Skip to content Skip to footer
zhong lin photography

Who is Zhong Lin? The artist setting the tone for capturing portraits

“I want to rediscover what it means to start from nothing. No limits, no boundaries and no definition,” says Zhong Lin, the brilliant artist capturing portraits.

Zhong Lin pledged to take a portrait a day for 365 days. Calling it the “365 challenge,” at first she struggled maintaining focus and creative inspiration. Something we can all relate to at some point or another.

But Lin found focus and inspiration in spontaneity. And, shooting around Taiwan in South Asia, she was able to capture beautiful portraits of people without worrying as much about the coronavirus, as the country did a brilliant job mitigating its spread.

“Every visual starts from a blank page. I have learnt that there is no right or wrong in creativity and with this vision I invite you to take on this journey with me to title what is yet to be named.”

Zhong Lin

A portrait captured a day – the Zhong Lin way

Zhong Lin’s work has been celebrated in Vogue China, Harpers Bazaar China, and many more publications. She was born in Malaysia, though as mentioned before, traveled around the area of Taiwan capturing portraits in 2020.

Her project is still ongoing, as from the day she began, 365 days is not yet up. It also just so happened that, despite the immense difficulties the pandemic presented and the severe loss felt, it gave her a chance to look around and reflect.

“The breakout of COVID-19 happened to give me a pause and an opportunity to start this project.”

Zhong Lin

As of January 19, 2021, Lin has captured 272 portraits, the most recent being this delightfully enigmatic close-up.

portrait photography
#272 #stye” (Cred: @zhonglin_)

The art of capturing portraits

Zhong Lin is a self-taught photographer, which should provide the most novice (and aspirational) creatives to follow, and teach themselves whatever they want to do.

Each of Lin’s images are distinctly unique, which of course is no simple feat with 272 completed (and more to come). They are dreamy, like they all exist within an ethereal plane.

And capturing portraits is not an easy feat itself either. One has to make their subject feel comfortable, giving instructions, but not too many as to bother.

Another important aspect of Lin’s work, and for all portrait photographers, is to let the creation come to them. Don’t force it.

“In the beginning, I just wanted to create beautiful things without boundaries, with different people and talents I meet at work or in life… and to share my visions with the world.”

Zhong Lin
capturing portraits
#258 #bubblegum” (Cred: @zhonglin_)

Portrait photography in South Asia

When Lin found herself stuck in Taiwan at the onset of the pandemic, she started conceptualizing the project.

“Daily life here hasn’t been impacted much by the virus,” Zhong told CNN in an interview this past September.

“In Taiwan, people still get to walk outside, travel domestically and go about life normally, though with more caution.”

Zhong Lin

We follow Zhong Lin’s portraits with giddy anticipation. She, truly, is an inspiration to creatives seeking to start something new. Creatives looking for reinvigoration. Any of us looking for how to create in isolated times.

Asked where the inspiration for this project came from, Zhong Lin had something to say that we should all listen to.

“I’d been thinking it’d be so cool to work with these people creating something that’s free from limits; just create to create.”

Zhong Lin


Rare Martin Luther King Jr. photos holding us down for MLK day

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is hailed as one of America’s greatest leaders who worked to bridge the gap between racial and class struggles in the name of equality. Rare photos of Martin Luther King Jr. remind us that even the most famous public figures can be captured out of the public light.

King was a man known to move mountains with his words, using speeches to call America to arms of peace, love, and commonality. MLK, a larger than life figure, is able to retain his memorable demeanor and candor of expression in his photographs.

So, with MLK day on our minds, here are five photographers who captured King throughout his life in photos in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Photographers who captured the duality of King being a leader for the people, and a father to his children. Thus, on this day close to MLK day, we look at complex imagery birthed out of rare photos of Martin Luther King Jr.

Fred Baldwin

Wendy Watriss and Frederick Baldwin - HCAS
Fred Baldwin and his wife, Wendy Watriss.

