He dropped out of high school at an early age to become a photographer. And amidst family members and peers thinking it was a hobby, temporary, or just fun-and-games, photographer Ace of LA stuck with his craft because he knew it was anything but.
He started taking pictures of people he wanted to photograph; “people that gave you that magnitude in front of the camera…” He then transitioned into photographing models, often with no pay.
But Ace of LA doesn’t see free work as just that, because that endeavor is always going to end up in securing a bigger paid opportunity.
“We are in a never-ending journey,” Ace of LA says solemnly. There isn’t a day that goes by where he does not learn something new about himself and his craft.
“The only thing I can tell that young shooter is just to keep being hungry, keep wanting to create, and keep wanting to excel.”
Ace of LA
Ace of LA’s ability to live in the moment enables him to stay grounded and focused on the task at hand. Treating every project like it is a big-budget blockbuster means he is always seeing the best work emanating from his eye and fingertips.
Stay tuned for more of his work and his fashion line here, and check out the rest of our Finally Focused series below.
Coming a long way from the boondocks of Brooklyn’s well-known Coney Island area, black director, and cinematographer Terence “MF” Thomas has made quite a name for himself.
For this episode of Finally Focused the experienced lensman tells us how he’s gotten to where he is today and how he’s achieved success within the video industry.
“I wasn’t thinking about being an artist. I was just thinking about getting out the fu–in hood…”
Terence “MF” Thomas
That first camera…
From the first time, he touched a camera Thomas was hooked. At 20, he made the executive decision to quit his 9 to 5 but before he did, he racked up enough money to buy his first camera, a Canon T3i.
With one of the hottest cameras on the market, at the time, Thomas would practice until he perfected his eye, taking around 2,000 photos daily while traveling throughout various NYC neighborhoods.
Rapidly MF became an apt capturer of beauty and a justified camera wielder. Soon enough he would be asked to take his photographic talents to video. Word got around that MF had the visual juice, thus taking him to new heights within the industry.
And his well-rounded resume proves it. A three-year stint as a creative director at Elite Daily and stretch at Overtime to working on his own NYC production house Manuall Focus Media, Thomas has accumulated four NY Emmy Awards for his amazing work.
With his head to the sky, Thomas looks to use the pressure of his success to create more impactful content. Additionally, he’d love to pass on the skills and tools he’s learned throughout his creative journey with hopes of opening up a film academy, one day.
His advice to up-and-coming photographers, directors, and cinematographers?
Stay creative. Stay hungry. Stay passionate. Just go out there and shoot…
Terence “MF” Thomas
We love highlighting Black directors, photographers, and creatives. To see more, watch the previous episode of Finally Focused below with photographer Flo Ngala.
“Everyone’s story is really, really different. It’s about timing, and it’s about just being ready, so that when your time comes, you can make sure you come correct.”
Flo Ngala- New York based photographer
Hailing from Harlem, NY, the confident and collected Flo Ngala explains to us how that quote fits much of her career thus far. In eighth grade she got a camera, a Minolta-X-something to be exact, and that opened her up to be creative with the lens throughout high school.
Then, Ngala remarks that working for Gucci Mane was probably the first thing that really catapulted her career. Like she said later in the episode, when that time came… she made sure she came correct.
Working as a personal photographer for Gucci then opened up the door to working as a personal photographer for Cardi B. And portfolio opportunities blossomed from there.
A blossoming portfolio
Flo Ngala’s West African roots inspire her to pursue powerful images and moments. And capture the authenticity of diverse and unique vibrant cultures. In 2019, she landed a cover photo for The New York Times with insightful reporting on Black figure skaters from her hometown.
The talented New Yorker also kicked off the year working with Netflix on a project. Then she proceeded to a Rolling Stone job, capturing much of the intensely visceral moments connected with the protests in New York City this Summer. Notable other clients include Nike, Reebok, WWD, and Vogue.com.
“I like being able to just move, and not have to worry about people knowing what’s happening. Just kind of see things, and getting them in the moment,” says Ngala.
The tenacity with which Flo Ngala operates is really what sets her apart and has made her so successful this early into her adult life. Emblematic of how she sees herself behind the lens, one of Ngala’s Instagram posts is captioned, “You don’t photograph people with equipment, you photograph them with energy. The camera is the medium, the photographer is the messenger.”
