I've been sifting through some old photos recently and I stumbled across my shoot with Gabriella (@feminine.intuition) from last September. It wasn't until I started going through her folder on my hard drive that I realized there were a few images that I never even edited or shared. Having some time removed gave me a fresh perspective and I even ended up finding a few gems that I'd completely looked over the first time.
Like most creatives, I sometimes have a tendency to not want to share my work until I feel like it's perfect which usually means I end up sitting on a lot of content and not putting it out there. But as a recovering perfectionist, I've come to learn and maybe even finally accept that perfection is an impossible standard ... even for myself. A part of my hesitation is also rooted in feeling like people aren't going to like my work but after submitting a few images from my shoot with Gabriella for a group critique at a recent Camera of The Month Club (@cameraofthemonthclub) meeting I learned that most of the images I liked the least were the ones I got the most positive feedback on and vice versa. I walked away from the critique with the realization that my main focus has to be creating work that I'm happy with and not necessarily what I think people are going to like or respond to.
The first time I met Gabriella was at The Afropunk Music Festival in Brooklyn last summer. It's not easy to stand out at a festival with thousands of people but Gabriella caught my eye and I asked her and her friend Lynnasia for a few quick portraits. It takes most people a few minutes to warm up behind the lens which is what makes shooting portraits at festivals a little challenging; you have only a few seconds to capture an image of your subject in sometimes less than ideal lighting situations with hundreds of people walking by but Gabriella was a natural and knew exactly what looks to give me without any prompts on my part which, needless to say, makes my job as a photographer much easier. More often than not people who are that comfortable having their picture taken have done some type of modeling so I exchanged contact information with Gabriella so we could collaborate down the line.
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A few weeks after Afropunk (@afropunk) I hit up Gabriella and we started planning out our eventual shoot, I had a vision in mind which was inspired by Daniel Caesar's (@danielcaesar) debut album Freudian which dropped right around the time we were putting everything together. Music is a big part of my creative process ... from the music I'm listening to on my way to a shoot or what I have playing when I'm editing. Whether it's Miles Davis, Nas, or Kanye... elements of the music find their way into my work in one way or another. With summer ending and cooler weather on the way I usually slow it down to more soul and R&B and for a few weeks I was bumping Freudian almost nonstop.
Daniel Caesar is a Canadian born R&B and soul singer-songwriter. His debut album Freudian is an intimate exploration of a 20 something falling in and out of love and is full of small moments, nuance and detail all of which really resonated with me as I'd recently gone through the full gamut of emotions involved with heartbreak myself. The whole album was a mood, highlighted by the single "Get You" which featured Colombian-American singer-songwriter Kali Uchis (@kaliuchis). I usually don't play songs on repeat but I must have listened to that track at least five times back to back the first time I heard it. Check it out ...
In an interview with Billboard, Caesar said: "I met a girl and got very involved. She brought things and feelings out of me that I didn't know I had. 'Get You' is a song of praise to a love I didn't even feel I deserved at the time. Being with someone you truly adore and being present enough in the moment that the world literally slows down and you ask yourself how did I stumble into this? I'm always shooting myself in the foot, but I'm in here."
That feeling ... that emotion ... it's real and I tried to capture it in each image during our shoot.
The few images I originally shared on Instagram from our shoot included captions that featured lyrics from multiple songs on the album.
While Freudian provided inspiration for me thematically, the bulk of what I did visually was inspired by one of my favorite portrait photographers Aris Jerome (@arisjerome) who I included in my 16 Portrait Photographers You Should Be Following post in 2016. Aris achieves a certain level of intimacy in his portraits that make his images unique, so much so that I can usually pick out his work in a group of portraits without any context or having seen them before. That level of recognition is one most photographers strive for but very few ever achieve, it's not much different than hearing a song you've never heard before but being able to immediately recognize the artist. The following is a sample of the types of portraits Aris captures that I tried to replicate during my shoot with Gabriella.
Aris sets these shots up by getting very close to his models which is why their faces in most of these images takes up the entire frame. There is no other information in the image apart from their face, it's almost as if you were sitting right across from them and looking at them directly in the eyes. He also uses a very shallow depth of field (by opening up the aperture on his camera) which is why in some of the images above only certain parts of the model's face are sharp and in focus with the rest of their features falling quickly out of focus.
I took a stab at this type of aesthetic during my shoot with Gabriella. How'd I do?
For all the photography junkies out there all the images were taken on my Nikon D3300 with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G prime lens.
Wardrobe: Urban Outfitters, Zara, Forever 21, Vans (Let the record show that the beret was my idea ... I'm basically a stylist 😉)
Behind The Scenes
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I'd love to hear some feedback from you guys about the shoot! Please comment on or share this post with your friends or anyone looking to hire a photographer. I recently quit my day job to pursue photography full time so I currently have open availability and any referral you send my way goes a long way. Stay tuned!