Flexinfab is a 19-year-old hip-hop artist from 'Nawf' Dallas I profiled for the Dallas Observer. You can read the story here. He's an interesting guy to say the least. His music is catchy, his style is outrageous and he has a team around him who are working hard to see him succeed. Anyway, this blog post is about the portraits we shot together. When I met up with him and his friends for the interview I wasn't sure where we'd be shooting so I brought a light setup with me. That idea went out the window rather quickly when Fab wanted to shoot inside a 7-11 around the corner.
We did a few shots in the store but I wasn't really into it. On the way back to the studio we shot at a closed taqueria that provided some colorful backdrops. We got some nice shots out of that but I had a tough time working with Fab's glasses. They reflected everything so harshly that most of the shots were useless because I couldn't see his pupils. And, since I'm working with a couple new Sigma Art lenses that have F1.4 I shot wide open like a noob (for the bokeh) and ended not getting tack-sharp images because the focus was locking in on his frames and not his eyes. That was a huge mistake on my part and I won't be shooting with that shallow of a depth of field again for portraits.
When we were back at the studio Fab works out of he asked one of his friends for his gun and he really wanted to get some photos with it. I wasn't a huge fan of the idea because I always feel like things like guns, weed or anything else similar comes across as exploitive or corny. Like "hey look at this rapper and he's waving a gun around" type of corny. But... Fab was really eager about shooting with it and he picked out this hilarious spot covered with flowers that provided a decent enough juxtaposition that put me at ease. We also made sure the clip was completely empty and nothing was in the chamber. Overall, I think we captured the spirit of Flexinfab, who is a young, brash rapper who's really into the edgy tropes hip-hop has to ever.
This was a pretty cool event to shoot. So What?! Music Festival has been going on since 2007 under different names and it's put together by a company called Third String Productions. I've been going to their events since about 2008 and it was at these shows all those years ago that made me want to shoot concerts in the first place. I remember going to see bands like The Devil Wears Prada, A Day To Remember and Underoath in Deep Ellum and Plano all while wishing I was the dude in the photo pit taking pictures. It's not until moments like this event happen that I realize I'm that guy now so it's kind of refreshing to know I've accomplished some of my goals as a photographer.
I feel like there are some standout photos here but I'm growing so bored with my concert photos lately. I'm noticing that I'm shooting from the same angles and cropping with the same rule of thirds method. It's getting annoying. I need to figure out a way to make more interesting photos. I think the best way to do this is to start getting better access. I've always hated the idea of asking to be backstage because it feels so cliche but it's the only way to get candid photos that are outside of the standard concert stuff I do. I need to shoot more candids and portraits -- it's the only way I'm going to keep growing.
Over the last few years I settled into a comfort zone with my photography of mostly shooting concerts and sports. As much as I love those two genres of photography I wanted to branch out this year and add portraiture to the repertoire. So, as concert season slowed down over the winter and football season ended I invested in some lighting equipment (1 monolight, 1 strobe, 1 speedlight, several light stands, backdrop kit and seamless rolls of paper) and taught myself how to shoot this style of photography. Fortunately some artists I've worked with in the past were willing to help me out. Special thanks to Lord Byron, Pat Ron and The Outfit, TX!
The biggest adjustment from shooting journalistic type photos to portraiture has been getting used to creating the whole image. With concert or sports photography I'm used to having to make do with the available light, the setting and keeping up with the subject. With studio photography or portraiture I'm in control of all of that and it's a lot more difficult to create the whole image from the lighting technique to the backdrop color/setting and posing the subjects. But it's all part of the learning process and just like I had no idea how to shoot sports a few years ago I'll learn and get used to this too.