Say hello to Barry :
Where are you from? Where have you been?
I was born in India and moved to Dubai when I was almost 2. Nearly a year later my family moved to Ontario, Canada. Since then I’ve always lived in Ontario – moving around the GTA area. Most of my memorable years were spent in what I consider my hometown, Kitchener. I’ve traveled to various parts of India, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. Thanks to my job, I’ve been all around the United States and recently visited Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for a video/photo shoot. I’m lacking in the European department though.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
Coming from an Indian background I might be biased in saying this, but, India. Obviously, there are some family and personal connections to the place, but there’s also so much more. I’ve only been 3 or 4 times, and every trip has been a new experience. I’ve been to mountaintop towns, traveled around slums, seen crowded cities, talked to enterprising street vendors, and met family I had never met. Not to mention it’s a wonderful place for photography: hill stations, old world trains, other-worldly accessorizing, and colorful festivals. There’s still so much I’ve yet to discover.
What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?
A lot of secret stuff… but between you and me, it’s a lot of urban art. Let’s just say I’ll be visiting Hong Kong soon.
How would you describe your visual style?
Hailing from the city, the urban aesthetic is extremely appealing to me. Along with this, I’ve always loved nature – the life and beauty it brings to us, which we sometimes forget. Armed with these two styles, I shoot my images. My style is moody and muted, but is also genuine and occasionally bright. I love to create these clean, cinematic images where fashion, city, and nature come together. I like to think of my work as the lovechild of Vogue and National Geographic. It’s an aesthetic a lot of people in the city relate to.
Tell us about the musical and design aspects of your career.
Glad you asked! Music and design go hand-in-hand with my photography. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved music. I knew it would be a big part of my life, and it is. I started learning piano, guitar, and vocals at an early age and performed wherever I could. I now produce my own albums and have created a fan base for my music through my various social media. I perform at local lounges around LA, and within the year I will have my first concert! Recently, my music career has proven to be extremely successful. I started design when I began my photography. I design and create web pages, business cards, letter heads, magazine pages, etc. This includes my own banners or ads. I also play around with Photoshop to create images depicting my dreams or ideas. You can see how my graphic design plays with my urban and nature mashup. My own music is mostly R&B, which also conveys that moody, atmospheric vibe of my photography. Both are well integrated into my career and reflect my creative style.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?
It all started when I was 14. Wherever I was, I would gather people or props to create a scene, and then grab a camera or phone to capture it. I remember endlessly going through this cycle, until finally someone important noticed.
My first mentor approached me, a local wedding and portrait photographer, and asked if I wanted to be trained by him. I was quick with my answer. Fast forward two years and I was still working there. I knew I wanted more. I finally gathered all my courage (and money!) and I flew to Miami at the age of 16. I went there alone, with no contacts or clients, to try and drum up some business.
A couple days in, I attended a photography conference being held in the area. During a networking session I met a man named Jay, my second mentor. He introduced me to an online magazine he worked for and told me about a paid internship opportunity that they had. I gave him my resume and portfolio. Two weeks later, back in Canada, I received a call from Jay. He took a chance on me and I landed the job I had always wanted. I’m still work with him, shooting branded content in the fitness, fashion, and lifestyle industries throughout the United States (mostly in California). Whether it’s working behind the scenes on shoots, or being the prime photographer, I love doing what I do.
Although I have a spectacular job, I’m still working towards my greatest achievement and know I can accomplish much more. Up until now, the photographs are arranged in a timeline so you readers can see how my style and work has changed throughout my career.
What types of photography do you do?
I’ve done (and do) nature, street, commercial, architectural, and fashion photography. My favorite is fashion because of where it’s headed. The industry is changing: new and younger photographers are entering, the look is changing… Plus I love fashion, style, and clothing!
What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?
Being seen as too young. Although there might be some truth to it (relating to experience), it still hasn’t stopped me from excelling far beyond what most people think unreachable at my age.
What are your favorite three photos you’ve taken?