With an intrinsic understanding and acknowledgment of her roots, a New York energy that only real New Yorkers know, and an innate desire to capture powerful moments that are often forgotten, Flo Ngala stays Finally Focused.
Like the Flo Ngala episode? Check out Finally Focused Episode 2 with Producer Joe Hood
“There’s a lot of different types of producers and there’s a lot of different levels of involvement for producers, but I really made my way by being involved from content to completion. The idea of a creative producer.” – Director and Producer Joe Hood
That was Joe Hood talking, Illinois native and current LA director, producer, writer, etc.
Hood is the founder and Creative Lead/Lead Producer at Hoodworks Video, a full-service video production company based in Los Angeles, CA.
The visionary director went to school at NYU before dipping out West for more lucrative opportunities. With his pit bull by his side, Hood told us about his creative journey.
Some of the projects Hood has worked on are acting as the VFX artist on Dripjacker by Zaytoven and Lil Gotit, the editor on Body by Pretty Ricky, and the writer and producer on Fox 5 by Lil Keed and Gunna, which has amassed over 3.4 million views since June.
Hood has worked in many different parts of the media industry, from social media work to BuzzFeed and L’oréal commercials to the music video/ creative process now where he has more freedom.
But he stressed that one of the main reasons he has moved around so much in the industry is because he focuses more on the opportunities for himself and others that open up, rather than just over saturating the process with content.
“Being a creator of color… unfortunately it automatically defines you. So at some point, you have to decide how you want to define you and what it means for you,” said Hood.
He stressed how creatives of color almost need to have MORE versatility going into jobs than their causation counterparts, as it’s almost like “they want you to prove yourself in things they haven’t even proved themselves in yet.
“You can’t be successful and prepared unless you’re versatile.”
Hood’s creative journey and his day-to-day process are inspiring in its authenticity and his bluntness about the way the industry works. Keep an eye on the creative director moving forward, as his mission, as in ours, is to diligently stay Finally Focused.
Like the Joe Hood episode? Check out Finally Focused Episode 1 with Director Paulette Anges Ang
“In general, life is a gift invaluable and if you share that view everything you create is worthwhile… ” – Director Paulette Agnes Ang
We caught wind of Paulette Agnes Ang and her work after watching the video for Princess Nokia’s track “Balenciaga.” The continuous shot. The intensity of each frame. And the overall creativity of the project is what caught our eye.
We had to hit her up and tap into the mind of the young director in order to grasp a better understanding of her work. And this first episode of Finally Focused NY to LA is a direct representation of that.
Already making a name for herself the Thai, Puerto Rican, Italian and French director, has worked with artists and brands ranging from Joey Bada$$ to Versace.
Not to mention her grind doing non-biased reporting on social, scientific, political, and cultural occurrences for Getty Images.
With nearly a decade’s worth of work, the multi-faceted creative’s journey is definitely one worth documenting.
Paulette Agnes Ang and her creative journey
Starting her creative journey as a production assistant in 2011 Paulette took hold of every opportunity presented to her. She would tap into her directing talents for the first time after linking up with 88 Palms to create a video.
While shooting, by chance, she was recruited by a managing director at an agency that represented directors. It was at that moment Paulette said, “That this was something that not only felt natural for me but unknown and rich in exploration.”
Merging her skills as a painter and an artist Paulette’s work became more than valuable. For her, “film and video are forms of communication and they are conversations that you have with the viewer through your work.”
Additionally, they are conversations you have with the artists through their work and a conversation with yourself. Using her love of non-practical lights to create an atmosphere that makes the viewer feel like they are in an altered state.
“I think because I am not very ‘film literate’ I get most of my inspiration from paintings and the art world…”
At this point in her career, she is open to learning even more from collaborative experiences. Paulette’s advice to up-and-coming creatives…
“Be open to experiences and opportunities and be curious when you are in them. Challenging your perspective is how you can go deeper in what you are doing and learn about yourself and what surronds you.”
On the preface of greatness, let’s keep our fingers crossed for the visionary inspiring the next-gen of directors as she is nominated in three categories at the 2020 Berlin Commercial Festival.
New York City is home to so many adorable Instagram famous pets that are cats and dogs, however, Wrinkles the Duck sets herself apart from the whiskers and paws with bills and feathers.