A photographer driven by curiosity, Fred Baldwin was brave and ambitious in his pursuits. The camera was his means of expression and also a way to find out the truths of the world. In 1963, Baldwin came face to face with the truths of America.

Baldwin stumbled upon a Civil Rights march in Savannah, Georgia and began to take photos of the protestors. There he met many of the leaders of the movement, including Hosea Williams who was a trusted member of Dr. King’s circle.

Baldwin knew that the world needed to see what Black people were going through in this nation. And he dedicated the next few years of his life to photographing the movement including a picture of Dr. King at the municipal auditorium in Savannah, Georgia in 1964.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Municipal Auditorium, Savannah, Ga. January 1964.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Municipal Auditorium, Savannah, Ga. January 1964.Credit-Fred Baldwin

James Karales

The Voting Rights Act and Shelby County v. Holder: How the Supreme Court  could make the VRA better instead of striking it down.
James Karales

Some of the most famous civil rights images were taken by James Karales. There was the young teenager marching with the word “VOTE” across his face behind a backdrop of an American flag.

Culture & History - Whats the Buzz
Cred: James Karales

Karales is one of the few photographers to capture Dr. King at his most earnest and vulnerable state, with his children.

An image from 1962 shows Dr. King with his daughter, Yolanda, explaining segregation to her. The angst and disappointment of the conversation are shown in his face as he struggles to explain to a child why the world is the way that it is.

It’s an image that shows King at his most hopeful. His hope was in the children just as he outlined in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

MLK day photos
Dr. Martin Luther King and his daughter, Yolanda King, 1962.

Ernest Withers

This is my favorite African American photographer . Ernest Wither  documented the civil rights era. E… | Black history facts, African american  history, Black history
Ernest Withers

One of the most respected photographers of the civil rights era was Ernest Withers.

Much of his work came at the very beginnings of the movement, such as photographs of Emmett Till in 1955, and the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ernest was revered by King for his documentation of the movement, and was allowed to travel with him and sit in strategy meetings as the main photographer documenting the history that they were making as a movement.

Thus, Withers’ pictures were truly rare photos and insight into Martin Luther King Jr.

The Double Life of Ernest Withers
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the funeral of Medgar Evers in Jackson Mississippi in June, 1963 -Photo Credit – Ernest Withers.

Withers was actually secretly an informant for the FBI. He would send them rare photos he had taken of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as contextual information of each event, and schedules of organizations and individuals.

King was never aware of this truth, as well as many other activists of the time period, but that takes nothing away from the wealth of history given to generations after the Civil Rights Movement through these photographs.

Steve Schapiro

Steve Schapiro | The Talks
Steve Schapiro

A photographer truly one of a kind, Steve Schapiro found himself in the middle of multiple historic instances, most notably his work documenting President Kennedy’s campaign.

His work capturing the civil rights movement came in the form of documenting the historic march on Selma in 1965.

Martin Luther King Jr. (with Flag), Selma March
Dr. King at the Selma March of 1965. Photo Credit – Steve Schapiro

Schapiro captures a rare photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marching with the flag of red, white, and blue behind him.

The black and white pallet of the photograph blends King in with his compatriots of peace behind him, all marching to the beat of the same drum of equality and love.

Yet, King is still able to stand out as the center of the piece. That attention to the subject and blending of their image and might is what makes Schapiro’s images what they are.

Moneta Sleet Jr.

Moneta Sleet, Jr. (1926-1996)
Cred: Moneta Sleet Jr.

Moneta Sleet Jr. is a legendary photographer for his work capturing the Civil Rights movement. This includes rare photos of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of 1964, and the march on Selma in 1965.

Dr. King and Sleet grew to be close friends throughout the movement because of his respect for his work. While Sleet captured King many times through his life, his work through King’s death is what most remember.

Coretta Scott King and Bernice King - Atlanta, Georgia, 1968
Coretta Scott King and Bernice King at Ebenezer Baptist Church, April 9th, 1968.

Sleet captured an image of Coretta Scott King and the King’s youngest child, Bernice, at a service in Ebenezer Baptist Church. The image shows Mrs. King grieving and comforting her child. It’s a somber image showing the weight of Dr. King’s absence on their lives.

