Today we’d like to introduce you to Julius Bryant.
Julius, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I bought my first camera back in 2012. At the time, I was just really intrigued by photography and wanted a nice camera of my own to take pictures when I was traveling. So that’s how I started. Just taking random pictures of landscapes, buildings, and sneaking pictures of strangers when I was exploring different cities. I feel like now, in comparison to back then, professional photographers are much easier to come by. Back then, I wouldn’t have even necessarily called myself a photographer. I was just a dude with a camera. But to my friends, because I had a nice camera and had bought a few pieces of equipment for it, they saw me as a real photographer. So they started asking me to photograph their events and do individual photo shoots with them. And I did. So that’s how I became a “real photographer”. It was really just out of necessity because there was nobody else and I had the equipment. I was living in Louisville, KY at the time and there wasn’t a ton going on there, so I would shoot maybe once per month or something like that.
When I moved to Atlanta, is when things started to really pick up. I moved here in 2015 for business school at Emory. School didn’t start until late July and I moved here in like early April, so I had a few months before school started to really get out around Atlanta to network and get familiar with the scene here. Pretty soon after I moved here, I connected with a guy named Paras Griffin. He’s my fraternity brother whom I had met some years prior, but he’s also a photographer and he shoots majority of the A-list events here in ATL. So when I got down here, I really just started out by going to shoot everything for him that he didn’t feel like shooting himself. Things like movie premieres, concerts, festivals, etc. I did that pretty much the whole summer up until school started. Then the semester began and I pretty much fell off the face of the earth. The first semester of business school is pretty intense, so I really didn’t have time to do any shooting for the rest of 2015. So up to that point probably 70-80% of my shooting had been around events. Which was cool because the money usually wasn’t too bad, and it wasn’t terribly challenging, but I just had a bunch of ideas that I wanted to create through photography and events didn’t really allow me to do that. So in 2016 I started to shift gears a little bit, and tailor my shoots to be a little more conceptual in nature, and look more like art than just a regular portrait. Even if I was shooting something like graduation photos, I would try to make small tweaks in angles or lighting to make the photos look more dramatic than I would normally. That part became tough. No matter how hard you try, if you’re shooting family Christmas pictures, there’s not a ton of drama that’s going to come through in those pictures. So I still struggle a little bit with that.
Balancing between working with clients who oftentimes want what I would call more “standard” portrait photography, versus creating the more dramatic scenery and executing my own ideas. I will say that I’ve never had to depend on creating for money. And I have a ton of respect for those who do because it seems extremely difficult. But for me, I’ve always had a full-time job and have been able to supplement that with creative income. So I’ve had the luxury of being able to turn things down that aren’t really aligned with what I want to shoot at the time. I haven’t done the best job at exercising that luxury all the time though. Money is the fuel that makes the engine run whether the engine be leisurely activity that I need money to partake in, or buying new equipment, or whatever it is. So even still sometimes I catch myself taking jobs that aren’t super interesting to me just because the dollar value attached to it is attractive, but I’ve gotten a lot better at saying no over the past year. So now I still do an event here or there, or some headshots, or whatever, but I’m really focused on creating things that are more conceptual and story-based whether that be photography or short films. I’m trying to create more stuff that people hang on their walls and watch on TV instead of just looking at it on Instagram.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’m not sure I would call it smooth, but as mentioned, my path has been a little bit different than a lot of other creatives in that I’ve always had a job. I would imagine a lot of other people might answer this question by detailing some of the financial hardships that come along with being a creative. I think my bigger struggle has been just finding my lane. I’m a hustler by nature, and always have been, so I’m just always trying to find ways to make more money, and that money chase can be super distracting especially from a creative standpoint because that generally leads you in the direction of creating what you think other people want to see as opposed to executing on your own vision.
So there’s that, and then also a byproduct of being a hustler is just being involved in a lot of different things at once. So right now I’m creating visual content (both photo and video) for myself and others, I own a rental car company, and I also still have a job. So the struggle there can be just spreading my time too thin, and sometimes not doing any one thing really great, but just good enough so I can move on to the next thing. That’s something I’m working through now by turning down a lot more opportunities so I can focus, and also trying my best to automate everything I can so that my time is not required to make everything move.
Please tell us about Julius Bryant Creations.
I just work in the business of creating. I would say my specialty is photography, but I’ve been getting hit up to do a lot more video projects lately which has been cool. But even the things I do that aren’t necessarily “creative” in nature, like my rental car business, for example, I still look at creatively. One, because when you’re starting a business or working in a new space, everything is creative. You literally have to create processes and systems to make the business run efficiently. Which is different than what most people deem to be creative, but it still is in my opinion.
And then secondly because ultimately the goal is just to create opportunity. That’s the big goal. To be able to create jobs for other people, and really free up my own time to keep trying new things. There’s this narrative that kinda speaks to a dichotomy between business and creative people. Part of the reason I guess artists have managers and agents and stuff like that. Because the artist would rather focus on creating while somebody else focuses on the numbers. I think what sets me apart is that I’m both. I’m the artist that has a bunch of ideas that I just want to create, and I’m the business person that wants to justify that art by its monetary potential also. So that dichotomy that people speak of is internal for me, and it helps me better communicate with both artists and business people alike.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The only thing I would have done differently is move to Atlanta sooner. I grew up in Lansing, Michigan, which is a small town and I lacked exposure to any of the stuff I’m involved in now. There was no art or creative scene. And if there was, I wasn’t aware, or even interested at that point. College opened my eyes up to a whole lot of things that I had never experienced, but it’s still a little bit of a rigid environment that comes with certain expectations that may not be your own. Moving here was super eye-opening. I had never been around so many people who just lived life on their own accord. People who had worked on their own dreams and grew them to be self-sustaining. That’s just a completely different type of energy than what I had ever even known to exist.
Julius Bryant, Keith White, R.U.