Joey Lawrence is an inspiring young photographer from New York City. At only 23, he’s worked with more big-name clients than most photographers double his age. He is well known for photographing the first Twilight posters at the tender age of 18, but his resume boasts work for clients such as Coca-Cola, National Geographic, FX, Forbes, and the History Channel.
His personal work takes him to many cities around the world and into remote, exotic locations in Africa, India, and Latin America. His latest film project, People of the Delta, takes him back into the visually stunning Southern Ethiopia.
This Joey Lawrence interview discusses his latest film project and divulges some tips to help you take better photos.
Want to learn from Joey? Check out Lara Jade vs Joey L, his best-selling tutorial video that is on sale at PhotoWhoa.
Tell me about your latest film project.
People of the Delta is a dream personal film project I want to turn into a reality. It collaborates with subjects you may recognize from my photographs from Southern Ethiopia, and creates a film based around their lives. It is not a documentary, but rather an actual narrative film in which the tribes are the actors.
I recently spent 2 months scouting, planning and practising with the people I know from my previous trips. It was tough, but I managed to find people who are as excited about this project as I am.
My goal is to create a film which captures the essence of the tribes of the Omo Valley in the 21st century, and shares their distinct way of life with the world with a very respectful, dignified approach.
You photograph and film a lot in Southern Ethiopia. What interests you about people in that region and when did your interest begin?
Southern Ethiopia has extremely diverse tribal groups living in one concentrated area. History has brought many migrating groups from all over the Horn of Africa to settle in this fertile region. If you’re in the area, you can be among a certain tribe such as the Hamar, then walk an hour to another tribe that borders them, such as the Dassanach, and find a completely different ethnicity, language, way of dressing, and spiritual belief.
As a photographer, it’s a visual gold mine. Beyond being extremely visual, my interests in anthropology are continually bringing me back to the area.
Why should people back your film on Kickstarter?
Aside from being the enabler of a project with a great cause, there are tons of perks for backers. I realize PhotoWhoa has a photographer community, so there are many options that may interest you!
Go to the end of this interview to see the Kickstarter rewards.
(Editor’s note: Portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the people of Southern Ethiopia)
When you were just getting started in photography, what helped you improve the most?
The thing that helped me the most was experimenting. What I mean by this, is to not be afraid to attempt new ideas. As photographers, we have the luxury of displaying only our best work in a portfolio. We can hide the crap we create so that it never sees the light of day. It’s okay to experiment and make mistakes, because if you screw up, nobdy ever sees it. However, if you get something good, even a single photograph can change the influence of your entire portfolio.
You have a budget for $100 for a shoot. You must create a unique and interesting concept. What would it be and what would you buy?
For me, it all starts with great lighting. Although I use lots of fancy equipment on shoots, the good thing is you don’t need much to create good lighting. I’d find a piece of cardboard in a dumpster, spend $2.00 on a roll of tin foil and create a silver reflector. Then I’d take my subject to a pre-existing photogenic location, such as a rooftop or interesting wall that matches the subject’s vibe. At sunset, I’d reflect some light on to them, or use the reflector minimally to create a catchlight in their eyes. Then I’d use the remaining $98 on a nice dinner for my crew and I!
Have you ever been on a shoot and just couldn’t get any good photos or good poses from your subject?
Every photographer has been on a shoot that doesn’t start well, but usually it’s easy to curve them to your favor. If you aren’t getting anything good from your subject, it might be time to take a little break. While the camera isn’t pointed at them, they will relax and you can take notice to their natural stance. This is a good indication of how they will appear most comfortable on camera.
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