When did you decide to become a photographer?
I started shooting as a hobbyist in 2008. In 2010, I built up enough experience to consider myself “professional”.
What was your motivating factor in becoming a photographer and artist?
One of the main factors was expression. Before I started messing around with cameras, I was kind of introverted and felt very awkward in public settings. Being around groups of people was frightening to me back then (Laughs). At the same time, I had experimented with almost everything you could think of: music, sports, dance, poetry, real estate, etc. All of these things were fun to do, but I just couldn’t find my “niche”. So when I think about it, photography was kind of like my last hope.
Who are some of your influences in your artistic field?
I always mention my Uncle first. He was the main one who mentored me when I decided to pursue photography. Other influences are Gordon Parks, Earlie Hudnall, Rog Walker, Jamal Shabazz, Spike Lee… The list goes on.
Tell us more about your current project that you are working with (100 STRANGERS) and what is the meaning behind it?
When I started 100 Strangers, my original intent was to capture 100 portraits of random people on the street. As I began developing these photos, I felt an emptiness which lead me to a strong curiosity. Here I was staring into the eyes of these people I’ve only met once and the first question that came to mind was “but who are they?”. I wanted to go deeper into this journey. I felt the urge to learn more.
Within the human race, I’ve discovered a myriad of false stereotypes, misconceptions and misunderstandings between different cultures. My greatest dream would be for these cultures to come a few steps closer to each other if not together. Today I live out that dream. Traveling all over the country just to learn from… A stranger. I was taught as a child not to talk to strangers but now being in my adulthood, a stranger is simply a book waiting to be read.
What was your entire experience like?
It honestly felt like I was in a library looking for books to read. The only difference was, I couldn’t just open people up as easy as opening up an actual book. I had to learn how to make people feel comfortable first.
When will the online debut be introduced to the world?
The blog is currently up for viewing, but I plan on doing something big after I reach 100. There will also be a short documentary about the experience as well.
What compelled you to bring your project to the state of Missouri?
I’ve been wanting to visit Ferguson since the Mike Brown incident. In April 2015 I had to shoot a wedding in Kansas City, Kansas. I realized that this would be the closest I’ve ever been to Ferguson. So I extended my flight so I could make that trip out there. Before I arrived to Canfield Dr. (The street where Michael Brown was murdered) I didn’t know what to expect but once I had officially made it there, I felt a slight chill. Like, this was where it went down at. I got out my car and walked towards the little memorial they had set up for Mike Brown. I just stood there for about 10 mins before I took any pictures. After snapping a few shots, I felt some raindrops. So I walk back towards the car. At the corner of my eye I notice someone walking down the street. That’s when I thought about the project I was working on. I called for his attention and we ended up conversing for like 15 mins. Come to find out, this guy was Ace Johnson, the man who recorded the aftermath of the Mike Brown shooting from his cellphone.
What are some places (cities) that you visited?
So far I’ve been to New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis and Ferguson. I think my last trip this year will be (God willing) in D.C. for the Million Man March.
Tell us more about your new studio and will you be offering photography services in your studio?
Yes, I just recently moved into my new studio Downtown Houston. Right now I’m offering headshot services. But for the most part, I’ve been really focused on this project.
Do you have anything else that you would like to share with Inside The Page?
I really just want to thank everyone that has taking the time out to read the blog. Meeting so many different people in this time can really impact one’s life in a positive growing way. On another note, for anyone who has an idea. It does matter how small or how many supporters you have behind this idea. If it’s your idea, put it to the test. I’m a firm believer in following your dreams, falling, getting back up and following your dreams again.