Working with SZA, 6lack, Big Boi, and so many more, Donte Maurice is on the rise to becoming the next big name in portrait photography. A feeling of surreal timelessness is evoked throughout all of the subjects he captures. Donte joined Spots for a Q&A, answering questions about art, life, inspirations, and how he made a name for himself in the photography world. Here are some of the highlights;
When did you get into photography and what drew you to portraiture?
I would say I officially started in 2015! That’s when my first major assignment came through. What drew me to portraits was knowing that I could connect with people without needing to speak as much. I used to be an introvert but now I’d say I can pull up and speak to anyone.
How do you manage to get booked by celebrities?
Getting booked with celebrities is really about who you know and how long you’ve known people. If a person’s team can trust you, then you’re innnnn.
What’s SZA like? How long ago did you work with her?
I worked with SZA in 2015 or 2016. She’s actually really great and one of the nicest people ever. I got to work with her when I snuck into a music festival which is actually funny. My friend at the time was her assistant and got me an official pass.
When did you realize that photography was what you wanted to invest your time fully into?
I realized photography was IT when I didn’t have the passion or fire to do anything else but take photographs. That’s literally all I researched, thought about and did for a year straight. My family is so supportive that they actually bought me my first camera and laptop.
Was it an obvious choice after initial success or was it risky dedicating yourself entirely to photography?
It’s both obvious and risky because being an artist is such an unstable career starting out. But it’ll be worth it soon enough.
What are some of your favorite photo shoot locations in Atlanta?
THE GOAT FARM! I love shooting there and that’s actually where the studio I use is located.
Can you briefly describe your ascent to where you are today? What is/are the key events that really got things started for you?
Social media has played a huge role. The support online has been helping me get my work out there. My first big assignment was with Sprite which really got the ball rolling. When I was interested in music photography, I had friends who ran that scene alot so I booked with them to gain entry into festivals. One of the key recent events that helped me gain more respect was photographing Billboard.
What’s the riskiest thing you’ve done for your career?
The riskiest thing would have to be accepting the Billboard shoot because I wasn’t truly in a position to shoot it because I had finals that week along with shooting the Journey’s campaign. My life felt like it was over needing to study and create projects for class while photographing and missing class.
How do you get your subjects to feel more comfortable in front of the camera?
Conversation is key. I’m already a pretty goofy person so, I love to laugh and say stupid things. Laughing always eases the atmosphere for both of you. Some people have to learn but there are other’s whose look just works for the camera.
Who are your favorite music artists currently?
6black! I love that guy. Check out Daniel Novello as well! I work with him a lot and his music is incredible. I love YG, Vic Mensa, Nav, Lorde, James Bay, Johnny Yukon, and DVSN.
How much of your work’s success would you say depends on the subject? Can you make anyone look good?
I do believe I can make anyone look good but I also believe the photographic process should be 50/50. If the muses vibe isn’t right then, its a recipe for disaster. The vibe is nothing to play with. It controls everything in the process.
What camera are you trying to upgrade to? And what is your go-to lens?
Canon 5D Mark IV for sure! And my go-to lens is a 50mm f/1.4 but I definitely need the 24-70mm in my life.
How do you feel about the negative stigma concerning photoshopping models?
I definitely understand why people see photoshopping someone as wrong especially if you’re reconfiguring someone’s body. That’s why I stay away from that. I want my photographs to be as close to natural as possible. My main purpose in retouching is to even out the color tone which in essence is what makeup does.
Have any recent work you’re particularly proud of?
Yes! The beauty shoot I did called Technicolor madness. The file size is a bit too big to post here but I think Lucas has one of the shots.
What’s the key to posting on Instagram? Is there a threshold for how big the picture size can be?
It doesn’t matter! I size mine up to 300dpi just in case I decide to zoom in on the image when I post it.
What lens did you use for the Technicolor Madness shoot?
I used my 70-200mm and I say start small. Don’t do it until you know that you’re ready because they don’t care about how young you are or what you’ve got going so, you have to deliver.