James was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio; he moved to Columbus, OH to attend The Ohio State University, where he graduated (2011) with a degree in Physical Education. His life revolves mostly around fashion, photography, and education. He is ever-changing and evolving; his story is very incomplete.
What do you do?
I manage Columbus's only lifestyle street-wear boutique, Sole Classics, am a member of the Kingsrowe brand/team, write and create for TIOBS (The Idea of Being Somebody), and lots of freelance photography.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my beliefs and passions, if I'm not truly 'into' something or if I don't believe in it's purpose, I won't be able to give my all, so I try not to get involved in such situations. There are so many things that inspire me: God, justice, truth, reality, possibilities, life, expression, representation, family, enlightenment, courage, empowerment, contentment, compassion... All of these things play an important role in my daily life.
When did you start photography?
I've been a fan of photos and photography since I can remember. My father was always taking photos, of everything, from my sporting events, to church events, to family photos, his photography is what sparked my interest in taking photos. When I was growing up, from elementary school through high school, I would take photos of random things once every blue moon, nothing consistent. During my last year at The Ohio State University, I really felt a creative void, life was kind of boring, I wasn't really happy, it was just school and work over and over again. I've always been a fan of art in general, mainly drawing, painting, and sculpting, I liked photography too, but never owned a camera so that went nowhere. To fill my 'creative void' I decided to actually pursue photography (2011), I saved my money, bought a Canon Powershot, and I haven't looked back since. I don't know why it took me so long to pursue something that I love, I guess I had just gotten caught up in life's monotonous cycle. Do what you love, professionally or unprofessionally, just do it.
You do a lot of shoe photography. Why shoes?
There are a couple different reasons you'll see a lot of shoe photos in my repertoire, the first being, I am responsible for all photography seen on soleclassics.comand @soleclassics on Instagram, it's my job. The second reason, I love shoes, they're art, the shapes, colors, designs, patterns, materials, stories, etc.
What messages do you convey through your photography? How do these messages vary per project?
The message(s) vary, sometimes a photo is taken to convey a specific message and sometimes I just take photos for fun, sometimes the two are combined. Generally speaking, I want something to stand out in every photo, it could be an emotional energy being passed along, it could be appreciation of the framing, always something special with each photo.
Tell us about your current and upcoming projects.
My previous and current photo projects (which can be found at jamesdrakeford.com) have had common themes of definitions and redefining unjust (unofficial) social definitions. I launched my first solo exhibit in March of 2013, "Black Innocence" - The project is composed of photos that capture authentic innocence of young African American children in real-life, unscripted, candid moments. The photos depict hope, joy, potential, promise, newness, and everyday life. The Black Innocence collection aims to promote compassion, love, grace, and unity by rebranding the tattered image of Black youth, reviving a positive frame, inspiring belief in the future, exposing potential, and neutralizing the polarization of Blackness. The images seen in the Black Innocence project are different than the common African American public image that we’ve grown accustomed to. The photos shed light on the beautiful, rather than highlighting the negative.
My upcoming project, "Sexy", is designed to challenge popular definitions of the word sexy and what it means to be sexy, and to highlight the power of projections. I don't want to reveal too much about the project before it's finished, I want people to arrive to the exhibit with an open mind...
Are there any projects that you would like to do but haven't yet had the opportunity?
My projects are inspired by the 'now'. I don't plan them very far in advance, they just come to me, and at those moments, I decide to pursue or not pursue. There are subjects and topics that I want to cover, but the most difficult part is figuring out HOW I will execute the vision.
Do you have advice for aspiring photographers?
Take photos of what you like. Try to find your own style, BUT still take notes and learn from others. Try something a little different or new with every photo session. Trial and error works wonders. Take a lot of photos. Don't be lazy. Be reliable. Edit photos quickly when being commissioned to do work. Take pride in your photos.
How did you get involved with DRESSED?
I worked with Azmara on one of her previous lines, and then she asked me to work on DRESSED with her.
How can people contact you for work or keep up-to-date with all your projects?
Please visit JamesDrakeford.com for photo samples, portfolio, and projects. Visit mrkingjd.com to see photos I take on a daily basis.