Ocie Clelland – Capturing the Heart and Soul of NYC

After an image of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation from his point-and-shoot camera ended up in the news, Ocie was motivated to continue working on his craft and transition his full-time career into photography. Check out his story below.


Say hello to Ocie:

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Where are you from?  Where have you been?

I was born and raised in New York City. I was born in Brooklyn and now reside in Queens. I was in the military (Marines), so I spent time in Okinawa and California. I’ve been to Japan, Canada, and Mexico. I’ve also lived in Guyana, South America as a kid. I’ve been to quite a few states as well – Florida, Arizona, North and South Carolina. Yeah, I’ve been all over!


What’s your favorite place in the world?

My favorite place. Hmm, I loved Japan, though this was pre-photography so no photos, unfortunately. After that, I would have to go with my city – New York. So much to see and do here!

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

Oh, let’s see – I’d love to do something vampire-inspired. I’d also love to do some type of bdsm-inspired project.


How would you describe your visual style?

My visual style is pretty fluid. I feel that my client or subject dictates what and how I shoot. I draw on their energy. Sometimes, it could be a dark style. Sometimes, it’s very colorful, and other times, monochrome. It just depends. I like to experiment with different styles.


How do you find your inspiration?

In anything and anywhere. I people watch a lot. I could see the way someone has put together an outfit and it could spark something. It could be a song, something I read, a movie I see. Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely places so I keep my mind AND eyes open.


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

Two things. Smart phones and my dad. Let me explain – so with the rise of smartphones, I just started documenting things I saw. I would take photos of buildings, scenery, and people because I also write poetry, so things I saw would spark that. I also found out that my dad was also into photography in his earlier days, so I guess that creative gene was also there. My wife bought me a little Sony point and shoot camera right before Hurricane Sandy. I went out and documented the damage. One of my images ended up on a local news website. Right then, I thought I should keep doing it, and there you have it.


What types of photography do you do?

I dabble in everything – landscapes, fashion, people, weddings, and parties.

I love landscape photography though. The idea of taking such huge scenery and have it make sense and make it appealing for people to look at and enjoy, really thrills me.


What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?

It had to be after Hurricane Sandy. Just documenting such horrible damage and gaining recognition from my work encouraged me to continue with photography.


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

Honestly, no really strange situations…YET.


What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?

I don’t really look at anything as a setback, but rather a learning experience and a lesson.


What are your favorite three photos you’ve taken?

Oh boy! That is tough – okay, here it goes.

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This is one of my friend and fitness instructor, Tatiana. She’s somewhat of a muse. Always willing to shoot with me. This was the first time she’d ever been seen like this in front of a camera. We took this in a hotel room, and I just love the lighting, the view, and the feel of this image.

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This one, I LOVE! I was in Brooklyn near the Manhattan Bridge and realized I could see the Empire State Building.

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I love the mood and color tones of this image. I was on a day cruise and this was after it rained. The skyline, clouds, colors, and view makes it a favorite of mine.

Photography is competitive.  How do you stand out?

That’s true, and it is tough. I just feel finding your own unique view on what you see is the most important thing. Also, be hungry. Learn, read, and push past your limits.


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

Never think you know it all. Stay humble and continue to educate yourself.


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

Be open – open to anything new. Be fun and energetic and come in prepared. Know what you’re doing.


What was your most memorable photoshoot?

Doing Tatiana’s first boudoir shoot. It was cool because we’d known each other for a year or two and to have that shoot turn out the way it did was really cool.


If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be?

I’d love to photograph Kerry Washington on the beach in a bikini! Lol. I love that woman!


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

My first fashion shoot. Her name was Monique and she found me on social media. We met up and had instant chemistry – she’s gone on to do great things. She’s the most unforgettable because she gave me a chance and I don’t think I disappointed her.

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Who do you want to give a shoutout to?

Wow – after my wife for starting me on this journey, it would definitely have to be Monique. Then my friend and designer, Richonna Dennis, makeup artist, Kianah Adams, and Mindy Veissid for giving me my first photography class. Lastly, my guy Matt Santana – he’s like my brother and the person who inspires me to take risks.


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

Photography is a skill, but great photography is about what you see and feel, and how you see and feel it.


What’s a deal breaker for you when deciding to do a shoot?

People who have a laundry list of “don’t” and “won’t” items.  Boundaries are fine, but some people are just not willing to try much.


How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?

I always try to make the model feel comfortable. I try to reassure and guide if they need it. I am also a bit of a comedian so making clients laugh always helps.


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

Oh wow – the many things I need in order to have a truly effective studio space for indoor photography.


How do you express yourself through your photography?

I show the world as I see it. Whether it be with be with images of landscapes or fashion. I just give the viewer a glimpse into my mind.


What’s the most inspiring photo you’ve ever seen?

You can look up any photograph by Rodney Lough. He’s just inspiring. I visited his gallery in Vegas and his work on a whole is something I aspire to.


What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?

That getting far in this industry takes a while.  Patience and perseverance is key.


What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?

  1. Educate yourself.
  2. Shoot often.
  3. Stay humble.

What are 3 tips you have for aspiring models?

  1. Be honest with yourself.
  2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  3. Educate yourself.

What kind of gear do you have?

Canon T3i, Sony Cybershot, and an old Vivitar 35mm film camera.

I LOVE my 50mm lens. I’ve done some real damage with it.


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

Practice, practice, practice. It’s not as easy as one would think.


What’s one post-processing tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

Don’t over edit. Learn your camera and what it does and how – you’ll edit a whole lot less.


Do you have any projects you’d like to show off?

I just shot with my favorite yoga instructor. Her name is Heather and she’s simply amazing!! I think you can see why I love working with her. Her grace, style, and flexibility are amazing. She is also one of the sweetest, nicest, and most beautiful woman I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

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What is your most life-changing event?

Joining the Marines – I never knew how tough and how determined I was until then.


What has photography done for you as a person?  How has it changed you?

Photography is my relaxation. It grounds me – it gets my creative juices flowing.


What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?

Funny, everyone thinks I am the biggest extrovert and I am NOT. I prefer to be home or by myself. I’m social when the time comes, but it’s not always my first choice.


Who’s your biggest hero in your life?

My grandmother – may she rest in peace. She was tough, honest and no nonsense.


What’s one of your biggest fears?

Honestly, none. The Marines got that out of me!


What will you be doing five years from now?

Hopefully, owning my own studio, as well as maybe working for a travel magazine.


What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?

Do a photoshoot in an old, decrepit abandoned building.


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

FStop: Profile

Facebook: Profile

Instagram: @soulphocusphotos and @oc_in_nyc


Ocie, thanks so much for taking the time to interview with us!

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

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