Music photography and iconography are seemingly one in the same thing. You look at a picture of say Rick 'The Boss' Ross and you think, 'you know what he is THE Boss.' A lot of hip-hop culture is basically an artist standing there saying, 'this is who I am and this is what I've got, this is MY story.' But without photographers these images don't exist.
Without people like Gavin Thomas we can't ogle at these people. Can't rip their portraits out of magazines and cover our walls with them. We can't rip them out of magazines like VNDL, where Gavin is Editor-in-Chief.
Gavin Thomas is a New Yorker. Born in Rochester, Gavin studied at Rochester Institute of Technology and has since been photographing the people, places and faces of New York and those that go there to find their fame and fortune. Gavin is there to help leave their iconography on the industry. His own photography has graced the pages of Elle (UK,) New York Magazine, Inked and Popcorn just to name but a few.
Turning the lens onto Gavin, he sat down to face the ol' "5 Questions in 5 minutes."
D.C - Straight up I love double exposures. Do you use film and expose in camera or use digital and post-process?
G.T - Yes, I use film and expose in camera; no digital double exposures or layering in Photoshop. I typically use two or three cameras and shoot the film all the way through. Then, rewind and repeat. It’s very important to stay organized and label everything. My approach to multiple exposures is similar to painting. I build up layers upon layers; sometimes masking the lens with black tape or even a finger.
D.C - Is it a challenge to capture your subject's personality in just a studio shoot or do you find they come out of their shell pretty quickly?
G.T - Sometimes it’s a challenge, for sure. However, most of the time, people come out of their shells. It’s all about making them comfortable in front of the lens. I try to have a quick chat about either what I’m doing or briefly mention my goal. Even if we jump right into shooting I usually show a couple photos so they can see what is happening.
D.C - Proudest moment or biggest break?
G.T - When I got a phone call from AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) about shooting a story for them. They wanted me to do portraits using multiple exposures. I pretty much lost it (tears of joy) when they told me about the project and that I had to fly to five different cities across the US over the course of two weeks. My next phone call was to my parents to thank them for believing in me and supporting my dream of becoming a photographer.
D.C - Do you think having a photography background helps or hinders with a second job like E.I.C at VNDL? Or is it more of a case of the two going hand in hand, a natural progression?
G.T - In a way, the two pretty much go hand in hand. I started VNDL with very high standards for the photography/visuals. However, being the EIC comes with many more responsibilities than I could have ever anticipated. One of the benefits is that this experience has improved my ability to edit my own work.
D.C - Finally, what tracks do you blast in the studio/office and unwind to at home?
G.T - So much music is blasted. Lately, I’ve been into When Saints Go Machine, Son Lux, Thomas Azier, PAWS, Homeboy Sandman and Ancient Sky. Rob Bailey and The Hustle Standard have some great songs to listen to when working out. Overall, I probably I listen to way too much music. But it's fun to discover new bands and songs, as well as other talented artists, photographers and creatives.