Barely even a year old Wrinkles capture the hearts of everyone she meets. Her wings aren’t the only feature that makes this heartwarming bird unique from your typical household NYC pet.
Raised by two circus performers Joyce and Justin, Wrinkles lives a unique life, charming people in person and online. Wrinkles herself can even juggle, much like her owners.
Her Instagram account, seducktive, is filled with exciting adventures that bring joy to your feed. Even saying her name puts a smile on your face.
“When she was little she really liked wrinkles, little folds in the fabric and everything like that, she would constantly investigate and try to them, so we just called her wrinkle eater,” said Justin. “Then we started traveling around then it was like a Wrinkle in time.”
Wrinkles was hatched a male and biologically has male features, however, she is referred to with she/her pronouns.
It’s difficult to determine the biological sex of a duck until 6 months after they were hatch. Female and male ducks quack differently, but when Justin and Joyce had to register Wrinkles as an emotional support animal, they registered her as a girl.
“All the signs pointed to female, she always given feminine vibes she’s our little princess,” said Justin. “She can be whatever she wants to be”.
While she loves people and the attention, ducks are still a little socially awkward. That’s not stopping Wrinkles though, she’s making friends across all species of life.
In a community as large as NYC, Wrinkles isn’t the only Duck in town. Her owners are even taking her on little outings and duck dates where she meets other ducks.
“We met different animals she met a bunny, she met a pig and goose,” said Joyce. “We’re still trying to let her meet a couple ducks more regularly and see if we can bring her to the next level of relationship”
Wrinkles made headlines as an emotional support duck, following runners through the finish line in the 2021 NYC marathon in her signature red shoes.
Her shoes are beyond a fashion statement, they’re made of neoprene, the same material used in manufacturing wetsuits for scuba divers. These eye-catching shoes provide Wrinkles protection and prevent bumble-foot common with duck.
“The red shoes become her signature thing, but she has a whole different pairs of different shoes that we made a bunch of different colors and stuff,” said Justin. “So when she wears a different color people seem to notice”.
“We try to match it with different events we’re going…”
The NYC Marathon wasn’t the finish line for Wrinkle’s public appearance. This feathered guest of honor has appeared in many different locations such as Tiffany’s, Sloomoo, and other distinguished events.
Her adventures continue on Instagram, making friends and living her best life with her caring owners.
When it comes to New York City, most outsiders probably have this idea of a sea of people hailing yellow cabs while pizza on every corner and everyone being an asshole, or some shit.
Well, they’re not exactly wrong (especially about that last one) but none of that is really New York.
When it comes to true, quintessential NYC shit, nothing embodies the culture of the city more than someone born and raised here wearing Timbs. Yes, Timberlands my guy.
Whether you’re a construction worker who’s barely working, and mostly catcalling all day, or a rapper sitting courtside tryna trip a referee, Timbs are an NYC staple. But more than just being a durable ass boot that goes with every outfit, it’s a statement.
From Biggie and Jay Z, to Nas and countless dudes on the 6 train, this is a trend that’s now a worldwide phenomenon. But where did this obsession with a shoe all begin? How did a seemingly small trend starting in New York transcend all throughout hip-hop and urban culture?
Timberlands low key started in Boston.
No real New Yorker is trying to hear this but they will respect the fact that facts are facts, b. Timbs started in the same state where the Red Sox and Patriots play.
The Timberland Company was founded by Nathan Swartz in 1918 who wanted to make the best shoes for blue collar workers at the time.
But it wasn’t until 1952 when Timberland really got it poppin’ and bought The Abington Shoe Company which used a special fabric. Then 20 years later they released their first waterproof boot, the Timberland. So when did it become a cultural phenomenon?
The trend started in the 90s when NYC drug dealers began wearing Timbs.
While these boots were made for factory workers and blue collar workers, it has been said that many New York-based drug dealers began to rock them while posted on the block.
Timbs were ideal for these dudes because their entrepreneurial drive had them working at all hours and they needed to stay dry and warm, it also gave them added security if they needed to stomp a motherfucker out. Straight up.
This ain’t a bunch of bullshit either. Author Rob Walker reported in his book Buying In reported,
“The legend goes that the first ‘urban’ buyers of Timberland boots were New York drug dealers – guys who had to stand on the street all night and needed the best possible footwear to keep them warm and dry.”
