The Kid Stays In The Picture
He may be the next big photographer, but first Julien Mitchell has to finish high school
Readers of this newsletter know I’m into music and profiling up and coming players in the industry such as Nate McCartney, Stacia Mac, Hovain and Starker. I started working as a teen, so it was fun catching up with Julien Mitchell, a high school student who is rising to the top with music artists in an adjacent field - photography.
J.E.: You were 16 when you shot ASAP Rocky for Gucci and The North Face?
J.M.: I was 15.. I was having dinner on a Friday night. One of my friends, who’s close to ASAP Mob called me. He said ASAP Rocky was working on a music video. My friend said all of ASAP Mob was there in Harlem and for me to come. It was pretty hectic getting there and I had to go with my brother, Gavin, he was the one who pushed me to do it. I got the shot of Rocky while he was leaving. I sent it to a few people, but never expected it to blow up like that. At that time, ASAP Rocky’s stylist reached out to me and wanted my email. Then Gucci reached out to me. I knew I had something there, because the photo was crazy, even unedited.
J.M.: Gucci wanted to buy the photo. I was wondering how they would pay me. At first, I asked for the jacket. They pulled all the jackets out of the store due to that photo. I never got paid for anything before. They actually just wired me the money. It was wild seeing all that money in my account for doing what I loved doing. It came all the way from France. Communicating with them was crazy too.
J.E.: Do you realize how lucky you are?
J.M.: For sure. But, I was always shooting before that. I took photography pretty seriously. I was heavily influenced by what was going on. When I wanted to be on that scene, I was thirteen. Photography was more than just an art form to me. I always wanted to play some type of role and contribute to what was going on. I’ve always been down to work.
J.M.: Anyone could have a camera. You either know how to use it or you don’t. You need to know how to compose the photos and have quality to every image. I make sure every image is the highest quality it could be. You have to put some effort into it. Every day, I’m learning more about cameras. I didn’t go to any classes. The first way to being good at something is being bad at something - because that’s how you learn.
J.E.: What’s it like doing this from a young age?
J.M.: It partly limits me because of what people might think of you because you’re so young. But it also helps you because it teaches you how to act in certain situations. The sooner you get started the better chance you have to get in the game. Even for something like accounting - the earlier you get into these things, the better.
J.M.: NYC has been an influence on me because I grew up surrounded by stars, that you could meet anybody from the game just stepping outside your own front door. I think if I didn’t live in New York I would definitely would be somewhere completely different in my career. New York also gives young creatives like me opportunities that I would never get to have.
J.M.: It also gets hectic at times especially for me with the fast-paced scene I landed in, for example all my high school friends could all be hanging out while I’m in a studio or somewhere working. You definitely have to learn how to adapt to any scene no matter what the situation is, I think that’s definitely the most important lesson I learned very early on.
J.E.: Any crazy stories to share?
J.M.: One crazy story that comes to mind is when I flew to Miami with Smooky Margielaa from ASAP Mob. That night we went to one of the top clubs in Miami with Lil Wayne and Rich The Kid for their album release party. That’s where I was able to capture that photo of Lil Wayne. At the time I was around 16. It was the most packed club I’ve ever been to. We walked in straight through the back door.
J.M.: Another crazy story is when I linked up with my boy Val. We ended up going bowling with Nav till like 3 am and I had to go to school the next morning. Bowling is not an activity you see rappers do. It was surreal. You always have to have a professional thought process, but you want to show people you have a personality, and there’s more than to you than just work.
One artist that stuck out to me was meeting someone like J. Balvin. He’s one of the biggest artists in the world right now. Meeting him was a surreal moment. A lot of people who are really big get ahead of themselves. Working with him was a surreal thing. He’s very down to earth and ready to work. I connected with him through someone else. I was able to work with Polo G, his Mom. That was definitely a great experience. It was a whole different lifestyle. When I worked with Digga D in London, that was popping. His photos were crazy.
J.E.: How do you go about getting your name out there?
J.M.: You have to be good at marketing yourself and showing people what you have to offer. You can say anything, but until you actually show you’re nice with the camera, it doesn’t matter. Marketing yourself and networking any chance you get is important.
J.M.: Luckily for me, I’ve done this for a decent amount of time and know what to do and what not to do. I’ve felt nervous going into shoots, but never felt uncomfortable. My parents have been skeptical, but I find my way. There’s definitely been some situations where it’s not the best - but I’m just trying to do what I can.
J.M.: I mean, my advice is market yourself and always show people what you have. The only reason people reached out to me is because they saw my work. Never doubt someone. See what they have to offer. Always be open to ideas. I try not to limit myself. If someone suggests something to me, I try to do every type of way to go from Point A to Point B.
J.E.: Where is it going for you?
J.M.: I’ve gone into rooms that not a lot of people have gone in and I’m trying to offer a perspective that nobody else could see. I’ve tried to demonstrate in my photos what I see and how I foresee it. Where does it go? I want to do more editorial stuff, brand work. Galleries. I do a lot of creative direction work. I work with my artist xammy from Daytona. I’m his day-to-day manager. His sound is popular these days.
J.M.: Besides ASAP Mob, I have spent a lot of time my close friend 27Delly who is a New York artist from Harlem. Also Mikey Phelps who is one of my boys who pushed me a lot and connected me around. I have also spent time with Dipset, which has been a cool experience because they’re a group from a whole different generation.
J.E.: Do you deal with any adversity at all?
J.M.: I had a million things that never worked out. A lot of people would get discouraged. They think there’s just one path to stuff. I’ve been with artists like Skepta, Playboi Carti - I couldn’t get a shot of them. I’m not gonna say, “I didn’t get the photo, my career is over.” There’s other opportunities. There’s no ceiling to this type of stuff.
J.E.: Are you in a position to put other people on now?
J.M.: If they have something to offer and have something to contribute, but I’m not gonna put someone who isn’t ready on. I mean there’s a lot of people that don’t want to work, due to their situation. At the same time there’s a lot of people who are hungry to work and I’m going to try to put them in the scene.
J.E.: Who are your inspirations?
J.M.: A big inspiration to me is the photographer Slim Aarons. He was able to capture a certain time period of the rich and famous. I feel his work takes you back to a place in time, like a unique experience. Some other photographers who inspire me are Garret Bruce, Gunner Stahl, Cam Kirk and others. I feel all of these photographers are able to capture a moment and what I use as inspiration before heading into a shoot.
J.E.: What’s going on right now and in the future for you?
J.M.: The last person I shot was Sfera Ebbadsa who one of the biggest artists in Italy. Recently, I was able to shoot for Pusha T as well as the Flatbush Zombies. Also was able to shoot for gov ball this year, it’s always a surreal experience being on the other side of any concert seeing that many people in front of me.
J.M.: For me, I plan on doing a coffee table book filled of portraits with both released and unreleased photos. I also plan on doing a few gallery shows and hopefully a museum one day. I would love to do some more album covers as well as work on my Co-sign with Timberland.
J.M.: Music has definitely always been a part of my life and still today music is a day to day necessity for me. Besides my brother putting me on, my Mom has always been playing me old songs she used to love for as long as I can remember. I definitely think it’s a blessing that I am able to work with artists.