Welcome to our Creative Spotlight, where we’re highlighting the talented creatives who make up the community here at South 40.
We often showcase professional creatives in the Creative Spotlight. However, periodically we meet unique “budding” professionals, fresh in their careers, whom we cannot wait to introduce to the South 40 community. Kevin Gill is one of those creatives. Having discovered photography nearly by accident, he is quickly developing into a respected photographer with an arsenal of skills, exhibiting a distinctive aptitude to balance a wide variety of photographic approaches. He rotates between brand advertising to individual photography with ease, making the most of each site he works at. We think you will find his unconventional track to professional photography interesting and inspiring!
The journey to becoming a creative professional can take many paths. Tell us your story.
I started taking pictures about two years ago. We were foster parents for a school age boy, but when an adoptive family was found, he left our home. When the adoption fell through, we decided to adopt him ourselves, and when we surprised him with the adoption proposal, we commemorated the experience through photography. His adoption was the inspiration to finalize my dream of becoming a photographer and at that point I began taking my craft to the next level.
Did you have formal training—if not, what people and experiences have taught you?
I haven’t had any formal training, but I have learned so much from peers and mentors. When a friend of mine wanted to collaborate, we combined our experience with my new vision to boost us both to the next level. I have followed many professional photographers and creative directors to discover what photography really means to me. Two creatives I really admire are Keydrin Franklin and Motelewa Smith, and I am always impressed by how generous professional creatives are in sharing their knowledge with newcomers.
What kinds of roadblocks did you encounter on the way to success?
In the early days of my photography business, my biggest challenges were just breaking the ice and learning how to pose my clients for the best shots. I found getting to know the client difficult and I was quite nervous in finding what they wanted in their shoot. In my “regular job” I am an Organized Retail Crime Investigator, which is nothing like my job as a photographer. There is a learning curve to becoming a professional photographer, and some of it is simply learning how to read your clients and understand what they want from a photo shoot. Once I learned how to create the chemistry with my clients, I moved on to the next step in the journey.
How do you shoot such captivating low light photographs? Secrets, inspirations, favorite locations?
Once I realized how important lighting is to shoot a professional photo, I partnered with experienced creatives to master this crucial aspect of photography. Now, I usually shoot with 50m lenses so I can capture more light. Depending on the location, I may use my 24m as well. I find inspiration in many things. For example, my mother-in-law has a lamp with these sparkling 1970’s-style, diamond-shaped chandelier crystals, each with a different color; I was inspired by the vibe I got from that lamp. As far as my favorite locations, I really love downtown Nashville—there are so many great spots which look out over the city skyline. Nashville has a truly under-appreciated skyline and offers a variety of interesting locations to create remarkable pictures.
We understand your photograph for brands. This is definitely a different style of photography. How do you find the inspiration to balance the company’s needs with consumer-focused aesthetics?
Honestly, one of the keys to photographing for brands is simply getting to know the brand first. I purchase and wear their items, learning about their vision and customer base to discover their approach to marketing. Once I feel like I know what they want to say in their images, I scope out locations which can highlight the style they are selling. I have a similar approach with customer-focused shoots—I try to research the client on social media channels like Instagram or Facebook to learn about their creative style. Finally, you cannot discount the time spent simply sitting with them and finding out their vision for the shoot.
How did you happen across South 40? Can you tell us about your first experience there as a professional creative?
I discovered South 40 on Facebook in my search for a location to shoot Christmas photos with another photographer friend. My first experience there was with their Christmas sessions, and I was intrigued that they had a cool old barn with some vehicles and other props available. Before this shoot, I knew nothing about South 40, and I was a bit nervous because I did not know what to expect or how to plan for my sessions there. But when I made the booking, Ann set my mind at ease and really made me feel at home right from the start. She knew me by name by my second shoot and was welcoming, even taking some behind-the-scenes shots of me during the shoot!
What makes South 40 stand out among locations?
I love the vehicles and props they offered during my first photo session, and there is so much more I haven’t even explored yet! Ann has been very helpful in explaining what I can use and makes herself available to creatives. The South 40 team provided great customer service during my first shoot, and If it hadn’t been raining, I would have shot more there. I will definitely be back again.
What subject (or subjects) have you yet to shoot that you really want to? Where does videography fit into your creative goals?
To expand my photography business, I would like to shoot more sports photographs and even dabble in videos. I have started doing some videos for Sephora and a few churches, and I would like to expand that even more. I have also been partnering with some high school students in the Nashville area to capture the highlights for their basketball careers so they can provide the footage to college scouts. I do this free of charge simply because I love helping the youth in our area.
We have encountered many people discovering their love for artistic expression as adults, without formal training. For anyone looking to re-invent themselves as a creative, what advice would you give?
Never give up on what you want to do. If you have a vision, just go for it. I have 3 kids, one on the way and 2 foster kids, and planning is a key part to success with a large family. Always plan out what you want to do and stick to it—timing is everything. If I can reach my dream of being a photographer, anybody can achieve their dreams. I always hear people say, “why me?” when the question should always be “why not me”?
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