Then rappers made it a mainstream part of the culture.
Since the 90s and even earlier, drug dealing and hip-hop have been interconnected as street life was reflected in some of the most popular music, as it still is today.
This is the case New York artists especially, as they mentioned Timbs as a symbol of where they come from and the life they live. Look at Biggie when he said, “Timbs for my hooligans in Brooklyn,” on “Hypnotize” or Nas on “The World Is Yours” when he dropped the classic line, “Suede Timbs on my feet makes my cipher complete.”
With greats like these sprinkling Timbs references throughout their catalog, it remains a part of hip-hop culture. Even Cali rappers like The Game showed love on his song “Let Us Live” when he said, “In Brooklyn I rock Timberlands.”
Timbs are synonymous with New York culture and hip-hop made sure of that.
They’re literally made for the New York lifestyle
Being on the go as much as a New Yorker takes some rugged support. Whether you’re dipping from the boys while you smoke a Backwood on the street or you’re posted on a rooftop sipping a 40, Timbs are your go-to when it comes to support.
It’s no wonder why most NY humor you’ll find on the web has to do with some aspect of rocking Timbs, like this Spiderman dude who raised in Brooklyn.
A post shared by Tashaw /tata /Ulysses (@tata_bboy) on
If you live in New York, you know what it’s like to experience all four seasons of the year in one week. It can be 70 degrees one day, mad windy with thunderstorms the next and snowing OD by the end of the week.
For people who have to pretty much take the train or walk everywhere, what’s one thing they can actually depend on? That’s right, their Timbs.
There was a rumor that Timberland hates black people
This one may not be true, but definitely a little sketchy.
While some comments by Timberland founder Jeffery Swartz’s grandson, Nathan, said in a 1993 New York Times article that Timberlands were made for “honest working people” it should be noted that they may have been taken out of context and misconstrued.
In a 2011 interview with Financial Times, he addressed these comments and showed to have a better understanding of his consumers saying,
“The data was excruciatingly clear if we had had the brains to understand it. A young kid wearing outdoor hiking boots in city fashion … It wasn’t a caricature,” Swartz told the Financial Times.
“Instead, it connected back to the essence of the brand. He added that, even in concrete jungles, ‘people said ‘with Timberland boots on our feet we feel nothing can stop us … I live in a rugged world and I want to feel powerful and secure.'”
Swartz also low key funded an anti-racism advertising campaign in the past and aside from that slight blunder in the NYT article has had a clean record in that regard.
Timbs are a staple of NYC culture and aren’t going anywhere
By now you realize these aren’t just boots. They represent something much larger and more profound, while standing the test of time. It’s safe to say these shits ain’t going anywhere.
But Timbs are also one of the latest urban fashion trends to become gentrified and rediscovered by, you guessed it, white people. I ain’t really gonna get into all that right now but just peep this headline below of a model rocking some Timbs like it’s never been done before. Christopher Columbus ass.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are. If you wanna rock some Timbs because you need the support then more power to you. Just know that a real New Yorker will also wear them in 100-degree weather with shorts.
That’s the tell-tale sign you know they ain’t just doing it to look cool.
In an an era of mumble rap and trap artists flexing over the beat, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’s style brings-hip hop (and most musical genre’s) back to its roots, singing about love and growing up.
When asked about his style and why he doesn’t dabble in the elusive art of mumble rapping he told NewsWeek,
“I guess I never really got to a point where I decided I wanted to rap like a mumble rapper. As a New York rapper, I feel like I can’t take it there anyway. That would be changing New York. My music, it needs to be heard. Sometimes the vibe is good, but I don’t really care about [being played in the club]. I care to be heard.”
Artist Julius Dubose was born in Highbridge, NYC in the Bronx (the same place as Cardi B) and started rapping at age 12. He acquired the name “A Boogie Wit da Hoodie” for a multitude of reasons.
The A comes from his first name, Artist. The “boogie” comes from being from the Bronx. And the “hoodie” part is due to the fact that he always had a hoodie on as part of his wardrobe.
Although A boogie stays repping New York, he credits his real incentive to taking rap seriously and entering the game by the time he spent in Florida.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, A-Boogie went on to explain how his parents moved to Florida first and how he ended up down there with them.
