The DIOP Circle V.39

April 12th, 2020


Alphonso Whitfield

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, it's the Alphonso Whitfield show. He's our 1,415th member and likes to use the Idris Bandana when he's bartending. And he's going to share how photography has kept him moving.

I thought becoming a photographer was an unobtainable career. I didn’t know how you became one or even built a portfolio. The job almost seemed mythical. With that, I still put a camera in my hand and shot whenever I could. I felt that if I just kept shooting, I could figure out how to become what I wanted. I had to live it.

Growing up, I enjoyed being outside and making photos made me feel like there was so much to find out in the world. It always brought out curiosity I had about everything I saw or interacted with. The camera gave me a desire to explore and investigate a world I knew stretched far beyond my community.

I started in earnest in elementary school but middle school was where I dove in. As I grew up and searched the school's library photo books, I learned about Gordon Parks, E.H. Polk, and Carrie Mae Weems. In addition to them, I found Bruce Davidson, Robert Capa, and Jerry Berndt who’s individual works surrounding documentary work, took me to places through their images I had only heard of or read about. Specifically Robert Capa’s work across many conflicts including World War 2, Jerry Berndt’s work across Boston's Combat Zone in the 1960’s, and Bruce Davidson's work on the subways of New York in the 1980’s. The way they shot showed quick thinking while taking the photos. Every image, no matter how simple the subject, had a way of making you feel like you’re in the scene.

My passion for photography grew as I got older. The more and more I dug in, the more forms of art I saw in it. When you look at a photo intently, it becomes like a painting, a mental film, or a sculpture. Making a photo has everything to do with framing as it does with color, subject matter, and any other element involved. The moment you're piecing together in frame is a combination of technical skills and in the moment emotive responses.

I never wanted to go to college. By the end of high school, I was lost when it came to my future. Photography still felt like something unreal even though I’d been shooting consistently for years at this point. I wanted to continue shooting in some way so I considered joining the military to document that life just like so many of my favorite photographers. Through twists and turns, I went to school in Savannah, Georgia and studied photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

More importantly, I found a community of other artists from around the world; each with experiences and Ideas I’d never heard of who shared their culture and their understanding of art with me. I needed feedback, both positive and negative and they were a great sounding board. I used it as a creative incubator to learn how to do my own thing while paying homage to those who inspired me to create something original.

College was the first time I kept a camera close to me at all times. I realized I had to live with my photography, it couldn't just be homework or a job. It had to be my life. It helped me understand the process, from choosing subjects to setting up shots. Once you’ve sorted out the technical aspects, it then becomes a question of if you can make a shoot happen or if you can be in the right place at the right time.

Then I learned the hardest lesson as a creator. Kill your darlings. Have an editorial eye. Shoot with an eye for what's necessary to be in frame and get rid of photos that only add fat to the total weight of the package you want to deliver. If you can't do this, your photo sets will be filled with unnecessary images that don't speak to the bigger picture. Always striving for a keen editorial eye is key.

Being a photographer isn’t an easy profession to just pick up. Beyond just the technical aspects, understanding the production and business side can be daunting. Certain careers get a stigma that if it’s outside a traditional structure, it’s just a hobby or it’s something you can pick up and put down whenever you please. It’s the “side hustle”, never a full time job. If you say you’re a photographer, it’s treated with a level of suspicion as they try to glean what level of photographer you are. I don't think it’s the kind of career where you can put in 10,000 hours and call it a day. You’ve got to continue past that and give even more.

When I see things visually, I think with the photographer's brain. I’ve worked in so many different fields but in every field, I apply the photographers mind and eye to these occupations. From working on reality tv, various film sets, assisting photographers, starting my own photo business, and doing what I do now as a television producer. In my current role, I do it all. I produce film and photo shoots, I shoot these projects, then I edit the video and photos. Wherever and whatever I'm doing. It's all circled back to the skills I learned as a photographer.

My favorite thing about photography is finding respect for the mundane. You can take something ordinary that you observe and create something sacred out of it all in one moment. My least favorite thing is that sometimes mundane shit is just mundane. And then there’s the pernicious idea that technical skill determines success.

Some photographers think that, but there’s much more to offer than just a perfectly exposed photo. Some photos and film demand tlc and emotion that set up lights and expensive gear can’t give you. There’re many ways to achieve many things, and that's what makes this profession the greatest. You can always find a way to create great work.

Be open to failure. You can get caught up in wanting to be notable quickly. And often when it doesn’t happen like that, it’s easy to get discouraged. No good story or skill is given to you. You have to seek the power of your creations while you create them. You’ll have a greater chance at happiness if you just make whatever it is you want to make and keep pushing your limits. Create ad nauseum until it's a healthy, involuntary habit. At the very least, it helps to remember that your photographic voice might help someone else find their voice whether it’s in photography or any other skill.

Your work will be the vehicle for your success. If you’re feeling apprehensive about sharing your art, your skill, or whatever it is that you do in silence, remember that you sharing your struggles and your creativity can help others. There’s therapy in creativity and we can help inspire one another to be ourselves. Live what you do and keep shooting.


The DIOP Circle V.39

April 12th, 2020


Alphonso Whitfield

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, it's the Alphonso Whitfield show. He's our 1,415th member and likes to use the Idris Bandana when he's bartending. And he's going to share how photography has kept him moving.

