THE PROGRESS OF A FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER | Josh Boston
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: I have been so inspired by the incredible fashion work of Josh Boston. I was so drawn to the aesthetic of his work. With that in mind we wanted Josh to share about his process, his journey in becoming a fashion photographer and how he got to the place were he is now. Now with that said here's Josh Boston's story, I hope your inspired.
JOSH BOSTON | Self Portrait
JOSH BOSTON: I was 17, slightly obese, lacking athleticism, popularity, money and musicality, and was thus the target of ridicule for a seemingly purposeless existence in public school. The only prevailing premonition I had for a future sat in a darkened youth hall at a local church. A 2004 mac pro. I had recently taught myself photoshop in the hours that lacked friends or frivolity. Noticing my newly-learned abilities, a naive leader assumed I was more qualified and capable than I was, and asked if I could put together a recap film of a recent missions trip the group took. I said yes. And had no damn idea how to do anything remotely related to video editing. From that moment on, one thing prevailed - if I didn’t know how, I would teach myself. I became a hermit in my self-created hobbit hole of a church youth auditorium and began to study the workings of everything from Photoshoot to Final Cut Pro, from videography to photography. In one instant I seemed to find something that gave me purpose, and I wasn’t letting go.
Fast-forward 10 years, and I had traveled to Australia for school, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania for work, had been a creative director, video editor and global cinematographer, and now I had just moved back to my hometown. I was in a season of transition and decided to throw 10 years of education and ladder climbing out the window. I moved from cinematography where my foundation was laid and secure, and moved to full-time photography. My whole life was shifting, and thus I figured my career should as well.
Back in the recesses of that Mac Pro in the youth auditorium laid one single image from an at-the-time unknown photographer - an image that captured my attention and was forever burned in my mind. 10 years later, that photographic image taken by the unknown photographer came from the recesses of my mind and lit the lamp to the path of my future. I began fervently searching the web for this image, desperate to find the photographer responsible for it, in hopes that I might find an opportunity to create the same type of imagery for a living. And my search was not in vain. Enter Annie Leibovitz.
My hometown was full of wedding and portrait photographers using VSCO, Lightroom and natural light - many of them highly successful. So I knew that I wouldnt be able to compete with them - I had to set myself apart and Annie’s work was the answer. I decided then and there to become a strobist, and more importantly, a fashion and commercial photographer. I purchase my first strobe light - a Paul C Buff Einstein - and had absolutely no idea how to use it. I began diving into the depths of google, pinterest and tutorial websites like that of Joey L, Lara Jade and Jeremy Cowart. I studied Annie’s images and used Joey, Lara and Jeremy’s tutorials to teach me how to get there. I began to understand the idea of the one-light wonders, the complexity of the equipment needed and the depths of editing required to recreate imagery akin to that of Rembrandt.
The image above was from my very first photoshoot with my Paul C Buff strobe and Canon 6D - ironically purchased more for it’s cinematography capabilities. My brother had a proclivity for fashion and creativity and in-such became my first obvious choice for a test model. We loaded the gear up into my car and ran around town to three different locations in our rather small city, aiming to use the sun as the fill light, and my strobe as the key. Let it be known that at the time I had absolutely no idea what key and fill lights were. I simply knew what I liked and was determined, just like the days in the youth auditorium, to teach myself how.
A week later I met two girls who would then become my next “fashion” models. Our second time interacting was spent with them in front of my camera or changing clothes in their car, which was filled to the ceiling with what appeared to be the entirety of both their wardrobes. The images below are from that shoot, and are when I discovered the doge and burn tools in photoshop, as well as the ability pose and shape models and the lighting.
These shoots were fun, experimental and great, but they weren’t paying the bills and I knew that I had to begin gathering a clientele base or this passion would soon become pathetically defunct. The only problem was I wasn’t sure how to “get” clients. Up until that point I had been head-hunting. I was known for my cinematography and had created a name for myself in that world. Photography was an all-together different beast full of “agencies,” “editorials,” and I was lost.
