Good Luck Keeping up with Cam Kirk
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It’s rare to see a photographer mentoring and creating opportunities for their contemporaries and even more rare for them to do it on a large scale. Atlanta-based photographer and entrepreneur. Cam KirkPhotographing hip-hop artists and shooting portraits for brands like Coca-Cola Nike, American Express, NBA and Puma could make him a very successful photographer. Megan Thee Stallion to “young icon” Luh Tyler). Kirk does things differently. Authentically. Successfully. And at scale.
Kirk is so busy that researching his projects for this piece made my head spin. Along with his own editorial, commercial, and advertising works, he runs a record-label-style agency for photography called The Collective Gallery, Cam Kirk Studios, a busy Photography studioAtlanta equipped with The Creative Lab(in collaboration Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club), and a new content streaming network called CKS.
In just the last two weeks, he hosted a community neighborhood clean-up event called “Spin the Block,” a live motivational conference in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King called “Yesterday’s Tomorrow,” as well as meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris, He was invited to her homeShe mentioned that she wanted to see her collection of photographs. She mentioned Carrie Mae WeemsYou can also find out more about the following: Roy DeCarava, in case you’re interested.
Kirk reminded me what I thought about when I was thinking of him Photographer Justin Frencha few years back:
“Self-promotion and self-interest are always counterproductive. I think to rectify that, individuals and communities should really try to step outside of themselves and their personal interests, and genuinely look at how they can aid in improving the lives of others —Black lives especially.”
You’re currently mentoring photographers. What are they and who are they? What does this mentorship look and feel like on a daily basis?
“Through my studio and my label, I mentor and work with a large number of photographers daily. Sharing my wisdom and knowledge in a transparent way has always been a priority for me. It is also something I consider a responsibility that comes along with success. Over the years I have personally mentored hundreds of photographers and creators of content or given workshops. Some of the photographers that I have mentored currently work for brands such as the NFL, The White House Nike, Sprite Lil Yachty Drake, 21 Savage and more.
“At Cam Kirk Studios, we offer a free workshop series entitled Night School, where we teach two workshops monthly where creators can learn a range of topics from photography, business, production, fashion, music, and more. We also record the classes and make them available onlineHere is a link to the article.”
Once the word spread about the mentorship program, you had a lot more interest. you’ve amassed a database of 1,000 photographers you tap into to do Shoots all over the country. Can you explain how this works?
“When I first announced and launched Collective GalleryThe response was overwhelming. We literally handed hundreds of photographers their portfolios to be considered as an artist for our label. I realized that not only was our goal to provide and do for photography community wanted, but also needed.
“I wanted to find a way to still stay connected and work with as many photographers as possible, even though my personal team didn’t have the extreme bandwidth to take on more than a few photographers on our roster at a time. We decided to create an agency arm for Collective Gallery, which serves as a tool to brands and businesses looking for different creatives around the globe and in different countries. Our clients, such as Puma and Atlantic Records use our agency arm to find talented content creators on different markets.
“We take the time to provide portfolio reviews and vet our database regularly to ensure the content creators are perfect for the particular project. Brands can work with new talent without worrying about whether they will be able execute the project properly. Our database gets to work with us on projects where they not only get paid but also connected to some the biggest brands around the world. To date, we have provided opportunities for over 500 creators.”
Most photographers struggle to keep up with their work. careers. Not many people mentor others to the degree that you do. What was the most memorable moment? How did you get this started?
“For me, it’s always been about legacy and sustaining the photography, especially amongst black photographers. I had few mentors in Atlanta when I started my photography career. I also did not have any successful examples of what a successful career in photography looked like. In many ways, as a result, I had no mentors or examples of successful photographers to follow. Many purists in photography might consider my approach unorthodox. I have been able to inspire so many young photographers that photography can be more than just a hobby, but also a career. I feel it’s my responsibility to ensure the next generation can find success in this industry much easier than the way that I had to find it.”
You strike me as a person who has many ideas. Executes quickly. What’s your process after you have an idea for a What is your next step?
“I’m somebody that my team will say has too many ideas lol. I believe I would have made a great architect in a previous life. My dreams and ideas are usually rooted in logical realities and often build on the foundation of what i have already created. My ideas are like blocks, but I struggle to know when enough is enough. I’ve joked with my staff that I shouldn’t add any more extensions at Cam Kirk Studios as I would just keep creating, which could slow down our path towards scaling and expansion.
“My execution process is pretty simple. I usually develop an idea, then check the ecosystem to see who else is doing it. Once I am comfortable with the idea, I run it by trusted members of my team to stress-test it.
“I usually look for ideas that are the easiest to execute and focus on those ideas first. My career is rooted in music, so I draw a lot of inspiration from the marketing and business models. I often feel that I have to implement at least one major idea or project a year. This is similar to when an artist releases a new album. Over the past ten years, that has been my routine. I make sure each year I have at least one splash moment or project that keeps myaudience and client base excited and inspired to want to work with me.”
You own a 7,000-square-foot photography studio in Atlanta. It sees between 400 and 500 clients per year. Shoots every month. You’ve also recently partnered with Billionaire Boys Club to launch The Creator’s Lab (which is free to use). Tell me more about this, who it’s for, and What it brings to Atlanta’s community
“I have literally watched my studio grow from our first ever scheduled appointment to six years and 30,000+ appointments where we are today. We have created a community through the studio and are able to keep up with the daily needs and wants of the community. It keeps us in touch with the needs of creatives, allowing us to add extensions to our Studio to cater to these needs.
“Our new Creators Lab, in partnership with Billionaire Boys Club, allows us to show up and be even more of a resource for the creators in our community. The Creators Lab offered state-of-the art computers with all the applications needed by our community to create, edit, or build out their projects. The lab offered a free workspace for those who just want to work in an inspiring and creative environment. Our mission is to continue to remove barriers that get in the way of Creators to be able to simply create.”
I loved the video series “Ink Therapy” which I found through your IG. How did the collaboration come about?
“So glad to hear you enjoyed this series. I announced a new venture a few months ago. CKSMy own streaming network. CKS will feature exclusive and original content and be available for subscribers on My Own Network powered by Tech Company You42. My network allows me to be a producer, and to bring web series to life. This particular show combines podcasting with the art style of tattoo art led by renowned artistInk by Kali. This is one of many original shows we will be releasing exclusively through my new CKS network.”