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Cam Kirk

Cam Kirk drops gems for creative entrepreneurs in ATL

ATL-based visionary Cam Kirk is more than a photographer, he’s an entrepreneur, and for our Finally Focused NY to LA bonus episode he dished out, more than enough, gems for aspiring creatives.

Constantly moving forward the ATL-based photographer sets new goals for himself, outperforming his last advancing step.

“I get offended when people say I made it… Don’t put any finish line on my career. I have not made it. I’ve got so much further, I can go… Once you do achieve your goals, if you’re not quick to set a new one, you can get very complacent.”

Cam Kirk, Photographer, Cam Kirk Studios Founder

Embarking on a very lonely path, that most creatives can relate to, he took adversity by the horns. Going against the grain, he spoke his studio into existence.

“Being finally focused is critical to my success because it’s the only way I got here. There are tweets about me sitting in my own studio one day…”

Cam Kirk, Photographer, Cam Kirk Studios Founder

The move towards taking his work into a physical space with his photography studio would inspire a hot spring of culture in a city deemed as a hip-hop epicenter.

Inspired by veteran photographers and collectives like Johnathan Manion and The Motion Family, he would look to a space in need of a Black leader. And, of course, he would do much more than inspire.

Cam Kirk would push ATL’s creativity to a new level.

“As a creative and as an entrepreneur this road can feel very lonely. It can feel like everything you’re up against feels like ‘me against the world’. It’s like you’re the only one doing this. Which is not facts,” said the visionary in our Finally Focused bonus episode.

He continued to touch on the inspiration behind the photography studio:

“There are other dreamchasers. I wanted to create an environment where you saw that, where that was obvious… We knocked the walls down and opened it up.”

Cam Kirk, Photographer, Cam Kirk Studios Founder

Going in 25/8 the ATL-based photographer has worked with our favorite rappers from Gucci Mane to the late King Von and now has his own series, in partnership with Facebook, titled Behind the Cam.

Averaging 500 bookings a month at his co-working photography studio and a partnership with Facebook, it’s hard not to acknowledge that he is the business.

Still, for him, he’s only 25 percent through his journey and when it comes to his legacy he’s on his way to leaving a lasting imprint on the culture.

“I want to be recognized globally. I’m trying to inspire photographers, creatives, entrepreneurs, individuals around the world. I want to make sure the legacy I leave behind […] is a physical legacy.”

Cam Kirk, Photographer, Cam Kirk Studios Founder

Watch the entire season of Finally Focused below and stay inspired.

Hispanic Heritage Month: 5 LatinX photographers telling powerful stories

With Hispanic Heritage Month in full force from September 15 to October 15, the spotlight is back on the Latinx community and its achievements throughout a year marked by a pandemic and the exposition of a myriad of social issues.

In a year that has seen powerful narratives put into perspective, it’s time to recognize what Latinx photographers bring to the table.

As a part of that exposition, the Latinx community’s visual storytellers have stepped up to bat. From COVID-19 to climate change to gentrification to Mickey Mouse, here are five Hispanic creatives who are telling high-impact stories through their photography.

Sebastián Hidalgo was raised among giants in Chicago’s Mexico

Sebastián Hidalgo hispanic photographer
Pictured: Sebastián Hidalgo

Proud to be “raised among giants in Chicago’s Mexico,” Pilsen native Sebastián Hidalgo plies his trade as a photojournalist by representing various facets of the Mexican-American identity as well as the pressing issues confronting the wider black and brown community.

His visual repertoire features coverage of gentrification, community infrastructure, and attitudes towards immigrants and policy.

The emergence of the pandemic was yet another chapter, and his ongoing project ‘History continues to do its dirty work’ continued to incorporate each of these themes to highlight the intersection between COVID-19 and systemic racism.

When 13-year-old boy Adam Toledo was killed by Chicago police, Hidalgo took shots of the ensuing protests to visualize the anguish of yet another life taken by the hands of police brutality.

