Who is Kelvin Bulluck? By now you have probably seen a Facebook advertisement from Kelvin promoting his photography services to bloggers and influencers. At least that’s how I was introduced to his work. Then when I discovered that he had taken a photo of Claire Sulmers, the creator of “Fashion Bomb Daily” I knew either this guy was good at building relationships, or that he had a really great eye for capturing the beauty of a black woman. I immediately knew I had to interview him for our fashion theme this month, and I wasn’t quite certain on how I was going to make it happen.
Just like I had come across Kelvin’s popular facebook ad so did my business partner Aisha. She made a comment under his post tagging me asking ” Is this the photographer you just mentioned to me? ” I immediately responded back to the thread with “Yes I reached out to him for a interview”. When Aisha saw the ad I had already reached out to Kelvin 2 days before, but I never got a reply. I prayed about it like I do with all of my other interview inquiries and I left it alone.
The next day he DM’d me back on Instagram with some questions concerning the interview details and the rest was history. This is the history that you get a chance to read in our exclusive interview. I learn so much from every interview that I conduct, but this interview with Kelvin was about perseverance, being present in the moment, and the true art of the H-U-S-T-L-E. To get to know more about Kelvin and how his camera has awarded him the opportunity to have a seat at the table, keep reading our exclusive interview below. I pray that this interview helps any creative, but more importantly up in coming fashion photographers. Remember no one has the power to dim your light, so dream big and keep shining!
Until Next Time,
Exclusive Interview With Kelvin Bulluck!
C.Y.C.- How did you get started in photography?
K.B.~ I’ve always had the eye even when I was a kid. I remember seeing pretty women before puberty hit. I would be at the location and see this woman and think to myself that would be a nice photo. I knew I was suppose to do something with that kind of beauty. I just didn’t know what it was. As I got older in my former years I didn’t have access to photography gear, so I invested most of my time in literary arts. It wasn’t until 2010 that I picked up a camera and realized this was what I was suppose to be doing the whole time. I got really interested in the technical side of photography and how to make striking images.
The thing that I noticed early on was that my photos didn’t look like what I saw in magazines, and on advertisements. Noticing that really got me interested in learning more about photography. I relied on Youtube University LOL and google. Photography for me started off as a self taught situation until I was able to enroll in some workshops. As I got more interested in perfecting the craft I ended up picking up some mentors in the DMV area and in New York. I was always taking in as much as I could about photography. The camera has put me in some amazing rooms, and has provided me with opportunities I never could of imagined.
C.Y.C.- Who are some of your influencers from your early days?
K.B.~ A lot of them were photographers in Baltimore. One in particular he took me under their wing and saw my potential, and just poured into me. His name was Herbert Mann. He is a local photographer based in Baltimore. Herbert taught me studio lighting and how to conduct a photoshoot in the studio, because prior to that I was doing a lot of on location shoots with natural light.
During that time I had a client reach out to me saying she wanted to shoot in the studio. I told her I didn’t have a studio but I could find one. I started googling hourly studio rates in Baltimore. Actually his studio was the first studio that came up. I reached out to him saying “Hi I have this client who wants to book a shoot and I wanted to inquire about your studio”. After that he wanted to meet with me to make sure I wasn’t some riff raff who was coming to tear up his studio. We sat down at the studio and talked for two hours and he realized I had potential.
A month or two later he invited me and this other photographer to a event he was having to take some shots. Little did I know it was a interview for an apprenticeship that he had put together in his mind. I did the best job I could that night so that I would have the opportunity to work with him again. The other photographer that he hired that night was not as serious about the job. From that day forward I became an intern. He basically had me in the studio every weekend. I was shooting his clients for him, but he was also teaching me the process along the way. It actually made him look good to have people shooting for him. He was the main mentor that really opened my eyes up to endless possibilities in photography.
C.Y.C.- Do you have people working under you now? To show them the ropes.
K.B.~ Oh definitely! I try to focus on the younger kids. Right now I’m working with a young man. I actually need to follow up with him because mentorship is a two way street. You have to be hungry! I know when I was being mentored I asked questions and tried to obtain as much information as I could. I am open to helping the younger generation. It’s just interesting, millennials are a little different when it comes to internships, and the hustle. I also reach out to photographers who are already in the game and just want to sharpen their skills. I do one on one sessions and I offer some different options for those who want to invest in their future.
C.Y.C.- Is photography your full-time job or do you do something else outside of photography?