I thought becoming a photographer was an unobtainable career. I didn’t know how you became one or even built a portfolio. The job almost seemed mythical. With that, I still put a camera in my hand and shot whenever I could. I felt that if I just kept shooting, I could figure out how to become what I wanted. I had to live it.

Growing up, I enjoyed being outside and making photos made me feel like there was so much to find out in the world. It always brought out curiosity I had about everything I saw or interacted with. The camera gave me a desire to explore and investigate a world I knew stretched far beyond my community.

I started in earnest in elementary school but middle school was where I dove in. As I grew up and searched the school's library photo books, I learned about Gordon Parks, E.H. Polk, and Carrie Mae Weems. In addition to them, I found Bruce Davidson, Robert Capa, and Jerry Berndt who’s individual works surrounding documentary work, took me to places through their images I had only heard of or read about. Specifically Robert Capa’s work across many conflicts including World War 2, Jerry Berndt’s work across Boston's Combat Zone in the 1960’s, and Bruce Davidson's work on the subways of New York in the 1980’s. The way they shot showed quick thinking while taking the photos. Every image, no matter how simple the subject, had a way of making you feel like you’re in the scene.

My passion for photography grew as I got older. The more and more I dug in, the more forms of art I saw in it. When you look at a photo intently, it becomes like a painting, a mental film, or a sculpture. Making a photo has everything to do with framing as it does with color, subject matter, and any other element involved. The moment you're piecing together in frame is a combination of technical skills and in the moment emotive responses.

I never wanted to go to college. By the end of high school, I was lost when it came to my future. Photography still felt like something unreal even though I’d been shooting consistently for years at this point. I wanted to continue shooting in some way so I considered joining the military to document that life just like so many of my favorite photographers.

Through twists and turns, I went to school in Savannah, Georgia and studied photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design. More importantly, I found a community of other artists from around the world; each with experiences and Ideas I’d never heard of who shared their culture and their understanding of art with me. I needed feedback, both positive and negative and they were a great sounding board. I used it as a creative incubator to learn how to do my own thing while paying homage to those who inspired me to create something original.

College was the first time I kept a camera close to me at all times. I realized I had to live with my photography, it couldn't just be homework or a job. It had to be my life. It helped me understand the process, from choosing subjects to setting up shots. Once you’ve sorted out the technical aspects, it then becomes a question of if you can make a shoot happen or if you can be in the right place at the right time. Then I learned the hardest lesson as a creator. Kill your darlings. Have an editorial eye. Shoot with an eye for what's necessary to be in frame and get rid of photos that only add fat to the total weight of the package you want to deliver. If you can't do this, your photo sets will be filled with unnecessary images that don't speak to the bigger picture. Always striving for a keen editorial eye is key.

Being a photographer isn’t an easy profession to just pick up. Beyond just the technical aspects, understanding the production and business side can be daunting. Certain careers get a stigma that if it’s outside a traditional structure, it’s just a hobby or it’s something you can pick up and put down whenever you please. It’s the “side hustle”, never a full time job. If you say you’re a photographer, it’s treated with a level of suspicion as they try to glean what level of photographer you are. I don't think it’s the kind of career where you can put in 10,000 hours and call it a day. You’ve got to continue past that and give even more.

When I see things visually, I think with the photographer's brain. I’ve worked in so many different fields but in every field, I apply the photographers mind and eye to these occupations. From working on reality tv, various film sets, assisting photographers, starting my own photo business, and doing what I do now as a television producer. In my current role, I do it all. I produce film and photo shoots, I shoot these projects, then I edit the video and photos. Wherever and whatever I'm doing. It's all circled back to the skills I learned as a photographer.

My favorite thing about photography is finding respect for the mundane. You can take something ordinary that you observe and create something sacred out of it all in one moment. My least favorite thing is that sometimes mundane shit is just mundane. And then there’s the pernicious idea that technical skill determines success.

Some photographers think that, but there’s much more to offer than just a perfectly exposed photo. Some photos and film demand tlc and emotion that set up lights and expensive gear can’t give you. There’re many ways to achieve many things, and that's what makes this profession the greatest. You can always find a way to create great work.

Be open to failure. You can get caught up in wanting to be notable quickly. And often when it doesn’t happen like that, it’s easy to get discouraged. No good story or skill is given to you. You have to seek the power of your creations while you create them. You’ll have a greater chance at happiness if you just make whatever it is you want to make and keep pushing your limits. Create ad nauseum until it's a healthy, involuntary habit. At the very least, it helps to remember that your photographic voice might help someone else find their voice whether it’s in photography or any other skill.

Your work will be the vehicle for your success. If you’re feeling apprehensive about sharing your art, your skill, or whatever it is that you do in silence, remember that you sharing your struggles and your creativity can help others. There’s therapy in creativity and we can help inspire one another to be ourselves. Live what you do and keep shooting.


Alphonso Whitfield

Follow Alphonso Whitfield @aw5_photo and to see more of his photography, please visit www.aw5photo.com where he can be reached for inquiries.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


- Alphonso Whitfield


Follow Alphonso Whitfield @aw5_photo and to see more of his photography, please visit www.aw5photo.com where he can be reached for inquiries.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.