A photographer’s constant search for the spontaneous
I first picked up a camera at 14, fueled by an obsession and love for photography. And I’ve had that same drive ever since.
These images are excerpts from my ever-growing personal work. Images that don’t always have a rhyme and a reason or even a purpose other than to satisfy my desire to do something fun and maybe create something I’ve never done before. How about we try this? What will it look like upside down, or with this color, or in total darkness? Often I try to come up with an absurd idea or get inspiration from other images, TV shows, movies and everyday life.
I see humor and beauty in many things, especially people. I am a natural person. I often say that I try to make extraordinary images from ordinary, ordinary people. I practice on my friends and associates almost all the time. Luckily for me, I have access to a lot of people who don’t mind being photographed. Without them, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am.
They trust me to experiment with them on camera. This allows me to play with various lighting techniques, accessories and concepts. I never know exactly how something is going to turn out until I’m knee-deep in the process or when the photoshoot is over. And I’m in awe at the end, just like the subject.
I love how spontaneous this way of making art can be. Truly organic. This feeling is addictive. Force a habit to do more photo shoots. The challenge is always to try not to repeat the same thing, but to look at something from a different angle. Literally trying to do the impossible.
Brianna Williams, 31, and Christian Davis, 25, both of Maryland, got engaged in October 2022 and welcomed their son, Azure, four months ago. For their maternity shoot, stylist Cherie Scurry-Burns was inspired by themes of Mother Earth and the Garden of Eden. The pose of the couple, on the other hand, evokes the symbol of yin and yang, a deliberate choice by Joseph, inspired by their infinite love for each other. “They are each other’s yin to yang,” he says. “I really wanted that to show through in the photographs.”
For this image, Joseph was inspired by a “photo giant”: Albert Watson. The fashion photographer’s image of a ballet dancer wrapped in fabric prompted Joseph to create his own version. “I loved the movement of the fabric, the way it ebbs and flows and mimics liquid once it’s suspended in the air,” Joseph says. Pictured: model Malon Chandler of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
In 2020, a California production company called Circadian Pictures held a contest for artists to create works centered around the coronavirus. Joseph jumped at the chance to enter. With stylist Cherie Scurry-Burns and makeup artist Sharron Bullock, he creates SheRo (model Maya Corey from Washington), who, along with his sidekick, Headress, will save humanity from the pandemic. “What if a superhero could save us?” Joseph asks. The image was a finalist in the competition.
My fascination with angels led me to take this last photo,” writes Joseph. “I feel like the angels not only watch us but also save us quite often without our knowledge,” he says. “I’ve had a few car accidents where I only came away with a few scratches – I credit divine intervention, of course.” He gathered a few of his friends for a photoshoot, using large wings to evoke various moods. Pictured is model David Carter from Washington.
It would be so much easier if I could speak their language,” Joseph says, joking about the challenge of photographing animals. This particular photoshoot was hilarious because the dog, Hershey, was extremely rambunctious. Luckily Megan Jones, owner of Furever Fab dog shop, had dog snacks on hand. She and Hershey had a great relationship. “Hershey followed Megan everywhere she went – and it’s not even her dog!” said Joseph. Jones had borrowed it from a friend for the photo shoot. Joseph says he enjoys photographing the bond between people and pets. “Such incredible loyalty from the pet and the pet owner is love the world needs every day,” he says.
Joseph is always on the lookout for eye-catching props to use in photo shoots. He spotted this mask at a Halloween-themed store — and he knew it would fit in with his quirky shooting style. “I’ve always been drawn to weirdness, but with respect,” he says, adding, “This eyeball mask is just for the money. Its weirdness is why I love it so much. For decades month, he was looking forward to using it for a fashion shoot.The opportunity arose when 28-year-old Brandon Metz, aka DJ Fade the Future, came over from the New York area to take pictures for his model portfolio.
Joseph kept his promise to his friend Donna Holley-Beasley, a local makeup artist, to do a photo shoot for her. Here, model Liliana McGee, 18, of Bowie, Maryland, wears a piece of hooded fabric that stylist Jodie Johnson brought on set. Liliana looked natural on camera, using fabric to create movement — which can add a lot to a photo, notes Joseph. “I love the feelings it can evoke, especially when it comes to chiffons and silks,” he says. “In some cases, it may look like liquid floating in the air.”
While brainstorming for a photo shoot with his friend and stylist Cherie Scurry-Burns, Joseph had an idea. Step 1: Grab all the animal print clothes and accessories you can think of. Step 2: Take makeup artist Sharron Bullock with you. Step 3: Head to the Eastern Market. Joseph loves how the neighborhood almost feels “that Cherie is in Paris, a place famous for her taste in clothes.” The outing was a thrill for the trio: “As a team, we always do photo shoots for other people, and that day was our turn just for fun.”
Joseph met 28-year-old DeVonte Thomas at a restaurant a few years ago, and they quickly became friends. When Thomas, a professional basketball player from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), decided to pose for a photoshoot, Joseph knew exactly what he would be focusing on. “I’ve always admired people with tattoos,” Joseph says. “I wish I had the courage to get a tattoo. Instead, I live vicariously through other people with ink. They are walking works of art and expression.
For a photoshoot with model Monica Ajak, stylist Cherie Scurry-Burns came up with an unconventional approach: a gold face mask. Joseph was lukewarm about the concept, but he remained open: “Bring it on and I’ll see what happens,” he recalls saying. But during filming, he decided to go another direction and asked Ajak to take off the mask. As she began to remove it, Joseph said, her reaction caught his attention. “The harder she pulled, the better her expression was,” he says. The result: one of his favorite images to date.
It’s not often that Joseph puts makeup artist Sharron Bullock on camera. Cherie Scurry-Burns styled the clothes and worked out the hair. Bullock added smoke from his vape pen for added drama. “It was an afternoon playing on set and trying to create something visually unique,” Joseph explains. The three often work together on photo shoots, and their team chemistry is evident in this photo.
I believe angels walk among us disguised as mere mortals,” Joseph said. He has worked on and off for the past few years on an angel-themed photo series with his friends, including Malon Chandler of Fredricksburg, Virginia. To capture this moment, Joseph had Chandler run through the grass and jump through the air. — dozens of times. “That picture ended up being one of my favorites,” Joseph says. “He looks like he’s coming – his toes are about to hit the ground.”
When makeup artist Donna Holley-Beasley wanted to film her work, she turned to Joseph. For this shoot, they brought in three models, each with different skin tones to show off the Holley-Beasley lineup. The trio included Alexis Wilkerson, pictured here. “Alexis has a regal way of behaving,” Joseph says, “and I wanted to take advantage of that character on camera.” The fabric – a move inspired by stylist Jodie Johnson – adds a touch of mystery.