Today we’d like to introduce you to James Wilson.
Thanks for sharing your story with us James. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born in and raised in LA w with my mom and my two brothers. My parents divorced when I was pretty young and I went to a lot of different schools around LA. Growing up, I had a lot of opportunities to try different things. I played baseball, danced, sung in the school choir, karate, painting, everything I had the chance to try out. I got into taking photos when I was pretty young, I remember my first time getting caught stealing, it was disposable camera from the grocery store. I was on my like 3rd or 4th camera and I was using them to just snap pictures of my brothers, my friends at school and just random stuff but never getting them developed because I didn’t wanna get caught. Some point down the line, years later I had them developed at a CVS or something and that shit was magical. I felt like I had access to the past, and it just felt really good to get something back in return for my efforts.
I remember when point and shoot digital cameras came out, I was using my moms little Nikon to just mess around, I’d take pictures of her dressed up before she’d go out, at the baseball park, just whenever she was in the mood to let me shoot. I’d try and take over for professional photographers at events lol I was just really into cameras as a kid amongst all the other things we had at the time.
I started moving around a lot in high school and kind of fell off of all my hobbies, as my interests in life changed to things like money, weed, music, and random teenager stuff. Out of all the things I tried out as a kid, taking photos stuck the hardest probably because of how accessible cameras became at this point in time. I got back into taking photos when I got to college and started hanging out with some film students there. I was walking around with a t3, taking pictures of everything and everyone, and it got to the point where I had built up this crazy archive of pictures that was like a library of content.
After I finished a darkroom course, I started networking myself as a professional photographer and my first real gig was taking pictures for a lady who was selling bundles to pay for law school. I was shooting parties, concerts, seminars, headshots, all kinds of shit. Really anything anyone asked me to shoot I’d be there ready to go! I’d meet people for the first time but have pictures of them from some time in the past, photography kind of became my social edge for a while, but I also felt this weird responsibility over this work. I felt like more than just a photographer, like a historian, an archivist, or a photojournalist.
I got a lot of professional practice while I was college, so when I moved to LA after graduating, I was ready to hit the ground rolling.
I got two retainers, one with the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce doing seminars and the other with Photo Pro Media doing little league sports photography. As rewarding as these opportunities were, I shifted my attention to other aspects of my life. I wanted to just live in the moment for a while as cliché as that sounds, and get back to taking pictures passively, leisurely.
After a long-winded break, I rediscovered my palate for images and what really satisfies me. I love doing portraits, scenic, and candid photography. I’m more attracted to the style of photojournalism than traditional staged photography, but am interested in applying a photojournalistic approach to staged photography. You can check out my website for examples of this if reading it doesn’t make much sense.
Currently, I have a few different irons in the fire but for my creative work, I’m exploring design and printmaking using my photos along with other applicable materials to create my own brand. I’m really interested in creating an elevated line of paper goods, greeting cards, and postcards, then eventually trying my hand at designing custom invitations and other meaningful stuff like that. I have a slight obsession with paper quality. I want to create art that has a utility factor. Though I’m not opposed to it, I was never interested in seeing my work really big and blown up. I’d rather it be used to send a message; to make someone feel special and feel that someone is thinking about them. We’ve moved into time where almost all communications are strictly digital now, and as much as I love the environment, I’d love to see people get back into handwritten messages.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Like anything that’s worthwhile, there have definitely been challenges I’ve faced as a self-taught photographer. I’d say the biggest for me has been doing the work that I care about and really focusing on my own ideas. Some of the smaller challenges have been things like building and maintaining a technical working knowledge of photography. There’s just so much to know. The other thing that I’m really working hard to overcome is staying current with methods, community updates, and just overall knowledge of what’s going on in the world of photography.
If I had to offer anybody who’s interested in going professional some advice, it would be to find something specific that they love to photograph and stick with that. Angle your images as a necessity and not an accessory. Finding your niche and making your mark is easier than now than I feel it’s ever been.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m an artist, I turn nothings into somethings. More specifically, I take photos and render them into pieces of fine art. I don’t really have a specialty or an established style, but I do have hundreds of satisfied customers, and some amazing stories to tell about the photos I’ve taken. I’m really into poetry and lyrics, and have been working on a book of Haikus I plan to drop during National Poetry Month (April 2020). My ideas really transcend creative disciplines. I’m really excited to try new things and explore other forms of expression. As for what makes me special, the only thing that sets me apart from the next person with a camera is my mind and the life I’m living; which might be what I love most about photography.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
My first base hit was my first real taste of success. I used o get the craziest anxiety when it was time to go up to bat, and at some point, after striking out several times, I just said fuck it and started swinging for the fences. As soon as I stopped caring about striking out, how I looked or if I’d even make it to first place, I started hitting the ball like crazy. That was my first time real confronting and affirming myself and the results were tremendous. I feel like success is setting out to accomplish something, and following through with it, regardless of how impactful it is on your life. There’s big success and there’s small success; A big symbol of success for me would be having the means to create with no limitations. However, producing my first collection of postcards from my time spent in Cuba with damn near all the limitations is still big success marker for me. Success is really what you make it, I don’t pedestal the idea of success at all. I’m successful everyday, even when all I do is daydream and visualize, even days when I don’t take a single photo.
- Website: jamesdaviswilson.com
- Phone: 3233164942
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @newilson_
Portraits by Jahde Wilson Images by James Davis Wilson