“My mom and my dad moved to Florida first. I was in New York, I got in trouble a few times – just regular little weed charges and shit. They were like, ‘It’s over, you gotta come with us.'”
It was in Florida where Artist met producer Mr. Whyte, who evidently helped him turn into the artist he is today and reach the stardom he has achieved.
With songs like “Say A”, “No Promises”, “Undefeated”, “Beast Mode”, and “No Comparison”, (and let’s not forget “Drowning”) all breaking the Billboard top 100 off of his first legitimate studio album The Bigger Artist, it seems that Artist (get it?) Dubose has already established a solid foundation in the rap game.
But this is just the beginning, A Boogie went into detail about new directions he wants to take his music in the future, telling NewsWeek,
“I would like to do more singing, but I want more of a pop feeling when I do that. I don’t wanna just do it out of nowhere. [My career] gotta rise more.”
Of course, being under the spotlight at such a young age brings about a lot of stress. Being that he is twenty one years old, A Boogie is not immune to cracking under the pressure.
Earlier this year on October 21st, A Boogie and his crew allegedly attacked Lil B backstage at Rolling Loud music festival after an altercation between the two parties.
Everything turned out ok, no one was severely injured, and the two parties absolved the issue pretty quickly. In fact, Lil B came out during his show and publicly forgave A Boogie right after it happened, and A Boogie apologized a couple days later via Twitter.
All incidents aside, Artist Julius Dubose is an up and coming artist with a very melodic flow that’ll take you on a musical journey, backed with meaningful lyrics.
He is helping bring the rap game back to its rightful home, New York City, albeit with a very new sound.
A Boogie is up next, and we can’t wait to see what he does with it.
Y’ALL, if you have not been put on to Princess Nokia, now YOU MUST.
She’s an articulate, beautiful, ratchet, magical, genuine, feisty, artist, rapper, singer, role model, feminist, metal lover, Afro-Latina Queen, Spiritual Goddess, and all around badass.
Plus, she’s woke AF, which is obvious.
Born Destiny Frasqueri, but commonly known by her alter ego “Princess Nokia,” and having grown up between the Bronx, Harlem, and Lower East Side, she’s easily seen ALL of what New York City has to offer, which includes the good, bad, and REAL AF.
In her 2016 documentary with The Fader, titled Destiny, she speaks about living through her mother’s death, to being raised by her sister, to then living in foster care until she ran away at age 16, to never looking back. Her fearless, bold, and powerful attitude shined through within that entire 16-minute documentary.
Her message in the doc is clear:
“So like I say at all these patriarchal male dominated events, all the mothafuckin’ girls to the front.”
I was first put on to Nokia when I was going through some shit and found myself laying in bed and stumbling upon her videos. NO LIE, after watching her “Tomboy” video, I was HOOKED. I instantly admired her carefree, yet empowering, attitude and quickly stepped out of my feelings by remembering who TF I was.
The song explains her body type as being similar to a tomboy because she has small breasts. However, it goes on to emphasize the fact that her small stature is mighty and powerful in every single right, as she sells out shows everywhere, solely based on her personality and outlook on life.
“My body little, my soul is heavy. My little titties be bookin’ cities all around the world . They be fucking wit’ me”
After that I spent HOURS watching the rest of her videos on her personal YouTube channel, along with other videos that she’s been in, such as “Princess Nokia in Conversation at Brown University” and a sit down with Ab-Soul, to name a few.
What resonated with me the most was the fact that I related to her unlike any other artist because I was able to take something away from each of her identities, as she meshes together so easily.
For starters, she’s an Afro-Latina from the Bronx, which is EXACTLY how I personally label myself.
Secondly, I’m a feminist in every sense of the word, so listening, and watching, her fight to be recognized as equally competent to men in her craft, while still being true to her core beliefs, spoke to my soul.
Thirdly, she takes pride in identifying the motherland (Africa) as the origin of EVERYTHING as it’s in her music, culture, and her spirituality.
Her overall sound, and vibes are a fusion of the nitty gritty NYC stomping grounds, her personal femininity that she gracefully emanates, and her feminism that she lives by, which simply consists of taking no shit from ANYONE, regardless of race, class, or gender.
