doesn’t reflect any of the wonderful characteristics of the season makes me reminisce on a time when the beauty of fall was just outside my door.
With that being said, I’d like to share a few of my favorite fall memories, in hopes of creating more someday soon.
Happy World Photography Day!
In honor of World Photography Day I wanted to share a few of my favorites. I started my career as a film photographer over 20 years ago, so I’m very happy with the resurgence of film photography. I took a few lo-res scans from some years back and decided to jazz them up to post on my social media accounts.
If you’re a photographer, how are you celebrating today? Will you be out in the field? Will you spend the day editing or working on a project? Or will you spend the day relaxing?
However you decide to spend today, I hope that you can reflect on your love for photography and have a great day!
Happy 11th Year Blogging Anniversary to me!!!
I never would’ve imagined back when I first started this site that over a decade later I’d still be going strong. I’m thankful I have this blog site as another outlet to share my thoughts and creativity.
Huge thanks to WordPress.com for creating a space where myself, as well as others, have an opportunity to express ourselves regularly.
And I would like to personally thank all of the people who have supported my blog through the years. Any and everyone who has read, liked, commented, followed, or interacted with me through this blog, thank you! I truly hope that this blog has helped you make some kind of connection to my work, whether here, on my social media accounts, or on my website.
Thank you to my family for the constant love and support! I don’t know how I would’ve made it this far without you? I love you!!!
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads everywhere!
Being a father has been the greatest joy of my life! My children fill me with happiness, laughter, and love. They aren’t only my kids, but my best friends. I love them with every fiber of my being. They always make sure to make my day special.
Kids, I love and appreciate you!
Here they are back when they were tiny, being silly just to make us laugh 🙂
Happy Birthday to my first born child. My little Angel. I love you!!!
P.S. I miss you being this tiny because, you were such a little funny character. I pray that someday you’ll get to experience the same joy that I feel as your father with a child of your own. And I hope they’re as funny as you were! 😉
“Sunsets are nature’s paintings across the sky“
-Robert N. Jones
I’m happy to announce that this photo of my Goddaughter Sunni was selected by VSCO for their latest journal entry celebrating Black History Month. Their recent article is an open discussion amongst a selection of creators. We ask serious questions regarding issues Black people face in life, as well as within the art community. I’m thankful to share this platform with other talented artists who, not only share their photos, but also their concerns on the various issues we face everyday.
Huge shoutout to Joel Flory, Greg Lutze, John Slye, and the entire VSCO company for creating a community based on artistic expression and not reliant on a system of likes. I’ve personally been a member of the VSCO community for years, and it’s the only platform to consistently showcase my work. I know there are many artists who got their start on VSCO, who are also thankful for the opportunities that the company has provided their careers. Unfortunately, there are also those who once loved the app, made a name for themselves through the company, then decided once they became popular it was no longer “cool” enough for them. I guess that’s how fame works for some people?
To each his or her own…but as for me, I still love to use the app regularly. It remains a part of my workflow, especially for my mobile photos. It’s a totally different experience to be a part of a real community of artists where the focus is on the work, not the following. I’m also extremely grateful for VSCO‘s philosophy of celebrating the artists with various initiatives to help us be seen as well as heard. I hope to continue collaborating with the company and I wish them continued success and growth moving forward.
Thank you guys!!!
To check out the latest journal entry for yourself, please visit the official VSCO Instagram and Twitter pages. Or click the link to their website below.
I really enjoyed photographing different parts of California with my phone stylized in infrared. I had so much fun I decided to share a few more of my favorites here in portrait orientation. Photography is hard work, but we must always remember to make time to enjoy ourselves. Never stop having fun!
Wow!!! 10 years?! This is really hard to believe…
But, 10 years ago today I apprehensively started my journey into blogging. I never would have imagined that time would go by so quickly. I’m the first to admit, I’m not the best blogger in the world, and lately I haven’t been as consistent, but I’m very proud of myself for making it this far. In 10 years time I’ve obviously had my share of ups and downs, and I’ve moved to different parts of the country a few times. During this time I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of very interesting people along the way. Til this very day, one of the most interesting people of all STILL happens to be the person I started this blog with, baby Adayah.
Of course she’s not a baby anymore, but I’m sure her Mom would totally agree that we both wish she were! She was so full of personality even as a little baby. Her facial expressions were absolutely priceless! So I’d like to send a huge thank you to Natasha McBride for allowing me to not only photograph, but get to know both her and her child, Adayah. They’ve become more like family over the years, and I’m grateful for every single moment that I spent with each of them. Thank you!