The image earned Sleet a Pulitzer Prize, making him the first African-American to receive the award for journalism. He made history with an image he took with his heart while also grieving for an old friend gone too soon.

Rare photos of Martin Luther King Jr. remind us the fight for equality doesn’t stop

Dr. Martin Luther King may never walk this earth again, but his legacy is forever. MLK day and these photos taken by brave photographers are constant reminders of how large his legacy truly looms over us.

Through their lenses, these photographers ensure that Dr. King will always be remembered for generations to come.

With MLK day on our mind, these photographers and their photos also should inspire all creatives to not only create, but document the times that we are in.

That is the true nature and responsibility of an artist and each of these photographers understood their role in the fight for change and equality.

Civil Rights Movement

10 civil rights movements in photography that changed the world

Civil rights photography is incomparable to any other form of the art. There is no other form of photography that captures, at its essence, a group of people crying out for their own humanity to be recognized.

As the latter half of the 20th century illustrated, and this past year reminded us, the fight for civil rights is a war, not a battle. Small fights matter, but it takes a strong, unified coalition of all races acting in consistent and trustworthy faith, to vanquish the evil powers of racism and all that it permeates.

There is no similarity to civil rights photography because there are no other photographs that can capture such vivid and visceral emotions that represent a time. Whether it be a photograph of MLK speaking, a group of people protesting police brutality, or a little girl walking with poise while racist adults eight times her age scream at her, civil rights photography cannot be mimicked.

And in its most intrinsic nature, it cannot be forgotten. Here are 10 civil rights photographs that are equally harrowing as they are inspiring for a new generation.

MLK photographed


This picture is as iconic as they come. Brothers in arms, freedom fighters marching for justice.

No violence, no seething tempers, no fear. These men, led by MLK in the middle, know they are doing no wrong. Even moreso, they are doing what is undeniably right, judged not by man or woman, but by something greater.

With the late great John Lewis included in this civil rights photograph, let us be reminded how recent these civil rights marches and demonstrations are.

“I come here to urge every person under the sound of my voice, to go to the polls on the third of November and vote your conviction.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Sound familiar? Freedom fighters have been calling for the disenfranchised to get out and vote for decades. And we just saw in 2020, how it can pay off.

It is deeply impressive how poised MLK was, constantly in the spotlight, looked up to by so many. And still not letting fear and anger consume him.

Martin Luther King is greeted by his wife Coretta and children, Marty and Yoki, at the airport in Chamblee, Georgia, following his release from prison after being arrested at a sit in in Atlanta, 27th October 1960.⁠(Cred: Bettmann/Getty Images)

We leave you with this beautiful image of MLK and his family. He did not fall prey to despair, even though the anger from all he had seen and knew could consume the best of people. As candid an image as you will see, this MLK photograph fills us with joy.

Rosa Parks photographed

Seen here, Parks (center) rides a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, after the Supreme Court ruled segregation illegal on the city bus system on December 21, 1956. (Cred: Don Cravens/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Rosa Parks is one of the most famous civil rights icons in U.S. history. Her disobedience, her bravery in standing up to what she knew deeply in her heart was right, inspires us greatly.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day, I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Rosa Parks

Parks famously refused to give up her seat for a white person on the front of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was subsequently arrested. The image below shows her face well, ostensibly unperturbed because she had had enough.


The first image, however, shows Parks in more peace. Her decision to not move for the white person on the bus inspired the Black community to boycott Montgomery buses for over a year. Eventually, in November 1956, a decision was made that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Gordon Parks photography

Gordon Parks, Untitled, 1941 (Cred: @gordonparksfoundation)

An iconic image. Gordon Parks is widely known as one of the most important civil rights photographers of all time. His work defines a generation of social justice, and it has inspired generations of photographers to emulate his passion and skills.

“The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed.”

