Wayne Lawrence is a Brooklyn-based photographer who is well-known for his portraits. He went to Atlanta for BuzzFeed News to work on a project about legacy families and also took some killer street style photos while he was at homecoming.
We spoke with Wayne about his work and his approach to portraits during this assignment.
Why did you first start taking portraits?
I've always been somewhat introverted so when I began as a photographer being a fly on the wall felt like the most natural way to work, but life has a way of showing you what you need. After a while I realized that I needed to be fully engaged with the people I was photographing. I needed collaboration.
When choosing subjects, do you look for certain things?
It can be any number of things that catch my attention initially, then, I tend to study them for a while before approaching.
These fashion shots were taken while working on a different assignment, can talk about the advantages/disadvantages to working like that?
The best assignments are those where editors trust you to approach a story in exactly the same way that you would your personal work. I get excited by these types of assignments and so am naturally inspired to be more creative.
With my assignment during ACU's Homecoming, I was given a specific thing to look for, which was fascinating in and of itself but also limiting for obvious reasons. Shooting the style portraits was taking like a breath of fresh air.
You mentioned that you occasionally felt pigeon-holed into just doing portraits, are there other types of projects that you would like to work on?
Yes I am at a point now where it seems as though I am only called for certain types of assignments. Not that I'm complaining because the work that I get is usually very interesting. Still I know that I am much more capable than my assignment work may reflect. It's the nature of this business we're in right?
Most of the time we're hired only for the type of work that we show, so I've found that experimentation is important. I have to continually strive to stay out of any one box.
Who are your influences?
Photographically I draw inspiration from a variety of sources, some very different from my own work. I decided to become a photographer primarily because I was inspired by Gordon Parks' life story. The first video I ever watched about the photographic life was based on Richard Avedon's life and practice.
When I first moved to New York over a decade ago, I remember seeing an August Sander portrait in the showcase of Strand Books and felt a strong connection there. I also enjoy Bruce Davidson, Malik Sidibe and Diane Arbus' works as well. Jamel Shabazz, Estevan Oriol, Jonathan Mannion, and Kwaku Alston were also important in my development as an artist.
Recently it's been Jamaican writer Marlon James' books, The Book of Night Women, John Crow's Devil and A Brief History of Seven Killings.
What’s the best piece of advice you've received as a photographer?
This race is not for the swift. Never give up.