My friend Austin Trotman dropped by Durham the day after he wrestled in the U.S. Olympic Trials in wrestling. We got to enjoy a cup of Durham's finest coffee at Cocoa Cinnamon and make some portraits.
I'm currently producing a documentary on Austin. Support the film here.
I'm not sure if Kristen Hill of Kristen Abigail Collective knows how much of my musician work was influenced by her musician work. She's shot the likes of Ryan Adams, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Mat Kearney, Gregory Alan Isakov and too many more to name. I even remember emailing her and asking how she was shooting all of these big names. Her answer: "I hustle".
Since then I put her "hustle" into practice and have ventured into the musician portrait photography genre a bit. It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life getting the shoot Stelth Ulvang (of The Lumineers), Ben Sollee, Griffin House, Nappy Roots, Laura Ballance and many more!
If you're interesting in getting into the music industry or need promo for you band then contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's some photos from the portrait shoot I did with her in downtown Raleigh.
Blake plays for numerous bands but his favorite is Spirits of the Red City. You can see Blake playing here with them on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert entry that the band submitted.
I got to spend some time with Blake before and after shooting musician portraits of him at Full Steam Brewery in Durham, NC.
5 things I learned from spending time with Blake:
1. He was the valedictorian of his college.
2. He works with pre-k students
3. He is funny, passionate and extremely intelligent.
4. He started his music career by playing on the street
5. He won't stop smiling.
My goal for Blake was to portray him by seamlessly meshing my urban portrait photography style with his free, deep and fun-loving spirit.
This shoot took about 3 minutes and I did it in the front room of Full Steam Brewery in Durham, NC.
I approached this gentleman in Durham, NC and asked him if I could take his portrait. He was leaning against a back alley way watching the pedestrians stroll by. He seemed disconnected. I also felt somewhat disconnected and out of place because I wasn't really interacting with the subjects that I was taking portraits of.
After I asked him if I could take his portrait, he began to tear up and proceeded to tell me that he moved to Durham after Hurricane Katrina. He told me he lost everything. I was initially confused as to why he was telling me this but I quickly understood that he was simply recognizing the connection that had happened by me approaching him and he was moved enough to tell me the story that he recollects the most.
LESSON LEARNED: Don't just take portraits. Get the story then take the portrait. In post-processing I was able to choose the portrait that seemed to communicate the man's story most effectively because we had a short conversation before I took the portrait.
We all have struggles. We all wish things were different sometimes.
The thing that makes us special is our passion to connect with others. The goal with all of my portraits is to somehow connect human beings.
Here's the problem though.
I use photography to disconnect myself from others sometimes. It's very easy to be the "the guy with the camera" and not have to talk to anyone. I often use photography to create a barrier between myself and social situations. As someone who continually struggles to keep my emotions "under control" this is difficult especially as a photographer.
This is my biggest struggle with photography.
The interesting thing is that since I have been shooting more portraits of people, my ability to connect to others has increased. I am able to talk to others with less anxiety. I can give an authentic smile to someone and I can leave a shoot with a sense of fullness having met my goal of not only connecting other humans, but also connecting myself.
LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes the thing we are scared of the most is actually the thing we need the most.
I was walking around a trailer park shooting photographs in Boone, NC a few years ago when I saw three young girls and starting taking photos of them.
They approached me and asked me if they could take some photos with my camera. I was obliged so I quickly handed my camera over to the older of the three girls. She began shooting the other two girls.
Then one of the other two girls took the camera and began to shoot the older girl.
and then this image happened.
LESSON LEARNED: Don't underestimate other people's abilities based on age, social status and race.
For the past one hundred days I have shot/edited/posted one self-portrait every day. I'm not done by any means. In fact, I'm actually going to be doing 365 of them. I will be taking the month of August off to reflect and regroup though.
So I wanted to share three lessons that I've learned over the past 100 days:
LESSON 1. Not everybody likes my style and that's okay.
When I began this self-portrait project I knew that everyone was going to love all of my photos. Wrong.
After I came to the realization that this was a ridiculous notion (which took about a month) I began to see a change in my work. This change was very welcome because it liberated me to make photographs that were specifically my style and not what other people wanted my style to be.
LESSON 2. I can ALWAYS become a better photographer.
I walked into my good friend Riley Maclean's studio in Durham, North Carolina (www.rileymaclean.com) just after I finished my first 30 days of self-portraits. I was excited to get his reaction on my project and my work. His reaction surprised me and caught me off guard. "You've gotta step up your game " he said. Riley's words have run through my mind almost every day since then. It was a challenge to push myself to get better every day and to take better photographs every time I shoot.
LESSON 3. Think less. Do more.
For most of my life I've been a pretty creative guy. I've had at least what I felt like to be really wonderful and original ideas. The only problem is I've never done anything about it. I have wasted my energy on thinking about game changing projects that are eccentric and complex. "it also turns out that 'doing stuff' counts a hellvua a lot more than 'thinking about doing stuff' ". Chase Jarvis (www.chasejarvis.com) said this during an interview with Dan Schwabel at Forbes.com where he was talking about some of the lessons he has learned. Find it here. This quote was actually the catalyst that caused me to do this project and has challenged me to shoot more photos and to stop worrying so much.
You can follow my journey through my 365 day self-portrait project at:
Here is the first hundred days of my 365 day self-portrait project. Cheers!