Gordon Parks

How fitting is that quote, for it captures the extreme bravery of civil rights leaders like MLK, while also inspiring photographers like Gordon Parks to always strive for more.

Gordon Parks was not just a photographer, but an activist too, and we shall remember him as such.

August 28, 1963 — More than 250,000 people, across all races, classes and ideologies gathered in Washington, D.C. for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was here that MLK delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. (Cred: @gordonparksfoundation)

Angela Davis photographed

Angela Davis in 1971 (Cred: @secondmoonvintage)

Known as one of the most influential civil rights leaders in U.S. history, Angela Davis continues to shine. The civil rights photography that captured her in her natural states is some of certain photographers’ most influential work.

“When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence, without realizing that the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles and the goals that you’re striving for.”

Angela Davis

Do her words stand in stark contrast to something we all heard recently? We heard a lot of backlash over the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, how the protestors could have gone about things a different way. Angela Davis’ words will forever ring true about how a revolution is not determined, or remembered, by the journey, but rather by its goals/decisions at the conclusion.

Her insight will always be appreciated and inspiring for those seeking to ensure justice and freedom for everyone.

Ruby Bridges photographed

Ruby Bridges walks the steps of William Frantz Elementary School with a security detail in 1960. (Cred: @RubyBridgesOfficial)

There is no greater indication of how recent the sweeping civil rights movement of the past was than the fact that Ruby Bridges is only 66 years old. A civil rights icon, activist, author, and speaker, Bridges came into national attention over the New Orleans school desegregation crisis.

Her poise in walking through crowds of white adults screaming expletives and hateful rhetoric at her, even with demonstrative threats, will always be inspiring to me. The bravery that must have taken is nearly unfathomable.

Fred Hampton photographed

Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. (Cred: Melaninisthemood)

Fred Hampton was the Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP). At just 21 years old, he was a leader of the party as a whole and a leader in the civil rights movement.

He was killed unlawfully by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in conjunction with the F.B.I. in 1969 due to the U.S. government’s fear of his influence. Hampton is the subject of Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya’s upcoming film, Judas and the Black Messiah.

We will never forget Hampton and what he meant to the Black community in Chicago and beyond. And due to poignant civil rights photography having captured him, we will always have a piece of him to look back to.

Muhammad Ali photographed

Muhammad Ali, London, England, 1966⁠. (Cred: @gordonparks foundation)

Muhammad Ali is best known as the greatest boxer of all time. But his efforts outside the cage are even more prominent. He was an activist, and vehemently against the war in Vietnam, or at least Black people’s forced inclusion in it.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

Ali, February, 17, 1966.

Ali is both a model for how to achieve success and stay at the top. And for calling out what is wrong and speaking on what is right. We will always remember him for his impact on the world, and for always staying true to what he believed in. The civil rights photography surrounding him contains some of the most profound images ever.

Muslim minister and activist, Malcolm X trains his camera on a tuxedo-clad Muhammad Ali, then still going by the name Cassius Clay, in 1964.⁠ ⁠(Cred: Bob Gomel/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images)

This civil rights photograph shows icons Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali together. The boxer was celebrating his victory over Sonny Liston and his new title – Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Malcolm X photographed

Malcolm X, Harlem, New York, 1963 (Cred: @gordonparksfoundation)

The discourse around Malcolm X is one of the most contentious of any icons in modern history. He advocated and insisted upon the liberation of Black people, but had a different idea of how to get there than MLK and others.

What is undeniable, however, is his impact on his community in Harlem and the entire world. As Angela Davis alluded to, it is not the means for securing a revolution that matter, but the goals at the end of it.

Malcolm X wanted justice for his Black brothers and sisters, just like more-revered MLK did. Let us remember that about him above all else.

Maya Angelou photographed

Maya Angelou speaks at the First Million Man March in 1995 (Photographer unknown) 

The late great Maya Angelou is captured here in one of the most iconic civil rights photographs ever. The poet is remembered for her beautiful, poignant words, as well as her civil rights efforts. May she rest in peace.

