How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
I often explain to people that I fell into photography, writing, and everything else that I do. As a kid my only aspiration was to become a lawyer, and for some reason I linked this to being synonymous to Donald Trump, who I idolized as a kid. The career path that I now follow was as serendipitous as finding a $20 bill in a pants pocket. I started into photography with a simple idea, and an even simpler motive; money, and making it off of my middle school peers. So I got my friend Mahmoud Mfinanga (emmazedphotog.com) and we created something that my middle school had never seen before; the Eighth Grade Year Movie. We obtained our mother’s cameras and would take them to school almost everyday shooting everything: events, regular school days, fun time at gym. We drafted it into a movie and sold it, gaining a $700 profit much to the disapproval of our school’s administration. From there, we went on to high school with the same ideals and motives. Somewhere along the line I began to study photography though. I saw that it was a craft of skill and soon began to appreciate it for the art it could become. From its inception, my career has suffered from natural evolution; be it through my photography or writing (The Source) time. [That and] God are the only reasons I have accomplished what I have.
What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
I believe it to be my humility, and my hunger that sets me apart from others who follow this career choice. I am humbled everyday when I think of how far I have truly come in a matter of months. This excites me and creates an insatiable hunger for success. I try to go as in-depth as possible when creating. Being a creative writer, I know how to paint a picture with words. I understand the power behind details, and I strive to make every image and writing piece as unique and thought provoking as possible.
For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
I had a conversation with a spokesperson of [United Negro College Fund] a couple of days ago and this literally was a topic. You know I have learned that when it comes to art, in any form, one does not get recognized by his or her mere talent, but the connections that [it] can foster. It’s all about who you know, and if you are willing to go out of your way to make sure there isn’t anyone, “you don’t know.” It happens to be a skill actually; one that you must attempt at almost every waking moment to perfect. Breaking out of my personal shell to enter uncharted waters is something I battle with during every event and shoot. It has led me to meet many great and inspiring people such as Lance Gross, Laz Alonso, Steve Harvey, Lupe Fiasco and [I’ve] even being cursed out by 2Chainz.
How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
I honestly have not thought of myself as being truly talented with either my photography or writing. I try my best, and then I pour my heart into what ever I am doing. I find inspiration by surrounding myself with those I believe to be more talented than I, and I read. I love fiction stories. My favorite authors are J.K Rowling, Rick Riordan, Angie Sage, and Joseph Delaney. I believe it may also be from reading these stories that I gain a lot of creativity for my shoots, and those soon to come.
Do you think that there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
Many believe that photography is as simple as clicking a shutter nowadays. To an extent, this is true but there will always be a difference between a selfie, and a portrait.
How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
During my time with Disney Dreamers Academy, I learned from Mr. Steve Harvey that I should create a “vision board” of what I desire most. I plan on doing this as soon as time permits. Besides that, I use my past experience for inspiration. It was almost impossible to gain the opportunity to cover the Big Sean concert, and even though I didn’t gain my desired connections from it, I did learn that nothing; no matter how improbable it may seem, is to too far out of reach for me to grab.
Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see and use as examples for you to emulate?
My peers are those I work with the most. My classmates, my friends and fellow photographers. I look to photographers such as Steve McCurry, Lance Gross, my mentor Jermey Deputat, and Cameron Rad for inspiration.
Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it?
[In] photography— Steve McCurry. Then it’s Kanye West. His music, though more bestial and vulgar than the College Dropout days still hold an inner content. It’s just unfortunate that his “language” serves as a strong camouflage for these messages and not seen as the cacophonous genius it is.
What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
“Idle hands bring profitless results”—Samuel Trotter
What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
I use my phone, tablet, and computer to interact almost all the time. Be it business or social interactions, technology plays a huge part in my everyday life.
What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life and/or career?
Instagram and Gmail definitely.
Please define your personal brand?
Living in Detroit, Mich., has groomed me to be hardworking, diligent, and seen— not heard.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I think I may be overly critical of both my peers and myself.