For example, she had performed at Cambridge University and literally jumped in the audience to hit a guy who had uttered sexist remarks to her while she was performing.
It’s her multifaceted personality makes that her so relatable. To listen, and see, an artist showcase their versatility within 10 minutes of speaking is a testament to the type of art that she creates.
Nokia’s effortless transition between moods feels genuine. Her entire movement of having no labels, while still empowering women through various mediums, such as her Smart Girls Club podcast, makes her a force to be reckoned with.
Her verbiage and smooth method of articulating her every thought and emotion flows like the mixture of the beautiful trap fairy persona that she radiates.
When I hear her music and watch her interviews, it’s almost as if I take away something from different artists, both past, and present.
For example, her IDGAF ATTITUDE gives me Rihanna vibes, while her sweet depth and sensuality give me a SZA vibe. Then she switches into the raw, unafraid looks of Beyoncé, like in the “Hold Up” video.
Her musical genres fluctuate between hip-hop, to electronica, to rap, to almost everything in between. However, her depth is such that you won’t understand her in a 20-minute interview, but you want to keep learning more.
That’s what makes her even more amazing because she’s such a tantalizing individual that learning about her is an on going process.
There’s something profound about the conversations that come up JUST by asking someone if they’re into her. It’s not just “Did you hear her new song” or “wow she’s so physically attractive.”
If you mix self-belief, creativity, and intuition and apply that combination to your vision, success will be attainable.
For NYC photographer Setor Tsikudo these are the ingredients that have allowed him to snap pictures of famous music artists and their fans at the wildest events.
His aesthetic goes way beyond just snapping a picture on his iPhone 7+ and uploading it to the Gram. He adopted a covert technique, going right to the center of crowds at shows, giving way to a “right in the moment” style.
The man behind the lens is even more intriguing and his respect for the craft is unmatchable.
We caught up with Tsikudo to see what’s really good with his unique style and photographic brand. As he told us, this all felt like divine intervention,
“It’s crazy how the universe helps you move towards pursuing your passion.”
Tsikudo’s decision to pursue his passion didn’t come right away. He decided to chase his dreams after losing two offers from Ernest & Young. What would you do in order to succeed? Tsikudo made the choice to bust his ass for his passion rather than money.
“I was chasing the money and not my dreams. That’s a recipe for misery and regret. My first step was thinking, ‘what do I actually what to do regardless of the odds?’ When I lost those offers at EY, I had to have a real moment with myself to decide if I wanted to go back to working at firms and busting my ass till 2 am every night for something I wasn’t passionate about, or bust my ass till 2 am trying to get a dope shot of an artist. I chose busting my ass for my passion.”
Fuck a corporate 9 to 5 hustling for someone who just sees you as a number. Tsikudo gambling all his chips on his photography career was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
He went full throttle getting himself access into events thanks to apps like Songkick, which allows music fans to keep up with their favorite artists while they’re on tour.
Tsikudo would then go on the hunt searching for the right events and who to contact for press passes, which he sometimes didn’t even receive.
So, how’d he gain access when the plug didn’t come through? Finessing the situation.
“Most passes go to blogs or publications over freelancers and also as a freelancer you always have to be on the hunt for the right events first and then worry about how you are getting access. I owe the majority of my success to an app called Songkick.”
Tsikudo explained that sometimes you just gotta hustle and find specific contacts to get into the right situation,
“With Songkick, I basically get a schedule and information on every music event happening. The app lets me know when tickets are going on sale and where the shows take place. After this step, it comes down to identifying who I need to email. Sometimes I finesse these situations where I can’t gain press access by buying two tickets and resealing one at an inflated price to offset the cost for me. Of course this only works with big names or trendy artist.”
One of his most exciting shoots thus far was when he got to see Frank Ocean perform at Panorama Music Festival this past July. Ocean’s amazing set made the music festival rank within the top three concerts Tsikudo has ever experienced.
But although he was a huge fan he didn’t let a moment pass by where he was unfocused.
“Hands down, Frank Ocean was that person. I got the chance to see him at Panorama Music Festival this past July and that was by far my top three favorite concerts ever. His set was just simply amazing. In regards to the excitement and being a fan of an artist I shoot, It’s sad to say, but with time your excitement for big artist decline. You develop a sense of numbness to stardom that takes the awe of these experiences. I am so ingrained to getting good content that everything else is irrelevant. That’s what’s important versus having a fan moment.”
