for as long as I can remember i have scouted modeling talent on my own for my own projects. When i was in memphis , i would hit my college campus and the mall and anywhere on the streets for interesting faces that inspired me. Since working with the top agencies in nyc, I have decided to not limit myself to the selection of models agencies have to offer. Most of the agencies tend to offer the same type of models and that has gotten a bit boring. All the white models tend to blur together and look the same....they look like brothers and sisters. All the black guys and girls tend to look like they just just stepped off the boat from the motherland - and black people are way too diverse to be limited to a selection of 3 or 4 models on an agency board.
The New York city streets are full of interesting people who are inspiring. Walking thru midtown Manhattan, Harlem, or Brooklyn makes my toes tingle with the amazing selection of beautiful and interesting people to chose from to create amazing images.
I also OVER the self-important attitudes many agency bookers tend to give a newcomer like myself. I feel like i'm in a "Mean Girls" movie sequel with mean fashion people. I don't haveta deal with none of that when I hit the streets.
I don't need the validation of the agencies, other photographers, or industry insiders when chosing people to shoot for my projects.
Brian Peters wasn't with Ford when I started working with him 4 years ago. He was a fellow co-worker at fedex in their hub headquaters in memphis. I spotted him in the parking lot, gave him my card. I worked with him every saturday for almost 4 years - which has led to a long term working relationship and friendship. When I moved to new york i introduced him to his former mother agent, sean bennett @ specimen who placed get him with Ford NYC.
Andre Douglas wasn't with any agency when i started working with him. He was basketball player in Lawrenceville, Alabama who max'd out his credit card on a plane ticket to new york city. He stay'd with me when I was living in the Bronx because he had no money for a hotel or no where to stay. He arrived with a broken foot that was swollen like he had elephantitis but we worked around it. I also introduced him to his former mother agent, sean bennett @ specimen and helped him put a package together that helped get him placed with Wilhelmina NYC.
Duran Bunch detailed motorcycles in Nashville, Tn and would ride his bike to Memphis to shoot with me. He wasn't signed to anyone. I saw his potential and help'd him delevope his book so he could have a competing chance in this business. He's currently represented by Wilhelmina NYC
Tiffany Fairfield I met in college while painting the set for a fashion show she was modeling in. I worked with her for years as we both developed and grew. It was my images that got her placed with Ford in LA and Arizona where she currently lives.
Philip Gadsens was my first discovery from myspace. He was going to school in Alabama and I saw him in a fraternity group pic and he eventually came up and stay'd with me for the weekend to create amazing images that got him placed with Ford.
Chris Clark Cates was waiting tables at Chili's up the street from the university of Memphis in Memphis, TN. We worked closely every weekend for months until he got enough strong images that got him placed with VNY in new york.
I remember when Tyson Beckford first appeared on the scene in the First Down outerwear ads in Source magazine and his look wasn't that of a male model. People thought he didn't have the standard looks of a model. They thought he looked more like a nigga off the block and now he's the most famous male model in the world and his look is the stardard template for black males modeling. Someone was inspired by his look enough to to shoot him and work with him and thats how I work.
I choose people who inspire my ideas and I believe in their potential. It is cool to work with agencies but that has never been the driving force behind my model selection. I am proud of the work I have done with a lot of aspiring models and i am happy to know that it was my belief in them and the work that we have done together that helped the industry see the potential i saw. I understand my work and the vision i see helps these agencies and models get paid..... now i'd like to see to $$$ on this end. :)
I'm not trying to take full credit for these and other people's success in this industry. I am just acknowledging my contribution. Some of theses people's success in this industry would have happened totally differently if my involvement wasn't there. I have extended myself beyond what most photographers because i wanted to help them. My grandma always told me to be helpful - especially if it doesn't put me in a bind. I helped those models and others because I am able....not with the expectations of anything in return. I was raised by good people to be a good person and to have a good heart....NYC and the people in the fashion world makes it real tough to be that....