I’d also like to thank each and every person that has visited my page, liked my photos, or left me a comment. I greatly appreciate your support! And trust me, your encouragement has really helped me to get through some very difficult times.
Lastly, I’d like to say thank you to WordPress. Without this platform I don’t know where I would’ve ended up trying to share my work and thoughts? So, thank you!
Here’s to 10 years! Time to celebrate this accomplishment!!!
After losing my mother last month I decided to take a break from creating. During my down time I thought a lot about how serious we take ourselves in the pursuit of money and a career. Getting back into the routine of making photos again I wanted to take it easy, and just try to have fun again. Reminding myself that not every photo has to be a “masterpiece” or your “best” work. Sometimes we should do things just for fun. Remember why you chose your line of work in the first place. Not for the sake of having another job, not for awards, or likes and follows, but simply for the enjoyment of taking photos. To create for your own satisfaction. I haven’t even been taking my big, “serious” work cameras out. I’ve just been taking snapshots with my point & shoot, or mostly using my iPhone. Truth is, when it comes to posting on social media, most people don’t even recognize the difference anyway.
I’ve always been in love with Kodak’s Areochrome infrared film. But since it’s been discontinued for some years now, I’ve never had the pleasure of actually using any. Thanks to the advancement of digital technology we are now able to replicate a similar look in our photos. Of course it’s not exactly the same, or better, it’s more like a simplified approximation of the original.
Lately I’ve also been trying to spend as much time as possible in tranquil, peaceful, environments. Trying to employ different methods to lessen my stress at all costs. Enjoying the simple pleasures in life, not taking small blessings for granted. I was born under the water sign, so water has always had a calming effect on my spirit. The cool breeze and crashing waves help to soothe my nerves. Spending time near water has been extremely therapeutic for my healing process. From the very beginning photography has been medicinal, so combining the two has been beneficial to both my life and art. Creating for fun has brought a degree of joy back into my life.
Being an artist that loves experimenting with different techniques made choosing infrared for this series very easy. Although I wish it were the real thing, I am content with the results I’ve been getting digitally. So much so, I’m even considering making a more significant project, using infrared as my primary color grading method. But, that’s a decision to be determined at a later date.
For now, I’m not putting any pressure on myself. There’s no timetable for anything. The goal is to use my art to help me heal, however long that may take? Whatever work is created during that time will be whatever it is. And although I’ll probably share this work publicly, it’s not for the public. It’s for me and me only. I’m not interested in opinions, or commentary, I just want to have fun. What’s the point of spending all this money on equipment and working hard for years if you never get to enjoy yourself? That’s one of the biggest issues currently plaguing the artistic industry. Unfortunately, so much of the joy, fun, and love is totally missing from the different art forms now. Music, movies, photography…it’s truly very sad to witness.
So I have to do my best to bring the fun back for myself. I can only hope that others will routinely re-examine themselves and follow in my footsteps. It’s very easy to lose your happiness, thereby becoming lost in the serious business of work. Sometimes questioning your purpose, and even falling into deep depressions. But we all have to remain protective of our joy. It is sacred. The undeniable fact is, we don’t have to create to impress others, or to be the greatest ever…but we must remember to constantly try to have fun. That will ALWAYS be an important aspect of our lives!
Please remind yourself to actively enjoy the process of creativity.
Black & white photos taken a few months ago while out and about.
A small collection of various color photos taken a few months ago while out and about.
The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma was far reaching, extending into parts of Georgia in the form of a tropical storm. Although the damage was far less than expected in the Columbus city area, strong winds toppled large tress, and power lines. The winds also scattered debris across the city’s streets causing some roads to be blocked off. There was also some minor flooding, power outages, as well as school and work closings. On the worst day of the storm I spent most of my time out walking the streets trying to document the damage. Below are a few samples of just some of the things that I saw.
(Please click on each image for larger view)
I remember the day you were born. That day was my very first lesson in learning how to let you go. Having to leave you at the hospital to go to work that night was hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wanted to stay with you, to hold you, look at you, let you become familiar with me. My first child. But I had to let you go…
When you finally came home, each night that I left for work I would be so sad driving away, because I didn’t want to let you go.
When we put you in daycare, it was the first time that I had to leave you alone with strangers, and everyday that I walked out of that door I had to let you go. I would stand in the window and watch you until I didn’t have any time left to give.