John Lewis photographed

(Cred: @gettyarchive)

John Lewis, seen earlier with Martin Luther King Jr., sadly passed away last July.

His memory reminds us that laws are arbitrary, and often upheld by those who wish to stay in power. This civil rights photograph, and all that captured him on that day with MLK, show that fighting back against oppressive powers is necessary.

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

John Lewis

Lewis also rose to become a Georgia congressman, fighting from inside politics to ensure a better future for our youth.

Let us all remember that civil rights photography is not some ancient thing. Some of those who were photographed and listed above, either recently passed or are still living today.

The fight moves on, and photography, like that of Gordon Parks, helps show us the way. We do not need to reinvent the wheel to fight for civil rights. We can ask our elders what they did, what they wish they could’ve done, and more.

These ten great civil rights leaders photographed remind us of a world both seemingly far away, and at the same time, distinctly familiar.

matthew stith

Matthew Stith is the photographer capturing soccer like you’ve never seen it

There’s a reason they call soccer the beautiful game.

The skill on the pitch, the passion in the stands, the drama in the technical area, all of which are singular to this one sport. This is what drives photographer Matthew Stith to capture the emotional depth of soccer.

Matthew Stith has photographed soccer at all levels, from shooting Messi, Suarez, and Neymar at the Nou Camp to documenting the domestic game in America, Stith’s shots encapsulate the unique emotional dynamism of soccer. I recently spoke with Stith about soccer, photography, Arsenal, and pursuing your passions.

A post shared by Matthew Stith (@bystith) on

Stith has played soccer all his life and fell in love with the sport at a young age. He played goalkeeper at Syracuse University before graduation left him at a fork in the road.

He had dedicated his life to the game of soccer and now after graduating from ‘Cuse with a major in Public Health that didn’t really feel right to him, Stith had a decision to make.

Stith described this post-college feeling, the void that no longer being on the pitch left, and how he ended up picking up the camera,

“I’ve always loved soccer, and I picked up film photography in college. Once school was over, I moved back home and was stuck. I didn’t want to work in Public Health, and I had this love for soccer that I couldn’t drop.”

But there’s a lot of work to be done between a love for soccer and being able to photograph the sport professionally.

Lucky #99

A post shared by Matthew Stith (@bystith) on

Stith used his connections within the game to gain access,

“On my college team, a lot of my friends turned pro. So in October of 2016 I rang one up and asked if he could talk to the marketing team to try to get me into shooting one of his games. With access, I instantly fell in love, and knew this was what I really wanted to do. I got to shoot and interact with my favorite players and capture them in a unique way.”

Sports photography is a pretty crowded field, especially in a sport that’s beloved by so much of the globe. But Stith is able to capture the game in such a dynamic and compelling way. A glimpse through his Instagram page reveals photographs of players, fans, and soccer environments through an exceptional perspective.

The most beautiful game

A post shared by Matthew Stith (@bystith) on

Stith explains that his past as a player allows him to understand the game in a way that some other photographers might miss,

“As a photographer, I’m in a really unique position. I have a huge interest and knowledge of the game so I know what will look good on camera where a lot of other photographers don’t. I try to get as close as possible to the action to give the viewer some emotion… I always want to viewer to feel exactly how I felt when I took the shot.”

The only American sport that compares to the emotion and passion of world soccer is maybe SEC Football. The pageantry, obsession, and life or death nature of every game heightens the intensity to ridiculous levels. And unlike other sports, especially American sports, soccer players aren’t encouraged to hide emotions or become automatons of THE TEAM.

spread love it’s the BARÇA way

A post shared by Matthew Stith (@bystith) on

This makes soccer a specifically interesting sport to watch and capture. When I asked Stith about this, he explained why soccer is just so damn photogenic,

“Most soccer players are very expressive. If something goes right, they laugh and smile, and if something goes wrong they frown or put their hands on their head. Unlike football or lacrosse, soccer is one of the few sports where there are no [helmets]. You can see everything.”