Thankfully in my search for learning, I came across a tutorial from Joey L in which he talked about the importance of passion projects and how they lead to work. From there I determined the demographic of clients in Springfield - certainly not fashion lines or high end commercial companies - but universities were in abundance, 5 to be exact. So I took my soccer-star brother to one of the university fields once again with my Paul C Buff Einstein and Canon 6d and shot the image below, and then posted it to Instagram and tagged every single university, athletic team and sports complex within a 100 mile radius. It was a pathetic attempt from the outset, but proved to be my provision into my now career. A week later, one of those universities emailed me and asked me to photograph their soccer team promotional images. That turned into photographing all of their sports team’s promotional material, which then turned into me pitching an astronomical retainer-based contract thinking they would negotiate and I would be able to pay my bills - to my utter shock and awe, they went for the pitched-price and suddenly with one client I was making more than my previous 9-5 had supplied.
As everyone learns at one point or another, the worst decision in business is to place all of your eggs in one basket. While I enjoyed the provision of my first client, I lived in the constant fear of losing them and being forced to live in my car. Extreme, dramatic and full of hyperbole, but for anyone in freelance, it’s a reality of anxiety. So I began to try and expand my clientele. The following 4 months would bring the largest barbershop chain in the midwest, a clothing store boutique, traveling the world for several NGO’s and a large theme park company as clients and a chance to learn, grow, make mistakes and better myself as both an artist and a business owner.
The latest lesson Ive learned has proven to me the cyclical nature of life - the severity of personal projects and intentional travel and risk. While I was incredibly fortunate with the lineup of clients and opportunity, I was producing a lineup of imagery detached from my original goals and desire. At that moment I knew that I had to once again return to personal projects to fulfill the flame in my heart.
The first-up project was what I like to call a 1920’s Vogue-inspired tennis fashion editorial. I found a gated-community tennis court that was guarded by iconic green fencing with vines growing all around. I gathered 4 friends and two new acquaintances as models, asked a friend to do hair and makeup, purchased several props and gathered it all together on a hot and humid August afternoon. Per normal, hair and makeup took far longer than expected, leaving me with a menial hour and a half before sunset to set lighting, place the models and work through the lineup of imagery I had in my head. In the end it was a personally-declared overwhelming success and one of the shoots I’m most proud of.
The latest project came from the help of a client. This particular client was a dentist office wanting stylized staff photos - no lie, they told me what they wanted, I showed them Annie Leibovitz’s group shots for Vanity Fair, and they gave me an almost endless budget to create the set in which we would shoot. Thankfully we were able to build it in a friend’s studio and leave it up after the shoot. The next day I asked Ashley, my most consistent model with absolutely no modeling experience but in incredibly amount of effortless talent, to meet me at the studio. We experimented for two hours and I came away with yet again a set of images geared towards my goals of fashion and commercial work.
And enter the present. Im still working for a myriad of clients here in the midwest and aiming towards my goals of shooting fashion. Im working on more personal projects and have been to London twice this year to set up meetings with agencies and industry officials in hopes of gaining work in one of the fashion meccas of the world. My style has ebbed and flowed, as it does for any creative seeking to improve, but one thing has remained assured - I have an almost unhealthy obsession for Annie, Rembrandt and a painterly perspective of imagery that leaves the viewer mystified and intrigued. The midwest gives me my grit and my past gives me my passion for pushing through self-education and overwhelming adversity.
In conclusion, I believe that every photograph not only tells a story, each individual image conveys deeply personal and intrinsic experience that juxtaposes our present with the image’s past, our paradigm with the image’s prism and our desires with the image’s delicate blend of colors and textures to transport us into a realm beyond what we see. I pray that the images contained within this book go far beyond that of displaying my abilities within the profession, but minister to your soul by connecting your heart and head, present and past and dreams and desires - may you see beyond the here and now - that which will be but isn't.