Today we’d like to introduce you to Phillip Loken.
Phillip, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Since I was four years old, I’ve lived in North Carolina. My interest in the arts started with music, transitioned into fashion and later took the medium of photography in college in 2012. Out of a need for my own images during a time that I ran a streetwear fashion blog, my passion for visual storytelling was born. Under the guidance of my mentor, photographer Courtney Jefferson, I gained experience with studio photography and experimented with a wide range of photography genres that developed my current interest in focuses like fine art, documentary and character studies.
From being a fan of black visual artists of different mediums and understanding the power of a physical exhibition versus viewing art on a phone or computer screen, it didn’t take long for me to know that I wanted my work exhibited. So, in May 2014, I held my own joint exhibition with mixed media artist X The Artist entitled “The EPK: Soundtrack To Creativity” (having 300+ people at our opening reception). That moment and everything that built up to it showed me my real path: Fine Art photography.
From then on, I dove deeper into photography genres like concerts and events. I had gone onto shoot different music festivals in NC like Hopscotch and Moogfest. In March 2017, I was featured in a documentary called “Creative NC: An Introspective Look at Creative Culture”, which premiered at NC’s Museum of History. I also had a stint as CreativeMornings RDU’s photographer which led to Raleigh’s Visitors Bureau licensing one of my photos for an ad. My biggest accomplishment to date has been being featured in the NC Always-curated photo archive “Don’t Wait Til It’s Cool”, which exhibited at NC’s Museum of History in January 2019. The “DWTIC” exhibition, explores the relationship between North Carolina’s hip-hop culture, music venues, and the various photographers that capture those artists on stage and beyond. Since then I’ve found a new love in photo genres like documentary and adventure/nature, while still dabbling in fashion, music and event photography when I have the opportunity.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It DEFINITELY has not been a smooth road bruh bruh lmao. I’ve had setbacks, I’ve had multiple times I wanted to quit; not a smooth road at all. My first major setback was actually finding funding for my first exhibition. I was attending UNCG as a Business major, so the art department really wasn’t trying’ to give me any funding or support. I also think they didn’t want to support because everything I did was DIY; I didn’t go about it the right/white way lol.
Another major setback was the very first camera I owned actually just died on me one day; I was devastated. Luckily, I have great friends like my homie Rasta who supported my work enough to fully fund a new camera to replace the original one. We’re also in an artist collective called Povic World.
I’ve had multiple times I’ve wanted to quit doing photography too. My homie Rasta has always helped get me back on the right track whenever I felt down about my work. I’m still not in the best financial space, but that was a big part of any time I wanted to quit; just the fact that I felt I should be more financially stable from this by now. What I’ve realized from all of that is: 1. everyone’s journey is different. Your time is your time, nobody else’s. 2. You really can’t rush this. You just have to put out work and keep moving. 3. Money does not automatically equate to the quality of your work. Now, I’ve made a promise to myself to ALWAYS shoot and release my images to the public in some way, until I take my last breath.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Photography can go two ways, in my eyes: business or art. I’m always actively on the visual art side and less on the business. I’ve been shooting for about eight years and a part of that journey was finding what I liked to shoot, what I didn’t like to shoot and experimenting with the business side. I’ve been heavily involved in the business side with various clients, even some bigger ones, but I really love just shooting what I want to shoot and letting the money come however it does.
This doesn’t mean if you contact me to shoot something commercial, I’ll automatically say no. It just means I really fully consider commercial opportunities before I just go accepting anything; doesn’t matter how much money is involved.
My proudest moment was having my work exhibited at the Museum of History in North Carolina; that was such a pivotal moment for me. I was amongst at least about 10 other photographers, but I also spoke at the artist talk for that exhibition. That moment helped solidify my future in this photography visual art realm.
I think what sets me apart from other photographers is the fact that I’m very proud about shooting primarily black people. I also think the maturity of myself and my content sets me apart from other photographers as well. I’ve given myself the title Black Southern Culture Documentarian because I feel that encompasses everything my work is all about.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The only thing I would’ve done differently is taking my photography seriously at an early age. When I was younger, I didn’t think much of it; it was just a little camera in my hands sometimes. I wish I would’ve taken it more seriously earlier on because there’s no telling where I’d be now if I did.
With that being said, I’d also like to say I have no regrets at all about where I’m at. I have so much planned that I know will project me to exactly where I’m supposed to be. The future, regardless of when I started taking this seriously, is very bright for my work.
- $300/hr (negotiable and open to budgets)
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