The diversity of styles and techniques in different countries also makes the beautiful game beautiful,

“Soccer is played all around the world, and it’s really interesting to see how all the cultures come together for club and country. The Brazilians dance when they score, the English knee slide, and the South Africans have super diski.”

Stith is interested by soccer culture in America and beyond, repeatedly telling me, “I’m all about the scenes.” This interest has led him to the famous Nou Camp in Barcelona, an experience he described as “like a Church,” but Stith has also snapped some of the most provocative pictures of soccer in America.


A post shared by Matthew Stith (@bystith) on

The MLS is growing massively, and not just in terms of ratings or reputation, but most importantly in terms of the “scene” as Stith describes it. Personally, as someone who was there when the MLS began, going to games in massive football stadiums with maybe 1,000 spectators in attendance, it’s amazing to see the growth of soccer in this country.

Stith is equally encouraged by how the soccer culture in America is changing,

“Growing up, soccer was always brushed aside, or taken for granted and it always annoyed me. Thank god that’s starting to change. Kids growing up are getting better and better and the fan culture continues to evolve. Smoke bombs and flares are common place in MLS Stadiums now, and so is singing and standing the whole game. It’s so funny taking people to their first game, or showing them pictures, because for the most part, they aren’t expecting that it at all.”

I asked him who has the best fans in the MLS, “Toronto FC. Those fans are wild.”

Need. More. Scenes.

A post shared by Matthew Stith (@bystith) on

As encouraging as it is to see the game grow in America, the biggest scenes are in Europe. On that trip to the Camp Nou, Stith captured Leo Messi up close and personal. He told me about the experience and how the now-departed Neymar compares to Barcelona’s #10,

“Messi is the goat. That’s all that needs to be said. He was God-like. It was incredible. He wasn’t the coolest footballer I’ve ever photographed though. Neymar will easily will easily take that crown.”

But for all of Neymar’s coolness, Stith’s allegiance lies with a team in North London. A team I also support. A team that often defies logic in the ways it tortures its supporters. The Arsenal Football Club.

Stith’s passion for The Arsenal is such that he’s tattooed the club’s crest onto his chest. He quotes Arsenal and Holland legend Dennis Bergkamp (the reason I support Arsenal) in explaining his fandom,

“Dennis Bergkamp summed it up best ‘When you start supporting a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong.’”

It’s a beautiful statement about soccer fandom from one of the most graceful players ever.

So what’s next for Matthew Stith, who has been able to capture the growing scene in America, the most famous team in the world, and seen his own favorite team play?

Happy Birthday TT. I love you.

A post shared by Matthew Stith (@bystith) on

He wants to photograph some of the biggest rivalries, the greatest ‘scenes’ in the game, and not those in England, Spain or Italy. Stith tells me passionately,

I want to shoot world football rivalries. I want to go to games that are dangerous, games that are scary, and games that really mean something.”

So which games are these? Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray in Turkey where fans are constantly on “the brink of a massive brawl” is one. There’s also Rangers vs. Celtic in Glasgow, Scotland, a match that goes far beyond fans just not liking each other as the teams are divided along religious lines.

But the ultimate match that Stith would like to shoot? Boca Juniors vs. River Plate, the “Superclásico” of the two biggest teams in Buenos Aires. Stith explains,

“Buenos Aires explodes with so much passion and fandom during that game, it’s a game that should be on the list of any football fan in the world.”

Attending these matches is the ultimate dream for any soccer fan and anyone who, like Stith, is all about the scenes.

Setor Tsikudo

Meet Setor Tsikudo, the NYC photographer with an unmatched drive

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.”

Frank Ocean | July 2017

A post shared by Setor Tsikudo (@tsikudo_) on

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.”

Tsikudo’s obsession with his craft is admirable.

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.”

Tsikudo added,

“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.”

He added,

“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.

Sincere Dennis

BK photographer Sincere brings NYC underground to life with moving pictures

If the eye is the window to the soul, what is the camera to the eye?

An extension to a lens that captures the living spirit in front of you. Brooklyn-based photographer Sincere is doing just that and bringing a new definition to what it means to have an “eye.”