Your first day of school, I was so happy for you, but so nervous. When the bus came to pick you up and carry you off I cried like a baby. I stood in the street and watched as the bus became smaller and smaller, until it eventually disappeared. There was nothing I could do, I knew I had to let you go.
Since then, there have been so many moments, so many times where the only thing that I could do was stand by and let you go. It never gets any easier.
Now here we are already, senior prom! Look at you. You’re so beautiful! You look just like your mother…
Once again I have to see you off and let you go. I’m so proud, but so hurt.
I know soon you’ll go off to school, or move out on your own and I’ll have to set you free.
Eventually you’ll meet someone, fall in love, get married, and that’s when I’ll lose you. That’s when my heart will truly break…that’s when I’ll really have to let you go.
I always knew these days would come, yet I’m still not prepared.
I love you so much!!!
You will always be my baby, sometimes I wish you could stay that way.
Why do I have to let you go?…
I never want to let you go!
But I know I must…
Today’s photos are a continuation of my previous post on shooting on the street with an 85mm. Although this isn’t a lens review, I will speak on the aspects of the lens that I enjoyed. The lens that I was testing was the Zeiss 85mm. At the end of the day I chose the whitewater rafters to test the autofocus speed on fast moving subjects. The focus was accurate and fast. The image quality was also excellent. The details in these shots are amazing! I wish that I could post the photos at their full resolution so that you could see all of the fine droplets of water the way I see them on my computer. I also enjoyed the build quality, color rendition, as well as the bokeh. Purchasing this lens is an absolute no-brainer! I highly recommend this lens specifically for portrait photographers, but as you can see it is versatile enough for other applications if necessary.
(Please Click On The Photos For Larger View)
Wishing my one and only son a very Happy 16th Birthday today! I love you Prince!!!
I know it’s been a little while since my last post. I never really imagined a time when I would constantly fall behind in my blog posts. The truth is, I’ve been traveling so much more lately. I’ve been trying hard to just enjoy my life, explore, overcome my fear of flying and shoot as much as possible. In fact, I’ve been shooting so much that now I’ve become totally overloaded with images! I have so many new photos now that I spend most of my time struggling to edit, as well as organize these massive catalogues. I’m not complaining at all because, I know this means that I’m finally doing the things I’ve always wanted to do.
I wanted to share some images I made back in August. I was testing a new lens that I was considering purchasing so I decided to take it for a spin in the downtown area. Normally I would never use an 85mm focal length on the street, but I really didn’t feel like dealing with the hassle of scheduling any portrait sessions. Fortunately I chose a beautiful day to go out! The sun was shining, there was a great breeze and people were everywhere. I took my time, walked slowly, and engaged with random people as I created images in a much more relaxed fashion than I normally would. It was an awesome feeling to just slow down and think about what I wanted to capture, rather than running around frantic as I typically would.
At the end of the day I loaded the photos to my laptop, and to my surprise the lens performed brilliantly. I was very skeptical that I wouldn’t get any usable images considering the lens is so tightly cropped on the subjects. I had to stand further away than I normally would and it was a learning curve for me since I like to get closer to my subjects by moving my feet. It almost felt as though I was cheating! But needless to say, the test was a huge success. I knew that I would be making a new purchase and adding a new lens to my arsenal. Now that the 85 is in my bag I never actually use it on the street, unless my mission for the day is to specifically capture head-shots. If I accumulate enough good portraits with the 85 I will definitely post them. I just have to remember to use it more often!
For now I hope you enjoy these test images. I will probably post a follow-up set of images later this week.
(Please click on each image for larger view)
“Youth is fleeting, before life begins…innocence blows away, like whispers in the wind.”
-Robert N. Jones
The lovely fall colors help accentuate the many colors of this stylish dashiki worn by the beautiful Latrice.
Model: Latrice Hicks
Makeup: Nichele Hardge
Happy New Year to everyone!
My very first post of the new year is a beautiful southwestern sunset captured a few days ago and shot with my iPhone 6 Plus. I know that I haven’t been posting as much, but I have been doing a ton of shooting lately and I have many new exciting images to share in the coming weeks/months. Stay tuned.
I’ve been having some very trying times lately, so I wanted to post something positive and show a little love to my favorite time of year. To my surprise there has been more colors in my area than it’s been in years, making it feel much more like a real a autumn season. These colors have lasted much longer than I anticipated, but it appears that they’re rapidly disappearing. I hope to get out and capture one more round of fall colors before they’re all gone. Until then, I hope you enjoy!
(Please click on each photo for a higher resolution view)