Say hello to Austin :
Where are you from?
I was born in the city of Philadelphia, grew up on farmland north of the city, and raised in Anguilla (B.W.I.). I’ve been to a few different places including all through the States and Caribbean, England, Germany, and Holland.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
The Caribbean is my general favorite location. The aesthetic beauty of my Anguilla is just such an overload. I mean on a clear morning, you can see seven different islands from the roof of my old house – politically that is five different countries. Watching whales play daily in a blue sea that can’t be separated from the sky because the hue of blue is identical. A place where air condition and heat never have to be used. They say Anguilla is the “Jewel of the Caribbean,” and it’s true because everyone who gets to hold her close to them, feels that it was meant just for the palm of their hand.
What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?
My bucket list isn’t full of outlandish or crazy creative ideas, but more so ideas that I feel haven’t been executed or “done right,” but are often attempted. I want people’s experience of my work to leave them with nothing else other than “that was done right.” I would like to set scores – I personally love the absence of dialog and the presence of music when experiencing visuals. I want to create visuals that are felt and received somewhat like a parable, leaving the audience to interpret it for themselves.
How would you describe your visual style?
Analog visuals in a digital medium. Trying to make a direct connection to my audience through nostalgia. We all have memories that made us who we are, and I feel that by trying to bring those forward, allows the audience to interpret my visuals more personally. Kind of like a parable, it can be interpreted differently – I think the best way to get my efforts across or reach my audience is through nostalgia
How do you find your inspiration?
Watching the classics. Although my passion is cinema, I find most of my inspiration for photography in film as well. But I have a quarrel with so-called “visual creatives” who have a similar inspirational technique. Stealing or replicating another’s idea for your own work is different than taking away an idea from something that has inspired you. I am big on “paying homage,” which I have made to some of the greats in both film and photography. Not stealing techniques, but rather allowing an idea or technique inspire you to try your own methodology.
Do you get photographer’s block? If so, how do you overcome that?
I do…I am thankful to have an interest and be skilled in both photography and video. When I am bored with one, I focus on the other for a bit. But in times when I feel a creative block, I put the camera down completely and try to remove myself mentally from the creative side of visuals. Which sounds a bit cliche, but it always brings me back to wanting to create visuals the way I see them. It actually places me in situations where I say to myself, “I wish I had MY camera.” It’s like all at once, all the cobwebs are cleared and the drive to create comes rushing back. Brings me back to not having a camera at all and wanting to create and share what I see
You’re also a videographer and have created beautiful work for BWC garments – tell us more about this.
BWC Garments is a cut and sew menswear brand that cultivates a casual fusion of sophistication and comfort. We publish out of Philadelphia, but manufacture in New York City. I am very proud of the visual aesthetic and style we have managed to create as far as our marketing goes. I really try to capture the process methods and all of the emotion that goes into our brand. Every brand has a story and it’s really important to me that we share ours. There aren’t many clothing brands that share their process with the fashion audience. In comparison to other brands, what I try to stay away from is sharing our BTS stuff as a means of hype. Our marketing campaigns leading up to releases and drops are different than our documentary stuff. We really are doing everything from the mussel (heart), and our current success can only be attributed to all of the self dedication. Everything from the designs, marketing, and footwork is done in-house – everything is organic. I find my home in this brand. It is a personal representation of everything I strive to represent. Original yet familiar, modern yet classic. The acronym stands for “Built With Craft,” and I fully embody that as an artist. The small details in life make up the bigger picture, so there are no small details.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?
Ever since I was young, movies have always been my thing. Also, my parents never had a restriction on my music, so I would actually share music with them. Albums, records and tapes of all genres. I used to watch movies and television on mute while listening to music. Putting different songs to my favorite scenes in movies. I am talking before the age of five years old. So putting music to film has always been a passion of mine and once production resources became more accessible, I started shooting music videos. I also studied Visual Media all through school.
What types of photography do you do?
Street photography its the best. Just raw – right place, right time. I do love fashion photography, though. There are a lot of levels to it. With the proper theme/concept, photographer and model, you are capable of walking away with a lot of different visuals. You can come away with some really great action photographs, portrait work, and fashion photography. I try to create single subject media in natural environments. Black and white photography is still very moving to me. Creating imagery that speaks through subject matter alone without the aid of color.
What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?
Music album artwork has never been valued as it should be, in my eyes. Especially now in this digital age, I see more and more album art taken for granted or just thrown together. Now that I am thinking about it, album artwork, whether it be Vinyl LPs from my parent’s collection or CDs and tape decks of my own, was my first exposure to artistic photography and “modern art” themes. I was also encouraged to take a photography class and familiarize myself with professional cameras (b/w film) by a close friend who was from an artistic family. This was in high school.
What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?
It’s hard to say because as we try to make this skill into an income, we have to find exposure. Sometimes, the “free jobs” are a waste of your time and energy, but you take a gamble to get your work seen. Other times, the free jobs turn out to be some of your best work. I think knowing your worth and skill can prevent these stresses from occurring. So doubting myself or not taking my talent serious was a setback.
Of the photos you’ve taken, which three are your favorite?
Photography is competitive. How do you stand out?
It’s all about the classics. Art your mom can appreciate. Honestly, the majority of my audience is an “older crowd” of renowned photojournalists and photographers, so I am thankful to have an eye for the ages.
What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?
Remember your ABCS – Apply Basic Concept Strategy. Even the greatest martial artist practice their fundamentals every day. Have a list of photography fundamentals that you can always fall back on.
What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?
Take advice, but not take it personal. Also, speaking up as to how they feel. A lot of what models do is difficult, because regardless of what may be occurring in their lives, they need to bring out the emotions needed for the task at hand.
