We had the good fortune of connecting with Quintavius Oliver and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Quintavius, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
My career was a bit of a gift and a curse. On the one hand, I was blessed enough to discover my love of photography at an early age. I was around six when my grandmother handed me a little pocket 110 camera. I learned to hustle hard as an artist to grow my business organically without actually knowing that what I was doing every day was even an option as a career. On the other hand, being so sure of what I wanted and falling in love with the art of making pictures at such an early age came with the idea that failure is not an option. Self expression with cameras became so important to me that I didn’t create any room in my life for anything but art. I was and in many ways still am obsessed with seeing life through a viewfinder. There is the old cliché “I didn’t choose this life; it chose me” and I feel that sentiment is very true for my career. Photography isn’t simply a career for me. It’s a way of life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Many people see “professional photographer” as someone who simply shoots weddings or events these days and while I do both of those things, I’ve also worked on many movie and TV sets, directed short films and music videos, and shown work in galleries and museums. After watching many people around me struggle in careers that drained them of their souls and being told that I would never amount to anything if I didn’t do the same, I was determined to prove everyone wrong- including my own doubts. I remember buying a one way ticket to India and wandering for weeks with my camera thinking about how afraid I was that I would never see any place outside of my own neighborhood before catching a bullet or ending up in jail for something stupid. That was a genuine fear of mine that I worked hard to overcome. Now, my motivation comes from being a single father and showing my daughter that the only failure in life is to give up on one’s dreams.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
While I worked hard to make it out of my old neighborhood, The westside of Atlanta, Adamsville and Collier Heights, still has some jewels. The little gas station wing spots or the cookouts in my homeboy’s mom’s back yard are still favorite places for me. Arnika Dawkins and Besharat galleries feed my creative soul when I need some inspiration. Relaxing with a glass of whiskey and a hookah in little five points after a long day of exploring the side streets and making pictures with the interesting strangers around the city. Some blues at Northside Tavern or a local Metal band at the Highlander. Atlanta has something for everyone and it’s hard to have a boring day so long as you know where to look.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My grandmother gave me my first camera when I was about six years old. Maybe even younger but that’s all a blur. I remember laying on the floor in her living room and holding 35mm slides up to the light, fascinated with every picture she showed me. She also had a collection of national geographic and LIFE magazines that I would flip through for hours. I’m sure she was just happy to have me sitting still and quiet for a while. Maybe she didn’t even know how it would impact me later in life but the pictures I had access to back then were especially important as many kids in my neighborhood had no idea what the rest of the world looked like and unfortunately never had the chance to make it out.