A veteran photographer for the likes of National Geographic, The New York Times, ProPublica, and The Wall Street Journal, Hidalgo hopes to inspire the next generation to take up the mantle of telling powerful stories through photography.

“You can work most uncontrollable issues into something maneuverable. It take intension and a step by step process. Work with what you have. Build on it with a simple task to get started. Don’t give up.”

Sebastián Hidalgo

Hidalgo is currently guiding a local Chicago program unveiled by Apple and several other local groups offering five weeks of free training and access to photography resources to underrepresented youth.

See more of his work here.

Joana Toro is documenting stories of freedom

Pictured: Joana Toro

Documentary photographer Joana Toro is a Colombian creative on the move. Switching between two cities — New York City and Bogota — she captures issues of Hispanic Heritage, immigration, human rights, and identity confronting the Latinx community.

“Migration and identity are a constant in my work, they are the topics that I am interested in documenting, and they are stories that are worthwhile and that inspire others. They are stories of freedom.”

Joana Toro

To that end, Toro has an eye for finding unexpected angles to confront underreported issues. Her coverage of the pandemic through the lenses of as well as the costumed entertainers of Times Square and its effect on the underrepresented TransLatinx community landed her two features in the 2021 Photoville Festival.

Where is Mickey?’ covers how the loss of tourism during COVID affected Times Square’s street entertainers.  It features as a part of the ‘Eyewitness: Who Tell Stories of Our Time?’ project by the Pulitzer Center and Diversify Photo.

The latter series,‘TransLatinx Resilience against COVID-19’, was unveiled at the Queens Museum. Toro released the project in the wake of TransLatina activist Lorena Borjas’s passing, a heavy loss for the community.

Both works debuted on September 18th and will be available to view until December 1.

More of Toro’s work can be found here.

Josué Rivas is a stroytelling climate champion

hispanic heritage month
Pictured: Josué Rivas

An LA-based creative hailing from the indigenous Otomi community in Mexico, Josué Rivas uses his visual storytelling to champion the issues and perspectives of indigenous peoples and lead a charge to revamp mainstream media.

The reality is the photo, film, and art industry are colonized. By that, I mean that we have been telling the story of humanity from a colonizer perspective and I believe these are the times to change it… so that we can move forward and decolonize the media.

Josué Rivas

It is with this goal in mind that his photography focuses on the perspectives of indigenous folk. His work has covered issues such as fatherhood and the effect of climate change on indigenous communities, featuring in the New York Times and National Geographic, respectively.

hispanic heritage month
Climate change has further catalyzed the marginalization of indigenous peoples.

Seeking to spread his convictions beyond himself, Rivas has spoken at length about the importance of indigenous peoples telling their own stories. In 2017, he was invited to give a TEDx talk at Rapid City.

To view more of Rivas’s portfolio, click here.

It’s Hispanic heritage month all year round for photographer Verónica Sanchis Bencomo

Pictured: Verónica Sanchis Bencomo

A female member of the Latinx community and a photographer by trade, Verónica Sanchis has dedicated herself to promoting the storytelling of female Hispanic photographers while leading by example via her coverage of pressing foreign affairs.

One of her most recent contributions covered the crackdown and censorship of protestors in Hong Kong, Sanchis’s photography work featured Gotham, a student who was jailed for participating in protests in 2020 when the Hong Kong National Security law went into effect.

Seeking to elevate other Hispanic women using photography to tell powerful stories, Sanchis founded Foto Feminas in 2014.

The platform – currently curated by Sanchis herself –  publishes monthly features showcasing the visual stories of female photographers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Hispanic Heritage
Photo Cred: Florence Goupil

The latest beneficiary of Sanchis’s venture is Florence Goupil, a French-Peruvian photographer handpicked for her coverage of human rights, identity, and indigenous culture.

Archives of other featured female Latinx photographers can be found on the Foto Feminas website.

Click here to see more of Sanchis’s portfolio.