K.B.~ It’s funny you asked that! That’s a interesting question LOL! Yes I do photography full-time, and yes I have another full-time job. What I mean by that is, I will go and do my full time job and then I will get off from there and do photography for another 8-10 hours. Honestly I end up putting more hours into the photography then I do the other full-time job. That is partly due to my love and passion for it. There are also times when I have to play catch up because I’m also married. I tell people all the time that’s another job within itself. You want to be the best spouse you can be, that means being intentional. I put in the hours that I can with photography and those hours tend to range from 4:30-9:30pm during the week. A lot of people tend to think photography is just being in the studio shooting models all of the time, but that’s only 30 percent of it. The other portion is spent getting clientele, answering emails, and thinking of how to attract the clients that you want. All of that adds up to me working 3 full-time jobs.
C.Y.C.- I see that you have been featured in Rolling Out and Essence magazine most photographers would often say they have arrived. What’s your take on your success?
K.B.~ I feel like we all set goals and then when we hit them we say okay ” What’s Next” ? For me I look at Tyler Mitchell who just shot the September issue of Vogue with Beyonce` on the cover. When that happened for him I’m sure it was mind blowing, but now that it has passed he still has to set other goals. I don’t know a fashion photographer in the world who wouldn’t want to shoot the cover of Vogue magazine. He has to keep pushing because the whole world is looking at him now. I feel like we are all in an era where staying relevant and on top of things is going to be a consistent battle in our lives until we die. I will continue to set goals. I will continue to aim for publications that I want to be featured in. I don’t think I will ever feel like I have arrived. There is so much that I have to do.
C.Y.C.- What do you enjoy most about fashion photography?
K.B.~ I like the collaborative process. When it comes to fashion photography I’ve learned when you see these powerful images in the publications, or online it takes a team of people to do that. Within that dynamic there is a collaborative effort that takes place. Sometimes depending on who you have in the mix it can either go flat, or flourish. Everybody is in their lane and doing what they do best. The model is coming with her A-game, I can focus on my lighting, and the wardrobe stylist came on set and killed it with the pulls. It’s one of those situations where I’m in the moment and enjoying it because I am actually able to focus on what I need to. When your able to focus and collaborate with creative people that makes the perfect photoshoot. It’s almost like giving birth! I’ve never given birth, that’s probably not a good analogy. For me I will say it’s like giving birth to something that was just a thought that we brought to reality.
C.Y.C.- What do you think is different about your photography compared to other photographers?
K.B.~ I grew up around a bunch of women. I have 3 sisters. I have a deep appreciation for women, especially black women. I have mad love for black women!!! One of my main focuses in photography is centered around black women you can actually see that on my Instagram feed. I love the beauty that we exude without the western influence. Beauty is dictated by the cultures that we live in, which is often centered around European beauty. I want to put out what I see as beauty and I want “US” to have that representation. I feel like social media gives us more of a platform to see beautiful people that look like us. I wanted to at least contribute in my own way. That’s basically what my Instagram feed is, my contribution to beautiful black people. That’s one thing that makes my work different. Ultimately because of the experiences I’ve had in life and the way that I view things based on my own opinion I’m able to bring that into my work. There are a lot of great shooters out there and a lot of us shoot similar things, but we all bring our personal experiences to each shot. I feel like there is only 1 Kelvin Bulluck. That’s what makes me different being who I am.
C.Y.C.- If you could be published in any major publication what would it be?
K.B.~ That’s a good question. I would love to shoot a cover for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and Elle Magazine. I would also like to shoot a cover for any of the black publications. As of now I’ve only shot the cover for 1 publication and that was for the Bmore Art Journal. They featured Amy Sherald who is the artist who painted Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery. That was fun! That was pretty dope to shoot her for that publication.
C.Y.C.- How I found you was through a Advertisement on Facebook that said you work with bloggers and influencers. I recently saw that you had a shoot with Claire from Fashion Bomb Daily. How did that come about?
K.B.~ One thing that I will tell any business owner is the opportunity that we are presented is a direct reflection of the relationships that we have built along the way. When you do right by people and you perform at the best of your ability people take notice. They will share information about you with their friends and put your name out there to people. Your name will start to get mentioned in rooms, or circles of people when Claire is in town and she needs a dope photographer and my name happens to come up. I actually briefly met her once before at a event that I was covering. She seemed like a cool person with good vibes and great energy. Working that event and being a coordinator for that event was how I was able to have my name out there, and I was able to book a shoot with her.
As far as how you came across my ad on Facebook, one thing I feel photographers could be better at is how they market themselves. Word of mouth has been very effective for my brand, but I also realized I had to be more effective in putting my business out to the public. With social media and the amount of people it can reach we are able to have a broader reach for a fraction of the cost. The amount of reach that my ads get now back in the day just to get it on television I would have spent over six figures in advertising fees. I like to use the tools that we have now in order to grow my business and social media has helped me do that.