Although these images are old, they’re still my favorites. These three photos belong to a 10 part series entitled “Child Safety.” This was my first creative shoot for a photojournalism project I had been assigned in my photography class. The series acts as a PSA about common dangerous behaviors that children do. It evokes a sense of imminent danger and need to protect. I hoped to get viewers to act upon these feelings with the people surrounding them.
What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?
You should understand how to read people. The crew is counting on you as the photographer to lead the shoot and be able to interact with them. If you don’t have a firm grasp on this concept, you won’t be able to deal with people in the right manner. This especially applies to the model. If the model seems a little standoffish, rude, or if English isn’t their first language (which happens quite a bit), then you should be careful with what you say. If the model is someone you click with right away, you can get away with a little snide joke.
What was your most memorable photoshoot?
Memorable good or memorable bad? Well here’s memorable bad. I was at a shoot and the stylist was there, makeup was there, wardrobe was there, assistants were there… we were 45 minutes into the shoot and everyone’s asking “Where’s the model?”. Of course it had to be a nighttime shoot, and the agency was closed, so I couldn’t get a hold of them and I didn’t have the bookers’ cell phone number. She showed up, eventually.
Who was the most unforgettable model you’ve ever met?
Dannie Riel. That girl is beautiful inside and out. She’s the first model I met, who I already knew through social media. To my surprise she was extremely inviting and funny. Starting my fashion photography job, I had always thought that all models (especially the famous ones) were arrogant jerks. Nope, the industry looks for smart, personable people.
Who do you want to give a shoutout to?
Brandon Gooding – Aspiring photographer, digital artist, and graphic designer. Go check his stuff out and support him!
Leah Darcy – MUA
What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?
Keep learning, keep shooting, and stay inspired.
How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?
I usually have a mood board out for inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. Also, by being personable and funny. We might go out beforehand to grab a coffee or lunch, and I’ll usually play music during the shoot (asking them if they have a preference first).
What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?
You don’t need expensive gear to shoot expensive things. For so long I held myself back because I thought I wasn’t able to get far with just my entry-level camera (my first was a Nikon D3200). Once I figured this out, I began to develop my skills and career. For those reading, most of the photos at the beginning were taken with my D3200!
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?
- Get inspired. Stay inspired.
- Have a vision for where you want your work to go. Think big, but within your preferred style.
- Shoot everything. Only way to evolve is through experience – you’ll grasp your own taste.
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring models?
- Take an acting or dance class. I’m always happy when I find out that a model has an acting or dance background. They know how to emote, they know how to move. It’s part of the job.
- Show up on time or even a little early.
- You are in the business of outer beauty – take care of yourself.
What’s one lighting tip you’d like to share with other photographers?
Obsess yourself with light. Look at how light interacts with your surroundings in day to day life. When the real deal comes, you will have a better grasp on what you’re doing.
Do you have any projects you’d like to show off?
At the moment there’s a lot on my plate, but unfortunately I’m not in the position to be sharing much (sorry). I’m always showing sneak peeks of all my projects and travels on my Snapchat: barryjjohn. Non-photography wise I’m working on a new electronic song, you can preview it here: https://soundcloud.com/barryjjohn/suave-preview
What is your most life-changing event?
Getting that call from Jay.
What has photography done for you as a person? How has it changed you?
It’s changed the way I see the world. I look at everything now in a new light, with more appreciation and understanding for its beauty. Through photography, I’ve also grown to be more social and extroverted everywhere I go.
What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?
I post content online anonymously under 5 different aliases. The most successful one being a blog (now retired but still online) where I wrote about and posted pictures of my cat. I also have a 6th alias, which is not anonymous, but only known to my music and social media fans.
What’s one of your biggest fears?
What will you be doing five years from now?
I will have graduated university and will be pursuing my music and photography careers full time.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
So I LOVE cereal right? And so this one time I bought a whole shopping cart full of it worth over $200. Ya. No regrets. When I got home to my disappointed surprise, there was no milk. First and only time I used water. I cried. True story. Also that first trip to Miami was pretty crazy… but cereal.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?
Light painting… sky diving style.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Barry, here’s some contact information:
Barry, thank you 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.