As a nod to D.C.’s up-and-coming status within the art community, AmLit, The Blackprint, and Photo Collective hosted the “Capture” photography panel, which spotlighted local DMV photographers Mignon Hemsley, Kevin Wilson, and Tyrous Morris. I was intrigued and surprised to learn that the panelists were so young (Mignon and Kevin age 23 and Tyrous age 22). Additionally, Tyrous and Kevin attended the same high school, meeting and befriending each other early on in their lives. All three panelists had taken at least one photography class, but they agreed that learning comes more through real life application, citing their peers as major sources of creative inspiration and friendly competition. Although the panelists’ introductions were informative, it was only when each photographer began to discuss their photos each that I was able to conceptualize them as artists and note how their styles intersected and diverged.
I quickly detected Kevin’s leanings toward the business side of photography by the way he described the marketing strategies behind his shots, from his preference of the editorial style to his collaborations with big names like VICE. His work was mainly crisp, portrait-style photography, often featuring his friends. Mignon’s series of photos would best be described as eye-catching. She discussed preferring to shoot from unique angles/perspectives, incorporating well-thought out color schemes and DIY props in her photos. Finally, Tyrous’ series displayed an eclectic mix of everyday objects. He explained that he enjoyed taking photos of things that weren’t necessarily special, believing that “there is a perspective to almost everything you see.” I noticed patterns in his work of attention to centering, eccentric angles, stark backgrounds, and bold colorplay.
However, perhaps the most interesting conversation revolved around the photographer’s differing perceptions about the effect of Instagram on their work and more broadly, the institution of photography. Tyrous stated plainly: “Instagram sucks. The flow and the pace of it is so fast...It makes sharing photos a lot less personal. No one is taking it anymore.” Mignon, on the other hand had a more positive perception, calling Instagram her “visual mood board” where “it just depends how you work it.” Kevin also argued Instagram’s usefulness, as a platform to gage public opinion. He shared his insights, stating “yeah … I hate it as an artist, but from a business standpoint it is wonderful because your audience can talk to you… I can’t really bash it [Instagram] because some of the best things for me career-wise have come out of Instagram.”
The photographers concluded the panel with simple, yet encouraging advice for people just starting out: be genuine, keep going, and take your camera with you everywhere. They insisted that all beginners need is a cheap camera, a love of the craft, and persistence. Kevin expressed the unreal experience of being on the panel saying “I never expected to be sitting here talking to a bunch of people.”
I left the event feeling inspired by these people close to me in age going out into the world and pursuing their passions, despite the difficulties they encounter when finding gigs and making money. Mignon recently left her job in order to focus fully on photography. Tyrous works at Best Buy, but wants to continue making photography books like the one he passed out at the panel and branch into creating his own t-shirts. Kevin, in addition to several upcoming photography projects, wants to work with youth to pass along his knowledge. Each panelist is so clearly making the most of the opportunities they are given, dreaming big, and encouraging others to do the same. In Kevin Wilson’s words: “My work is actually my life, my friends, my favorite sweater… I am just collecting memories.”
Check out more work from these photographers: Mignon Hemsley (Instagram: @filletmignon / Website: 35mmig.com), Kevin Wilson (Instagram: @versacejesus / Website: http://www.versacejesus.us/), and Tyrous Morris (Instagram: @care.of).