What was your most memorable photoshoot?
My recent shoot for Converse was a proud moment for me as a street fashion photographer. But one of my most memorable shoots would have to be when I was just starting out – a group of two friends and I were really passionate about our abilities and we were doing event coverage under the name, BerksVision. One night, we covered a Moosh&Twist show who our homies (Baked Life) opened for, and it was just an all around dope time. It was in the basement of a Unitarian church, which held like 300 kids and the green room was the cathedral, so we were partying in church, lol. Some good photos, but just the best time.
If you could photograph anything in the world, what would it be?
Being the Marley’s family photographer would be really great. My mother has taken me everywhere since I was a child. She has always talked about going to Greece, so I would love to catch my mother enjoying a view of the blue ocean from a villa rendezvous. I often don’t take photos of my mother.
Who was the most unforgettable model you’ve ever met?
I would have to say Corey Wade from America’s Next Top Model. He is a great personality, but also very skilled at his craft. We have worked together a couple of times and have become good friends since, but his talents in acting and print work are phenomenal.
Who do you want to give a shoutout to?
I have to extend “thank yous” to a few folks – Sophorn Sook, who is a great friend, inspiration and a phenomenal artist. My partners, Rob Mcgraw and Josh Langford. Sabir Peele, who has inspired me to work for what I am worth. Dr. Judy Isaksen, Head of Communications, at High Point University who never hesitated to let me know that I had a classic eye for media and that I would never have to compromise who I am to be what I am. I want to thank the former BerksVison team (@yinkasoda and @_venusian) for always having pushing one another to be the artist we are today. I have to especially thank the WHOLE PHILADELPHIA, particularly all of us who FIRST met at the corner of Berks and Gratz (a lot of talented folks who know exactly who they are). Morris Stumacher, who gave me a Canon Rebel Xsi so I could start earning a living. Most importantly, Deborah Ann Valadez – my Mother. She is not only my mother, but my best friend and closest confidant, and she sure makes it feel that way. Last but not least, FStop for reaching out to me.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?
Only your eyes can see the way that they do.
What’s a deal breaker for you when deciding to do a shoot?
If the compromise is no longer time/money/creative, but it becomes a compromise of self – not worth it.
How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?
I try and remind them of moments from their past that are vivid memories, whether they be sad, successful, scared, or conflicted – emotions through nostalgia.
What do you think is the biggest thing holding you back in your photography?
If I am the one holding the camera, then the answer can only be myself. But sometimes, the client’s ignorance of how costly and time consuming visual work can be is exhausting.
How do you express yourself through your photography?
I express myself through simplicity. Less is more and classic will always beat fads and pizzazz.
What’s the most inspiring photo you’ve ever seen?
I have seen a photo of a lion bowing to a King (Haile Selassie I), and I have seen a photo of a monk setting himself ablaze out of protest to a system which bombs villages of children. I was first exposed to these photos through album artwork.
What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?
If was I was told that every photo isn’t going to be THE PHOTO, I would have had more fun with it in the beginning. Having fun with what you do is what makes this the best job ever and produces the best work.
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?
- ABCS- When in doubt, “Apply Basic Concept Strategy.”
- PTC- Patience Timing Consistency
- KEEP YOUR EYES AND MIND OPEN.
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring models?
Practice. You have to be skilled in separating yourself from the gig. Take gigs that don’t pay and put yourself to test so that when the paying gigs come around, you’re more than qualified.
What kind of gear do you have?
I’m team Canon – I have a Canon Rebel Xsi (great photo camera), Rebel T3i, and a 6D full-frame. I love shooting in full-frame because you get the full capability of the lenses, so my 6D produces some great photos. But honestly, the Rebel T3i is my favorite camera. It is the best in the field camera I have ever used and with the right talent, lighting and lenses, the range of what is possible is tremendous.
What’s one lighting tip you’d like to share with other photographers?
Lighting is just preferences and practice. Preferences and practice.
What’s one post-processing tip you’d like to share with other photographers?
Take the time to make your own filters. The digital era photography has just really started to open up to the public, so I think it is important that we put our own effort into our work to preserve the purity of this art.
Do you have any projects you’d like to show off?
Ummm, it would be cool if people check out my Vimeo page, but I really love what we stand for at BWC Garments and I would really love for people to become more familiar with what we do. This is a mini doc I put out last year so that our audience could become just a bit more familiar with us.
And this is the latest promo I put out for us. We are in a transition of operations to New York. This video represents the fear that comes with transitioning from a place of comfort to challenging yourself. Being a big fish in a small pond, to then swimming into the currents of the ocean.
What is your most life-changing event?
When I was in 5th grade, I had a massive heart attack and became aware of the fact that I have a very serious heart condition known as Long QT Syndrome. Although still young at the time, I was mature in the mind and this has been my most life-changing experience. Also, I double majored in theology in school and concentrated in Biblical Studies. I was raised Christian and have always been immersed in the “word.”
What has photography done for you as a person? How has it changed you?
It has allowed me to set goals for myself. Allowed me to tap into my creative. Given me sight of goals I want to reach.
What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?
I am a serious lover.
Who’s your biggest hero in your life?
Emperor Haile Selassie I – King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
What’s one of your biggest fears?
What will you be doing five years from now?
I will be shooting bigger contracts between Miami and NYC. NYC because it is the center of the world’s media and Miami because it is a jumpoff point to the Caribbean.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Doubt myself – even for a moment
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Austin, here’s some contact information:
Austin, thanks for sharing your story with us! 🙂
If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Also, remember to download the FStop app for iPhone here!