Ty Levey – Nighttiming

Ty anonymously traverses the sea of faces in the nightlife scene to capture people as their bona fide selves – this serves as a means of therapy for Ty. Check out his raw interview below. 


Where are you from?  Where have you been?

Originally, I’m from Chicago, Illinois.

Life has taken me all over America. I’ve lived in Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Orlando, Orange County, and LA.


What’s your favorite place in the world?

I’m a city boy at heart, and currently my favorite place is my new home – Los Angeles. I find peace in the chaos of the city. LA is divided into many districts (Hollywood, Chinatown, Koreatown, Downtown, Little Tokyo, etc.) which divides a lot of people, but at the core of each community, you can still find “LA.” The diversity here is unparalleled compared to any of the other places I’ve lived, and it’s given me access to many new people and opportunities that I would never have been able to experience anywhere else.

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I took this from my car the first time I drove down 1st Street.

What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?

One of the main things that I want to work on is merging the styles of my staged photography with my candid style. I feel that whenever I manage to figure that out, it’ll really mean that I’ve created a style of photographing people. Hopefully I can make that happen soon, as there some ideas I’m reserving for that.


Your work shows common themes of movement and candid moments; do you prefer catching people in the moment or staging?

I definitely prefer candid shots over planned photoshoot. Staged photos satisfy a different part of me than candids. It’s pretty much day and night – literally.

When I shoot staged photos, it’s really a personal test for me to make something based on my own thought and what tools I have available. It’s usually done utilizing natural light and sometimes complemented with flash. The results are high quality, very professional photos that would be considered for magazines and appropriate for the general public.

The candid shots are almost purely shot at night. Based on my personal experience, nightlife is where people are truly able to disregard the aforementioned appropriateness for the general public. These photos are the ones that document real people having genuine moments with their closest friends. Once the day is over – once you clock out and drive home from work – once you make plans for the evening with people you actively choose to be with – the life you want begins. It just happens to take place at night. It’s therapeutic for me to anonymously navigate my way through a sea of strangers and capture them living for themselves.

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Tell us about your career.  How did you get into it?

I currently work as a freelance photographer. I asked myself a very legitimate, yet very open-ended question: “What do you actually like to do?” Naturally, the first answer was to take photos. Eventually, it took over nearly every aspect of my life, including work.


What types of photography do you do?  What’s your favorite?

Portrait, event, candid, street, landscape, product, and movie stills. I love the opportunity to flex my skills during a portrait shoot, and I really like the rawness of candid photography.


What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?

One is rarely able to be artsy, nerdy, and physical at the same time. As a photographer, one gets to be a geek about gear and equipment, while also physically engaging models and subjects in an artistic scenario.


What is the strangest situation you’ve ever faced as a photographer?

There have been countless times where I’ve been kicked out of locations I was shooting at. Trespassing is part of the job sometimes when you absolutely HAVE to get a shot.


What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?

Honestly, promoting myself rather than just my work has been a struggle until recently. As an artist, you have to make yourself a priority when it comes to working in this industry. You can have the most amazing work that puts everyone to shame, but if no one knows who you are, no is going to reach out. At that point, you’re left with an amazing body of work, but no clients, contacts, or any collaborations.


Photography is competitive.  How do you stand out?

Right now, my primary combination of equipment consists of gear that no photographer in the underground industry scene is using right now. I love the work of my peers, but it’s definitely a challenge to do things that aren’t being done right now. Anyone who I’ve taken a photo of will not only remember the photo, but also remember the setup that I use. To most people, my combination of equipment looks a bit silly so it really stands out.

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What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?

DO NOT COMPARE YOUR WORK TO THE WORK OF ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHERS. If anything, learn from it. Study the work of others and try to really understand the photo. Notice the composition, lighting, angle, subject focus. Break the images down and apply their good practices to your own work without stealing.


What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?

Be willing to try new things. Trust the photographer. If they produce good work, be confident in their confidence.


What was your most memorable photoshoot?

There was a shoot I shot with Kelsie Richards and Christina Roberson in Fullerton, CA that really changed my standards for my photography. We had plans to shoot a warm-toned outdoor shoot, but the weather unexpectedly became overcast. We resiliently thought of something new and went outside to try and salvage the day. We got to downtown Fullerton and shot the first look. It went pretty well, but compared to the second look we put together – it was clearly only a warmup. As soon as we changed the look, we all kind of woke up and we ended up getting what I still consider my favorite photo and photos set that I’ve ever shot.

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Who was the most unforgettable model you’ve ever met?

Easy, easy answer: Kelsie Richards. She has been one of the few models that I’ve worked with on a regular basis. My personality is very accepting of people and circumstances, possibly due to the nature of my candids, and she came as she was with her original ideas without hesitation. Sometimes we don’t even discuss the shoot beforehand, other than location. We have great trust in each other with our ideas. She always gives me amazing photos and is phenomenal company. Always. I always tell people that she is the reason I’m a good photographer.

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Who do you want to give a shoutout to?

Kelsie Richards (Model) – Favourite model. Hands down. Thank you for investing in me.

Christina Roberson (MUA/Hair) – My ride or die makeup/hair/clothing stylist. You’ve hosted some of our testing sessions in your home. I hope I can somehow repay you for what you’ve done for my art.

Angel Lin (Model) – We argue like siblings and I kind of really like it. Very happy with our beauty shoots. We’ll get back to it again soon, don’t worry.

Camilo Prieto (Artist) – Once we find your camera, it’s done. We’ve won.

Everyone I’ve shot a candid of – you’ve contributed to my happiness and mental growth.


What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?

The most important thing is to appreciate your work. As artists, we’re our most critical and most destructive critics. Step back and look at your work without cynical eyes. You’ve made beautiful work, and if no one else appreciates your effort – you should. It should never take someone telling you, “You’re a great photographer” for you to love your work.


What do you think is the biggest thing holding you back in your photography?

I’m working on planning my shots ahead of time so that directing can go a bit smoother. Sometimes you can get a shot similar to what you might like, but aren’t really sure what about it to change to get that shot. It’s simply better to be prepared.


What’s one lighting tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

Most of the time, lighting the subject in the exact direction you’re shooting will produce flat, shadowless faces. Move your lighting source juuuust a little, and it will make your shots come out better for sure.

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What is your most life-changing event?

Leaving where I was and moving to California has changed nearly everything about me in a positive way.


What’s one of your biggest fears?

One of my biggest fears is that for some reason I’ll just not feel like I’m a creative person anymore. If that were to happen, what would I be left with? Work? Everything that brings me joy comes from some kind of art. If I could no longer relate to that I’d truly be lost.


For anyone that wants to get in touch with Ty, here’s some of his contact information:

FStop: Profile

Website: www.tylevey.com

Flickr: Profile

MM: Profile

Instagram: @actualcat


Ty, thanks so much for interviewing with us!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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