Photo by Shayne Bennett/ @shanyewashere
Josef Pitts is a portrait and street photographer currently based in Sumter, SC. He found his passion for photography while studying retail and fashion in college. In this interview. He discusses how Tumblr, Hypebeast and Instagram fueled his interest in the visual arts, why he loves using the streets as his canvas and how he overcomes roadblocks on his journey to becoming a successful creative.
Daniel White: Hey Josef! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us. You are an amazing image capturer and I know our viewers will enjoy hearing your story. So tell us, How did you get into photography?
Josef Pitts: I originally went to school for Retail and Fashion merchandising so I was all about style and fashion. I’d browse websites like Hypebeast and scroll through Tumblr and I’d just admire how the outfits were presented, I think this is when I really started in photography aside from just snapping random photos on my phone. Eventually my mom noticed I was into photography when I spent time messing with a family members' cameras during a family gathering so she bought me a little point and shoot. I out grew it it quickly by watching YouTube videos and learning the basics by taking nature photos and pictures of swans at the park where I live. That was about three years ago and a year later i bought first professional camera and took it from there. I shot family events, got a chance go to Portland and try street photography for the first time, essentially teaching myself everything I know now by just getting out there and doing it. I’d travel to cities like Charleston or Charlotte and just walk the entire city shooting and perfecting my craft whether it was hot or cold. I think just consuming myself in my work helped me grow a lot quicker because I really haven’t been shooting for very long but I’ve had the opportunity to do some really awesome things with great people because i came up so quickly and caught the eye of the right people.
Daniel: I see that you really focus on portrait and street photography, why those two?
Josef: I originally started shooting street as a way to help me cope with my life at the time, I was unhappy and burned out from work and needed something to help me unwind and keep me happy to say the least, I had always been interested in photography more so through fashion and just being on Instagram, but I eventually discovered street photography during my research into buying my first DSLR, I was influenced by Youtubers like Kai W and Eric Kim which led me to researching the older photographers like Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Joel Meyerowitz. I was hooked after that. The portraiture kind of came afterwards as a way to play the Instagram game and diversify my talents at the time, but it wasn't my passion; however it allowed me to meet some awesome people and step out of my shell a bit so I’m grateful of the time I’ve spent learning the craft.
Daniel: Give us a glimpse of what's going through your head when you walked around the streets of Vegas and the QC when you were taking photos. Did you know what you were looking for or did you just wing it?
Josef: Whether it’s Vegas or in the QC I just look for subjects who stand out. I try to find people who look like they have purpose or a story they could tell which could be anything from an old couple, a suit on his way to a meeting or just how the light is playing in a scene. Being able to resonate with what I m looking at through my camera helps me appreciate the moment so I’ll snap the photo if I feel like I can put myself in their shoes or see myself in that moment.
Daniel: How do you overcome road blocks when creating?
Josef: Honestly I’ll just take time off and just not shoot, I’ll ditch Instagram or other social media to let myself recharge. I think for me, unplugging helps me stay fresh and keep my love for photography alive because I’m not doing it all the time. it’s fun when I get to come back to it and I appreciate the moments that I’m able to shoot a bit more.
Daniel: What projects are you working on? What does the future hold for you?
Josef: My current project is called Street Scenes About Nothing which is the brand and overall arching theme that I base my photography off of. I want SSAN to be something bigger than just an Instagram page, whether it be a photo exhibit, coffee table book or maybe an actual magazine. I'm still trying to pin point exactly where I want to take it, so it's in its infancy right now. Despite this, I’d say I’m in one of those mental breaks from photography, I’m still shooting and creating with others but at the same time it’s taking a backseat to real life.
Daniel: Top 3 Creative inspirations?
-Video games with a photo mode (i didn’t have Pokémon snap growing up so it was Gran Turismo 4 for me). I kinda wish I had gotten into Fatal Frame
-The old shooters like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Joel Meyeoritz
-Whatever song is in my EarPods as I release the shutter at that moment
Daniel: Advice to everyone in the creative world?
Josef: You’re never to old or to young, if you want to create and if you’re able then you should go for it if it makes you happy.
Daniel: How are you marketing yourself and what tools do you use?
Josef: I am crazy awful at marketing myself. I’m a very low key person and so I don’t do a very good job at putting myself out there, I’ve got work on several sites and a personal website but I should be better and letting people know that I’m actually pretty good at what I do.
Daniel: Josef, thank you so much for your time! Tell us where we can find you on the internet.
Instagram: @jamaaljosef /@email@example.com (side side project slightly nsfw)