We had the good fortune of connecting with Alphonso Whitfield and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alphonso, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
A decade ago, my reasoning at the time was solely based on the fact that I had always been toying around with cameras, and I loved soaking up information about photographers and filmmakers. It felt, and still feels like, being a photographer is a gift to see life and everything in it with a second set of eyes that can make memories permanent. It’s amazing that people trust me to see them, their products, their stories, or whatever they want, in a light that only they have imagined. It took years for me to translate what I loved about art into practices I could use while working for more commercial clients. In that time I managed to find myself in an abstract light as well. The commercial and artistic eyes work in tandem. I wouldn’t have known it back then, but in the present day I can say I decided to pursue an artistic/creative career because I love sharing the visions of the people and world around me and my favorite way to do this is through film and photography.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve been lucky enough to work in a wide variety of positions on photo and film sets. I’ve been a PA, a Director of Photography, an onset Photo Editor, and my first job was working in the Locations department on film sets. No part of the journey to get where I am now, as a Producer and Director of Photography at PBS ATL; has been easy. I’ve had to work hard at networking and learning new skills to keep up within my market. There have been droughts of work and I’ve had to take plenty of jobs that weren’t what I wanted to do at the time. Through it all, the variety of positions I’ve been able to play have helped me understand the challenges shoots can bring and it keeps me on my toes to be creative and solution oriented. I’ve been let go from positions, I’ve been out qualified, and I’ve had steep learning curves to find my way around, but after and during the not-so-great moments, I knew that if you buckled down, pushed to learn the skills you needed to know, and worked smart, you’ll always be an asset to a team, even if you’re the least knowledgeable. There have been tons of lessons I’ve learned along the way and I want to share these three: 1. Find a mentor to teach you about doing your taxes if you’re freelance or even full-time employed. 2. Pay attention to who puts their energy and resources into you and return the favor. 3. Don’t let job-envy drive your decision making. These lessons are just a few on my mind recently and are things I wish a collogue would have mentioned to me as I was starting my business. Look to your fellow freelancers or coworkers to discuss these things with as open and honestly as you can. As I continue to build my business, the “gospel” of my brand for the world to know is this: “Life is good on its own but better when we’re together!”. The work I do is expressive and vibrant. I prefer to work with brands that want to show the light and the darkness in life, the variety of lifestyles around us, and aspects of the day-to-day that we may forget about by being stuck in our own worlds. There’s a lot of good out there to show and equally some harder things that need the spotlight as well. I hope to meet and work with many people from around the world who strive to seek adventure, show genuine experiences, and show the vibrancy of life through their work.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If any of my friends from around the country come visit me I always have an immediate plan. It always shifts depending on the day but this is the general vibe: We have to start by having beers on the porch and listening to records but once the night falls, it’s time to head out to The Local on Ponce. Only the best wings in town to give you the real feeling of this city. If you come to ATL and don’t eat wings before you leave then you’ve committed an Atlanta sin. After the Local, its time to go right across the street to The Claremont Lounge for $2 PBR’s and some Karaoke. If you’ve been to the lounge, it’s a “if you know, you know” situation. From the Claremont it’s back across the street to MJQ to hear some of the best DJ’s in the city spin the best music from around the world. If I’m being honest, it’s mostly ATL hits but occasionally you might hear a K-Pop trap remix. So that’s day/night one. From there, the food tour begins. In no specific order we’d eat, drink, socialize, and chill at any, all, or just a few of these spots: Lee’s Bakery Food Terminal The Majestic Kimball House The High Museum of Art Busy Bee’s Cafe Q Time Soul Food Woodys Cheesesteaks Sweet Auburn Market Eight Sushi Sweet Auburn BBQ Little Trouble Church Bar and Ping Pong Emporium Victory Sandwich Bar The Masquerade Plaza Fiesta The Lawrence Leon’s Full Service Terminal West Noni’s Folk Art The Shack BBQ Argosy Whitespace Gallery Euclid Yacht Club Variety Playhouse City Farmers Market Dark Horse Tavern ‘Metalsome’ Karaoke Johnny’s Hideaway Piedmont Park These are some of my favorite spots to show people when they come to the city, and they’ve never failed me for a good time.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When I left college to search for any opportunity to work as a photo assistant in Atlanta I didn’t get many promising replies. I emailed and set up coffee meets that never came to fruition, went to studios on foot with my business cards to introduce myself, and got no positive outcome from it all. Then I met Albert Cooper. He is a Locations Scout for all things film related in Atlanta, and he’s a very busy man. I badgered him for weeks for work and there wasn’t anything he could bring me in on at the time but he was the only person who would pick up the phone and at least quiz me on my skills when I called. One day, I told him I just needed some kind of work, any work, cause my bills were coming due and I didn’t have enough money to pay them. He offered me money to come by and mow his lawn, and I did just that. After mowing his lawn and getting to know him that day he gave me a call and invited me to start learning the skills used in location management. From that day on I learned the foundation of every skill I ever needed to know: patience and focus. He is the reason I work hard today. He was the only person in the city who gave me a chance – even if it wasn’t what I wanted immediately it became everything I wanted it to be. As I’ve grown in my field I make sure to take my time and listen to any new photographers, filmmakers, or artists of any breed to give them chances however I can. I may not have the key to their success but maybe someone I know does. And if I’m the way for them to get started in the field, I don’t want to be another failed attempt on their list of people they look up to or just want to talk to. If it weren’t for him, I probably would have eventually given up and moved on to another career.