Happy NewYear! Hope your year is off to a great start. We are excited to share more artist with you. We are excited to introduce you to Chilly-O, ATL culture ambassador, Fashion designer, and Photographer as the first artist of 2019. We had a chance to pick his brain and get some reference, check out the interview below.
Do you mind introducing yourself?
Chilly-O. Photographer, Cultural Influencer, BMXer, Godfather too many creative youths.
Where are you originally from?
I was conceived in Nigeria by American parents, but born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In my early childhood and adolescent stages, I lived in just about every major city from ages 0-18. This was due to family problems surrounding substance abuse. I had a very transient childhood most could not bear and those cities included New York, Baltimore, South Central Los Angeles, Stamford, Connecticut and college at Norfolk State University.
What got you interested in Art?
As a child, in my many households, my grandmother and father surrounded us by art and books. Living in my Father's home was like living with Indiana Jones, I call him the Black Indiana Jones. My Father is an intellectual and artist and he collected art, clothing, and sculptures from around the world. I was reading books by Araki when I was 14. I never knew that technical aspect of what I was reading, but we didn't have the internet so art books fancied my adventure.
How long have you been creating?
I have been creating since birth. I remember as a kid, I would tie a string around my room like a web and create these elaborate storylines for my action figures. I would build go-carts and dog houses for my friends because my grandfather was a construction worker. During that time I was only 11 years old working with a circular saw, drills and measuring tape. I was making money cutting hair and skateboarding when I was 12, keep in mind in 1983 kids in the ghetto were not into riding skateboards and BMX bikes. If anything, bullies would try to fight you for so-called acting "White." Even though I lived in poverty, my guardians always provided an enriched cultural environment for me to learn from all over the world. At that time and even until today, you just didn't see that kind of imagery in everyone's home.
How would you describe your style?
Gritty but Clean. Simple but Beautiful. Dark but Light.
Your work spans years of capturing action sports and celebrities, when did you decide to take photography seriously as a medium?
I would say about the year 2010, we couldn't afford to pay photographers 300 to 800 bucks anymore after the stock market crash. As entrepreneurs, we have to wear multiple hats. So when people started to admire my work, I realized I was getting on Level. I used to travel far and wide to purchase Skate and BMX magazines as a teen and I was always captivated at the wide angle shots and timing of the photographers' shots. I applied that approach to the music game because I was always around celebrities because of my t-shirt line.
How do you go about shooting Movement in your work?
Movement is all about timing, composition and angles. I always like to explore new angles and perspectives. Also, I try to get as much information from the subject as possible. I ask questions about where they are going to be from beginning to end. That is very important, especially in action sports space, because it is all about timing.
How did you start shooting Celebrities?
I started shooting celebrities at the Magic Trade Show in Las Vegas and concerts in Atlanta because they were so easily accessible. I shook Jay-Z's hand like twice at parties and rode elevators with Mos Def and Scooter Braun. I published my experiences on my blog entitled "ATYPICAL." We had one of the first streetwear blogs in Atlanta on my brands website. We published alternative content in urban communities when it wasn't a thing like today. I met most celebrities on music video sets when it was very difficult to get past obnoxious security guards. I'm charismatic and I have a desirable product so it was never that difficult for me to gain access on set or in a studio. In the process, I would take snaps with my Sony Cybershot.
Are there any Subjects you enjoyed shooting than others?
May sound cliche but nude art is my passion. I'm into lines and curves when composing shots. I'm am not into well lit, full frontal shots like you see most young photographers shooting today. I try to bring the lines and symmetry out with elongated limbs and proper shadows with contortion. I grew up reading a lot of books from Araki to Karma Sutric and Asian-erotic historic art that involved nude sketches from like the 16th century. I was always intrigued by the body language and shapes the body made while the author was telling their story. Just pure emotion and beauty in those books for that time period.
I noticed most of your photos are in Black and White, is there a reason for this?
Karl Injex of The Soundtable put me on a photographer by the name of Daido Moriyama and from that point forward I just fell in love with his gritty style and other photographers from that era. He broke all the rules and is noted as one of the top photographers in history. I first got hip to black and white photography in skate mags because they had that same dark and gritty street style. Daido was telling stories from environments congruent from where I am from.... ghettos, red light districts and so on. I was amazed at how he made distraught people and places look so captivating and beautiful. He was telling stories that the country didn't want to be revealed in the late 1960s. That takes a lot of fearlessness, heart, and vision because he could have been imprisoned for documenting public space. In the status quo, the human eye gravitates toward bright colors, beauty, and sharp images. For me, it is cool to see artists say "fuck that" and push the iso, grain, and contrast in photos but still tell an amazing and vivid story. I always appreciate the freedom and ideas from mavericks.
What was your first camera?
Kodak disposables from the 80s.
How has your work evolved over the years?
I just know how to communicate and direct subjects better. It is very difficult for a subject. The joy is in the end result when my work matriculates to the fine art space. Photography is very technical and is a valid art form outside of cookie cutter technology. The art comes out in lighting for me, lighting is where the true joy is and I feel like my light set up game is what separates me from the average shot. be in front of the lens. Being in front of the lens can be somewhat awkward and vulnerable to a subject. The joy is the end result, especially in the fine art space. Photography is very technical and is an art form. The art comes out in lighting for me, lighting is where the true joy is and I feel like my light set up game is what separates me from the average shot.
What are some things you still want to shoot?
What inspired you to start shooting and what continues to motivate you to keep creating?
Fashion. Beauty. Lines. Action Sports. Streets. Composition. Story-telling.
Where do you see your style evolving from here?
Bigger light set-ups in the fine art space. Challenging my self with motion and aesthetic.
Who or What are some of your inspirations?
Inspired what the Youth is doing like Shamaal, Salim Garcia, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Christian Cody, Skull.Lady.
What projects/shows are you working on?
Famous last words.
Hard to get, Easy when you Know How.