C.Y.C.~ I have a couple of friends who are in photography, so I’m asking this question for beginners. How are new photographers able to brand themselves?
K.B.~ I feel like if we are going to be out here charging money for this skill set I feel like your work needs to be at a certain level. You need to be able to produce a certain look consistently. It’s a process to get your work up to standard, especially if you are self taught like myself. It took me a while to get comfortable with my own work before I started charging top dollar. ” You get what you pay for”. I started branding myself in the natural hair community. I was doing a personal project. It’s funny that we are talking about this because I was actually talking about this on one of my recent IGTV videos. I was explaining the importance of doing personal projects. One of the first projects that I did was taking portraits of women with natural hair. What I did in order to recruit was I went to natural hair shows and conventions. I was also in natural hair Facebook groups. Through that I was able to build relationships and complete my project. Some of the images I shot went semi viral in the natural hair community. My second form of advice would be to pick a particular type of photography. I saw growth in my business when I narrowed down my focus. For instance if someone comes to me to do family portraits, ” I kindly say I don’t do family portraits”. Make sure you build other relationships with other photographers. There are shoots I may not be interested in, but I can pass the job along in my network.
C.Y.C.- Have you ever overly criticized your work where you felt like you needed a do-over for a shoot?
K.B.~ Of course, that’s like stand up comedy they all have a story of how they bombed a show in front of an audience. I feel like every photographer is going to have one of those stories. If you don’t have one of those stories then your not shooting enough. That was apart of the growth process for me. I wish I could give you an example LOL. I try so hard to put those negative thoughts out of my mind.
C.Y.C.- We live in the social media age where people can take one great photo and say that they’re a photographer. What is the key to becoming a photographer and not just a self made instagram photographer?
K.B.~ I am a firm believer that if you are going to call yourself anything there is a period in time in any skill set where you have to put the time in to learn the craft. If your not out here trying to get better, which is a never ending process then all you are is a person that has a good camera. You might have got lucky with one good shot. If you can’t reproduce the same body of work then that’s just called luck. The sad part is luck does run out! That’s how you can tell the difference between the professionals and the amateurs.
C.Y.C.- Touching on Tyler Mitchell, which you briefly covered were you proud of him? Some people say he won so we all won. Do you have that feeling as well?
K.B.~ I was super proud of him! One of my first thoughts was why did it take Vogue so long? Why has it been 126 years and you are just letting a African American shoot the cover of Vogue? I give praise to Beyonce` for realizing it needed to be done. The next thing that came to my mind was will it be another 126 years again, or will they start opening the doors for other black photographers. I hope that there will be more instances where more black photographers are hired to shoot for these major publications.
Back to Tyler, how does a 23 year old even get that opportunity? I did some research and found out that Tyler is not even represented by an agency. So to not be represented by an agency and shoot a cover is amazing. He did some work for Teen Vogue along with some other major brands that stemmed from a personal project he did while he was in school. He self published that project and it got him some notoriety. Mad props to Tyler! I hope that he keeps doing his thing and aiming high showing the world that anything is possible.
C.Y.C.- What’s your greatest accomplishment as a photographer?
K.B.~ That’s a tough one, because there are a lot of small accomplishments that are major. As well as a lot of big accomplishments that are major. Let me answer this question in a different way. One of the most powerful moments in my career was 2015 and I was sitting on the balcony in east London as the sun was setting and I was in awe because I was there because of my camera. I was afforded an opportunity to work with a dope brand because I picked up the camera. I will always remember that day because I had photographed over 50 women. We had a few more shots to go, and we had a little break so I went out on the balcony and as the sun was setting I became present in that moment. That just shows what being passionate about something can do for you. I figured after that happened a camera could take me anywhere. It brings a smile to my face now just remembering that moment.
C.Y.C.- Thanks for sharing that. I wasn’t expecting for you to say something of that magnitude. That’s beautiful!
C.Y.C.- I always end my interviews with a quote that people live by. What is a quote that you live by everyday?
K.B.~ I have one that came to my mind immediately because I was just thinking about it today. I actually have reminders around the areas where I go to the most in my house, like the bathroom. It’s written in initials and the initials that I have written on the posted note are I.A.E. & T.I.E. which stands for I- Am- Enough and There- Is- Enough. What that translates to is there are enough opportunities for all of us, and I am enough in order to obtain those opportunities. We are all so hard on ourselves this day in age! There is plenty of room for all of us to have a seat at the table. We just have to be bold enough to pull up a chair.
P.S.~ To book or keep up with Kelvin Bulluck please click here to check out his instagram page.
**All photos in today’s post were provided by Kelvin Bulluck.