What’s up everyone, my name is Lawrence Agyai. I am 27 years old, a photographer, and a coder/designer. I was born and raised in Italy for 17 years and have been in the city for 11 years now. I use my craft that God has blessed me with to bless others around me.
You’ve done a few sets now inspired by Barkley Hendricks, what was it about his artistry that inspires you so much?
I wasn’t familiar with Barkley until earlier this year. I would see his work on Tumblr and Twitter, but I never took the time to figure out who he was. What I love so much about his work is that he documented his era. All of his work was based on people in New York. He would pick random people from the street and bring them to his studio. I loved that so much. Barkley is one of those artists where I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit and respect and with each set I created I wanted to pay homage to him. My good friend Joseph has a creative collective called Sunday School and they were working on some projects for Black History Month and that’s how I created the sets to pay homage to Barkley. I picked my favorite paintings he did, gathered some friends, rented a studio, and re-created Barkley’s images. I loved the way Barkley made black people look so good and that’s what I wanted to do as well.
In each photo, you manage to capture some aspect of your subjects personality or something in each individual you capture. Is that your goal?
Honestly, when I’m shooting someone, I just want to capture their exact feeling at that moment. Whether it’s happiness, sadness, or whatever. When I’m shooting someone and I don’t know them, I always like to get to know them. I want that person to always feel comfortable when we shoot. I actually just did a shoot with my friend on Sunday and when I got to the destination, she was all happy. But then all of a sudden I can feel the mood changing and I was able to capture that in photographs. That’s what I wanted. I want people to always show me the real them. The photographs will turn out the best that way. Richard Avedon used to shoot people when they were sad, happy when they were hungry. He caught every person in the mood they were in, in that exact moment and that’s exactly what I want to do.
I see you love for shooting film, do you ever think you’ll transition to full digital in this era?
For me personally, I’ll only shoot digital for clients. My own work I want to shoot mostly in film. The reason why is because back in high school I learned how to develop film. I learned how to develop both black and white and color. I love how I can wait an hour and a half and see the image come out in a dark room. I love that whole process. My first camera was a digital camera, but after two years, I made the transition to film. I love how raw film is. Throughout the years, film has taught me the importance of being patient. When you shoot, you get 10 shots per roll. You have to think about each shot. Every shot counts.
Gordon Parks once said, ‘‘the subject matter is so much more important than the photographer’ do you believe that?
100%. I’ve had so many people ask me why I don’t post photos of myself on my IG and I always say, it’s not about me. I’m shooting because the way I love the way my subject looks. I love the way they express themselves, move, dress, etc. I want to capture that in a photo. I love telling stories and every single person I’ve been able to shoot has their own unique story. I never wanted this to be about me, always about my subject.
While you’ve been living in Chicago for the last 11 years, how has this city shaped you into who you are?
Man, this city has changed me. I’ve become a man in this city. This city is where I found my gift. I learned how to move around, I learned how to make money, I learned how to hustle.
One thing you constantly talk about is your relationship with God. How has your relationship with God helped your creative drive?
My relationship with God has helped me so much because I learned where my gifts came from. I understood that God planted this gift in me to share with the world. I know God did not just give me this gift to just sit around and be comfortable and complacent. I’m forever thankful for the gift he blessed me with and I’ll continue to use my gift to spread his word.
Over the years, what are some of your favorite lessons you’ve learned over the years?
- Stay consistent.
- Learn from the greats. I find myself in the bookstore all the time in the photography section and sit there for hours learning. I always want to understand the photographer’s mind and how they were able to capture such beautiful shots.
- Find your own lane. At first, when I first started photography, I was all over the place. But then I found out portraits was my lane and wanted to tell stories through them.
- Have fun
What kind of impact do you want your work to have on the world?
Honestly man, whatever people feel when viewing my work, that’s what I want. I’ve had people tell me when I saw this photo of yours it gave me chills. I want that. I want you to feel that way because that’s what I felt when I took that photo. The fact that you got that to me then it feels like I did my job. I also want people to look at my work and think that they can do it too. You can pick up a camera and do it. My girlfriend is a registered dietician, sometimes she goes on tv to make segments and people around the country watch her live giving advice on what to eat and how to stay healthy. She’s touching and impacting people to get better with their health. I’m super inspired by her. That’s how I want to impact people
Written by: Nico Rud