Cristopher Rogel Blanquet is a social advocate in his own right

latinx photographer
Pictured: Cristopher Rogel Blanquet

Beyond his Hispanic Heritage, social issues have always been the focus of Cristopher Rogel Blanquet’s work. This focus has taken him beyond the borders of his home country of Mexico to throughout all of Central America to New York City to Syria.

Surveying Central America, Blanquet’s ‘Central American Exodus’ series chronicles the arduous journey taken on by migrant families.

Blanquet’s latest work is a series titled ‘Beautiful Poison’, a collection of photos encapsulating the pain and experiences of families marred by agrochemical practices in Mexico’s flower industry.

Shooting the project, Blanquet interacted intimately with the story he was portraying, staying with the family of Sebastian, a 19-year-old boy who was born with hydrocephalus due to the long-term effects of pesticide exposure beating the odds by outliving his predicted lifespan of five years.

His coverage of the public health crisis in Mexico’s flower fields has him in the running as one of nine finalists for the 2021 Eugene W. Smith Grant, an award celebrating compassionate photojournalism.

Blanquet spoke with Phoblographer about what getting the award for his project would mean to him.

“It’s an honor… But it is also a great responsibility that I take on with pleasure to continue with my work. I’m interested in telling stories that I wish didn’t exist, like that of Sebastián, a little boy who has been sick for a lifetime due to agrochemicals.”

Cristopher Rogel Blanquet

Five grant recipients are set to be announced some time in October.

To view more of Blanquet’s work, click here.

Emmanuel Whajah

Navigating the creative industry from the perspective of Black freelancer Emmanuel Whajah

Emmanuel Whajah — creative director, videographer, photographer — is making quite a name for himself and is effectively navigating the creative industry as a black freelancer.

At 27, the German-born visionary has worked his way up the ladder capturing iconic moments for celebrities like Keke Palmer, Rita Ora, Les Twins, Eric Bellinger, and more.

Check out more of his work here.

A proud Ghanaian, Whajah sticks to his roots and finds enjoyment in the moment.

“What I enjoy the most about photography, filming artists is the moment itself, which is timeless…”

– Emmanuel Whajah, Creative Director

Navigating the creative industry from overseas

Whajah’s biggest inspiration growing up was Michael Jackson. For him, it was Jackson’s dedication to his creative craft. His ecstatic performances, the out of this world visuals, and influence on the culture.

“Just becoming a role model, a black creative who can inspire the younger generation… It’s the love of creating and sending a message to the world that brought me into the creative industries.”

– Emmanuel Whajah, Creative Director

In emulating Jackson, at the young age of 5, Emmanuel started dancing but would begin to ponder, “How can I tell a story and touch people emotionally?”

In picking up a camera, Whajah was able to use the instrument of creativity to not only tell his story but tell the stories of other gifted individuals who deserved documentation.

Meeting Eric Bellinger

Fresh off of a tour with artist Kid Ink, a picture Whajah took of the artist would catch the attention of Bellinger and from there he would find his next opportunity.

From a comment to a conversation with Bellinger over Instagram DM, the German-born freelancer would be recruited to join the R&B artist on his tour to capture video and photographic content.

And on this tour, Whajah would find not only more opportunities but also a friend in celebrity Keke Palmer.

It takes courage to leave a legacy in the creative industry

Whajah knows his worth but as a black creative navigating the creative industry has proven itself, time and time again. difficult.

“Knowing you have a different skin color, we have different skin colors, languages, music, and history is a big message that I, personally, try to reflect in my work.”

– Emmanuel Whajah, Creative Director

Still, the black freelancer has proven himself as well. Going beyond social media, Whajah has created a content footprint that has solidified his brand name.

“It’s the experience and the years you have in that area which will calculate how much you’re worth. You need to know how to promote your brand because it’s not only being creative and letting your work speak for itself but how you can manage and let the world see your work,” said Whajah.

Additionally, the black freelancer keeps the passion alive through a new series he’s been working on – Divine Beauty.


See the full series here.

Divine Beauty is a video series collection that represents the beauty and uniqueness of women with different cultural backgrounds in a tasteful, classic, and cinematic way.