My name is Ken Pao, I’m the photo editor and community manager here at ImageBrief. I’m also a freelance commercial photographer specialising in fashion, beauty, travel and portraiture.
A couple months ago, I had the pleasure of participating in the 2014 Art-Start Portrait Project which focused on taking studio portraits of disadvantaged youth and superimposing them into their dreams and aspirations. By viewing the final products from the shoot, the kids not only see themselves in a different light but also find themselves one step closer to their goals.
Image sourced from ImageBrief
As a commercial photographer that’s been shooting for over 9 years, I’ve never been involved with a project like this. I’ve always known the power a photograph has on a person, but I never thought it could empower a person to visualize their dreams. I jumped at the opportunity and was even more excited when Art Start asked ImageBrief to help source pictures as backdrops for the final pictures. This was the perfect opportunity to utilize ImageBrief’s resources and to put the platform to work by finding the right shots.
ImageBrief sourced from ImageBrief
Participants of this program were selected from the youth who are currently involved with Art Start workshops that use creative art to rehabilitate and inspire them. My subject’s name was Andy, a 17 year old aspiring rapper and lyricist. He applied and was selected after participating in the OneMic program, a music collective that works in conjunction with CCA (center for community alternatives) as an alternative to an incarceration program.
I found out a little more about Andy through a pre-interview video the Art- Start staff took of him a few weeks before our shoot. I was fascinated to hear how well spoken and inspired he was. He spoke of his passions and how he wants to inspire people to not let fears stop them and to follow their dreams.
Image from shoot.
Our shoot took place on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Fast Ashley’s studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The studio was gracious enough to donate all their space and equipment. When I first met Andy, we immediately started talking about how I envisioned his image. I showed him some reference images I had found on ImageBrief and he was totally down to try my concept. I envisioned him on stage performing in front of a huge crowd of fans while in front of a decked out stage with flashing lights. All eyes on him with a spotlight making him the center of attention. Total baller and he loved that idea. We then went over to the wardrobe section and picked out some great options for him to wear. We chose a bad ass black leather jacket with a printed tank top and spotted denim, white kicks and a backwards hat to finish off the look.
I went to set up lighting and decided that having the spotlight behind him and in front the best way to achieve the lighting I wanted. We decided shooting on black as well which would ultimately make it easier to strip in everything else in post. We used a fog machine to give the shot a concert- feel which also made the spotlight on him more dramatic. The shoot itself was amazing, Andy stepped onto set nervous but got right into character as soon as he put on one of his tracks that he wrote lyrics for. He instantly transformed into a star right in front of my eyes and performed his whole song from start to finish for everyone in the studio and all his “imaginary” fans. After a few more plays of the track, we got our shot and called it a wrap. It was really great working with him and the whole Art Start organization. I can’t wait to see his face when he see’s the final image in large format at the gallery show in October. Perhaps he will feel the degree of separation from his dreams is one step closer and he can become the star I know he will become!
Art Start presents: The Portrait Project
Opening Exhibition: Thursday, 10/2 6-9pm
Exclusive Youth Opening Exhibition: Friday. 10/3, 4-8pm
Open Gallery Hours: Friday 10/3: 11AM-3PM, Saturday 10/4: 11AM-5PM
The Highline Loft
526 West 26th Street, Suite 501 b/w 10th and 11th Avenues
New York, NY 10001
To view more of Ken’s work visit:
Happy Monday boys and girls, your inspiration for the week is another one of our Premium Accounts pioneer, we’d like to introduce you to the amazing and talented Sam Dean!
What you need to know about Sam:
He’s a freelance photographer based in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Following a 15-year career as a staff photojournalist primarily for the Roanoke Times, Sam decided to bring his eye for life and adventure to commercial and editorial work in the mid-Atlantic and beyond. Sam’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, People Magazine, Time Magazine, and many other publications. His work has also been recognised by Pictures of the Year International, the Best of Photojournalism, Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award and other journalism and advertising organisations.
What Sam has to say:
Tell us your story. How did you get to where you are today and specialise in the field of photography that you’re currently in?
I’ve been a professional photographer since 1997 when I started my first internship at the Ogden Standard-Examiner. Then I was a staff photojournalist for the Roanoke Times from 1999 to 2012. I also worked at the Miami Herald as a journalist and covered stories that range from things like Elian Gonzalez, combats in Afghanistan to the Virginia Tech shootings.
Eventually, I saw that newspapers were headed in a bad direction so I made the jump to freelance in 2012 and now specialise in a semi-journalistic approach to editorial and advertising photography and film.
How do you promote your work? What is your advice to others?
Everything is about relationships. Building and maintaining a good relationship is the key to being a good human being but it is also the key to promoting your work.
Having said that, I’m probably like most photographers- trying to figure it out as I go. There are so many options arising everyday that it’s hard to stay on top of it all. I am trying to identify my target clients and being as genuine as possible to get my work in front of them.
I’m also using photographer listing services and thinking about seeking an agent, but I’m not sure about that yet.
What’s one of your most memorable shoot experiences and why?
In 2004, I was embedded with the Army in Afghanistan. I was looking for an image that tied the story of US involvement (from a soldier’s perspective) together.
That story was about one of the guys being both soldiers and dad, brothers and sons at the same time; one where they were relating to the locals just as people but also remaining vigilant for attack from insurgents. I think this image captures that well, plus I like the composition.
Stick with us and we’ll post one of Sam’s favourite images each day for the rest of the week. See you tomorrow!
Want to see more of Sam’s amazing pictures? Click on his portfolio.
As we mentioned yesterday, our photographer spotlight of the week will be featuring one of their favourite photos every day for the rest of the week.
For his first photo, the talented David Vaaknin chose to feature this image:
This is why:
"The last time Jerusalem was covered in so much snow was about 20 years ago when I was a teenager. I remember staying up late during the snowstorm and looking outside the window of my room with my brother and hoping the snow would accumulate to a substantial amount.
The following day was one I will never forget. For the first time in our lives, there was more than a foot of snow covering our apartment building and we spent hours playing in the snow.
20 years have gone by since that day. Last year it snowed in December which is very rare. One thing hasn’t changed though- I still have a soft spot for playing in the snow even if I am not the one that is playing.”
Want to see more of David’s work? Visit his portfolio here.
Stay tuned tomorrow to see another one of David’s favourite images!