The images that Sincere has caught using a retro, 80s-era camera are literally alive as he turns his flicks into gifs. His unique technique of capturing the upper-echelon of the artistic underground is unmatched.

Rolling through Sincere’s Tumblr portfolio, viewers will find an aesthetic that captures a rude and urban vulnerability.

We pulled up on Sincere while he was working at an event called No Ends NYC, which is hosted by Doperoots and A$AP Ferg’s Traplord brand in partnership with X-Games benefiting the Stoked Organization. The event is a wild intersection of rap music, extreme sports, arcade games, dope food, and good will.

Already at such a fly stage in his life, Sincere’s main focus is waking those who are still asleep. His focus on his work proves that he is a professional when it comes to his craft. Although your network is a huge factor when it comes to excelling in your career the quality of your work is what pushes you ahead of everyone else.

Sincere spoke on his tenacity and confidence,

“Connections? I have just started getting legit access to these events, 2-3 years ago I was finessing my way into these events. No one can stop you when you act like you belong there. Confidence, determination, and consistency have gotten me the connections I have today. When these people see you over and over again at these events they tend to ask the question ‘who is he?’ ‘What does he do?’ and then when they see the work I produce it pretty much speaks for itself. Even though some are still sleeping, I’m working on waking them up.”

Sincere has been in the photography game for some time now and has been attending events like No Ends NYC for over 7 years, snapping photos of people like Marty Baller, A$AP Ferg, and Wee Man.

Seven-plus years deep in the game and Sincere has just started to promote his brand NewNYer. Sincere’s main focus when he pulls up to an event is to be an original and creative centerpiece — that’s what the NewNYer brand stands for.

Fuck talking to someone when the music is blaring. Sincere is all about embracing the environment he’s in and using that vibe to help capture moments.

“I’ve been attending these events for 7-plus years and only till just recently have I taken advantage of the networking aspect of said event, I go to these events to see/enjoy the performance and experience the things that are going on around me, not try talking to someone while loud music is playing I never seen the point in that. The statement behind NewNYer is to be original and creative.”

pop smoke gif

At any event, you can find Sincere at the best vantage point, sipping on Bulleit Bourbon (on the rocks), feeling out the vibes, preparing himself to encapsulate one event into multiple pictorial memories.

“When I go to an event to shoot I feel out the venue see what the best vantage points are for me to shoot and once I find the right spot I go to the bar and order a whiskey on the rocks preferably Bulleit Bourbon and I enjoy myself till its time to get work done. As far as my end goal, it’s just to get good photos.”

rihanna gif

Sincere is not trying to give up any of his baker’s secrets — yet. The BK-based shutterbug says his “eye” for turning still photographs into GIFs was inspired by the over saturation of lensman posers.

He explained just because you cop a fancy camera doesn’t mean you are a photographer, there’s more to photography than just buying a camera. Sincere uses GIFs as a way to separate himself from the masses,

“I see photography as over saturated pretty much like everything else in NYC. A person buys a camera and immediately wants to be seen as a photographer, having an ‘eye’ isn’t what it use to mean, which is why I searched for a way to separate myself from the masses buying DSLRs. I don’t see Gif images being the future but I do see it as a way to make my work look different from others, I took a step back and it allowed me to move forward because the camera that I use is from the late 80s they didn’t know Gifs were a thing of the future just like I didn’t know I could turn these images into moving works of art. I took my shot and I like where it’s going.”

Sincere is always looking to stay ahead of the curve. Hopefully, he will be able to bring inspiration to those looking to set themselves apart from the masses by just being original.

His wise words for the youth dem,

“Advice? Don’t be afraid to go and do something new even if it feels uncomfortable. You gotta step out of the box to progress mentally and physically. Coming from uptown I knew a lot of people who never left the block and they kept themselves in a comfort zone. I’m good at learning from other people’s mistakes.”

A wise man indeed. Stay on the lookout for Sincere’s GIF images and custom design t-shirts for his NewNYer brand.

Bless up!