One thing that I admire about Tsikudo is his persistence and endurance to hold strong even when he has to go against the current.
Besides the peeving process of copping access to shows, the daily struggle also entails getting paid. Tsikudo stressed the importance of building a brand for yourself as a photographer,
“The most frustrating part to me is a tie between getting access or getting paid. It’s honestly a daily struggle. It’s almost impossible to find artist’s management contact to get passes, and even when you do get access most people aren’t willing to pay you because they can find another photographer who would be willing to do it either cheaper than you or for free. That’s why creating a brand as a photographer is essential to seeing success.”
Building his brand intertwines with a respect for the craft of photography. You can’t just say you’re a photographer because you have a camera, it takes years to get nice with it.
Don’t sleep on his skillset.
“For me, the biggest misconception is this is a skillset. With camera technology becoming more and more accessible every year, people are able to get their hands on camera equipment that in the past was just way too expensive. This has opened up the gate to a lot of people to self-proclaim themselves as photographers when in actuality they shouldn’t because they haven’t studied this craft. I mean there are basic things people don’t understand about the camera that you just absolutely can’t call yourself a photographer, especially if you don’t even know how to focus it. I want people to understand that this is a craft. It takes time to get good. I’m not even there yet and I’ve been at this for six years now. Respect the craft is what I’m getting at.”
Tsikudo’s eye sees past concerts and fans as he loves to capture portraits and is infatuated with beauty shots. “I capture a lot of portraits. In fact, love beauty shoots.”
His aesthetic developed unintentionally. The energy felt from his shots makes the viewer feel like they are right there at the stage.
“I’ve developed an aesthetic unintentionally. When I first started out getting access to shows was very difficult, so most times I was shooting from the crowd. My shots are mostly first person POV of a fan who is right in front moshing or singing their heart out. I’ve learned with time you develop an eye for certain shots and from there you begin to develop a style.”
The NYC-based photographer has a huge list of priorities he wants to check off. At the top of the list of someone, he wants to shoot, stands President Barack Obama. He sees Obama as a beacon and the “epitome of achievement.”
“To me, [Obama] is the most iconic figure of our time. Shooting President Obama is one of those things I want to show my kids in the future. I want to show them that photo and tell them about how great this man was. Obama is the epitome of achievement. I want to show my kids that anything is possible and Obama definitely signifies that.”
How will he get there? A complete rebrand of self. As he grows within his career, Tsikudo sees branding as an opportunity for an artist to showcase their identity, land gigs, and gain bigger clientele.
“My number one priority right now is rebranding myself. Branding is needed as you grow. It allows you the opportunity to showcase your identity and skill set as an artist/photographer. This, in turn, gives way to landing gigs and gaining bigger clientele.”
“Later this year I’ll be creating a portrait series again, but this time around my focus for subjects will be musicians. I believe this will get me outside my norm of shooting concerts and events, giving way to explore editorial style shooting. Creating images of high caliber that can be seen on album covers or magazine features.”
Another skill Tsikudo is looking to add to his covert and street photography expertise – editorial style shoots and cover art for music artists.
“My thing has always been more covert and street photography. As I’ve progressed with my skillset I’ve taken more interest in studio work. I want to move into the editorial style shoot, more specifically with cover art for music artists.”
For young aspiring photographers, this is definitely someone’s lane you want to follow – individualistic, social, and confident.
Tsikudo’s message for the youth dem is oh so inspirational.
“I would say if it’s where you wanna be, then don’t give up. Also, don’t compare yourself to anyone because everyone’s path is different. How one person comes up, will be different than you. I have this problem myself of comparing myself to other photographers out there and had to realize that Setor’s story and journey is Setor’s story and journey. How one person makes their Starbucks drink is totally different than someone else.”
“It’s ok to look to people for inspiration, but trying to emulate them won’t do you any good. You are good enough. With music photography, you have to look at yourself as a photographer and as a business person within the music industry. Networking is the main way to excel in the music industry. It’s not always about what you know, but it’s more than likely about who you know. Whether you’re the best photographer or the worse, your networks get you access.”
Be yourself, follow your vision, and good things will happen.