Anything Can Happen in Three Years: My Interview with Karmello the Photographer
You never know where your life is heading to. The path that you take can literally change your life for the long run. If you would’ve told Karmello three years ago that he would be doing photography, he probably wouldn’t believe you. However, here he is. Karmello is a rising photographer from Dallas, TX whose captivating pictures tell you about a moment in time. A moment for the person in the picture and the person capturing it. Karmello went from shooting Dallas natives all over the city to taking pictures on stage with Roddy Ricch at his concert. It seems like Karmello was born to do this, but even he would tell you that he never expected this at all. I talk to Karmello about his journey as a photographer, what he has learned, and the opportunities that were brought to him.
What made you want to do photography?
I got my first camera when I graduated from SFA. That was pretty much my graduation gift to myself and when I got the camera I was pretty much doing it as a hobby. However, I remember that I had a friend who realized that I had a camera and he said, “Hey, let’s do a photoshoot.” Family members realized that I had a camera and wanted to do photoshoots as well so I said “Alright, cool.” After I graduated college, I didn’t have a full time job so I had a lot of free time. It took me a year and a half to find a full time job and before I found a full time job, I was working in real estate. I was only working three to four days a week so I had another three to four days off of work of doing nothing. A combination of free time and having a camera made me want to see what this camera work was all about. I spent all that time watching different Youtube videos. I would watch Peter McKinnon and Manny Ortiz Youtube videos all day and I taught myself the art of photography based off of that. How to pose, how to edit and how to shoot are all things that I learned based off of Youtube. I would watch the videos and the next day I would test myself based off the content that I watched the night before. Repetition really went a long way for me and then I made my Instagram page which brought a lot of attention as well.
Did you ever have any doubts about your skills as a photographer?
I didn’t necessarily have doubts because when I first got into the photography game, it was supposed to be a hobby. I saw people on Instagram doing a lot of dope things with their camera. It didn’t really intimidate me because I didn’t take it seriously at first. Once I did get serious, I still didn’t have any doubts because I knew the people that were on top of their game in photography. They had a lot more experience, better equipment and more money. I knew if I was extremely focused, I would get there one day. I just needed to work harder to get to that place where other people were at.
When did you realize that your pictures were getting a lot of recognition?
That’s a good question. The first time one of my pictures blew up on Instagram was one of the first times I did one of my floating pictures.I saw a video on Youtube that pretty much explained how to do it and the next day I took my friend to try it out. I did that, went home to test it and edit it, and it came out perfect. I dropped it on Instagram, made sure it had all the right hashtags, and I kid you not it was something I’ve never seen before at the time. Everybody was resharing my posts, I was getting likes and comments, and from that one photoshoot that just brought a lot of people that wanted to shoot with me. That’s the first time I realized that what I had is something that I can grow on. I would say that was about a year ago from today. That was the first time I saw a lot of potential in myself.
You’ve been in the same room with Roddy Ricch. Tell me about how your relationship started with Roddy and how you’ve been able to be in these spaces with different artists.
One good thing about photography is that you meet new people everyday. One person that I shot with introduced me to this finance group. Ruben, the guy who is over the finance group, pretty much presented the opportunity within the group. He said, “Hey, I’m working with Roddy Ricch on a promotion.” The promotion was a giveaway of 20,000 dollars. All I had to do was share that promotion on my page, get some people involved for the promotion in order for them to win the money that Roddy was giving away, and I could be a part of that promotion. However, I didn’t know that Roddy was already following me and that he shouted me and a couple of other people out. That was extremely crazy for me. I went to sleep with 9000 followers and woke up with 30000 followers overnight. That shit was absolutely crazy. I thought it was going to end like that, but two weeks later I found out that he was going to do a concert in Dallas. I reached out to the team that he was doing the promotion with and told them that I wanted to shoot Roddy. Nobody from the team was going to be in Dallas. So I had to find another way because there was no way I was going to let this opportunity pass by. I was just hungry. I hit up everybody that I could find. I hit up the club, the venue, Roddy’s team, Roddy, the manager, security guards, etc. Anyone that I could find that was connected to Roddy in any shape, form, or fashion. Luckily, I had somebody that hit me back up. The way I pitched it was pretty much explaining that I was working with Roddy Ricch’s team and I would love to capture some photography/videography for free. I didn’t even want to get paid. I sent that to the right person and he reached back out to me. He said that he would give me a media pass, a wristband, and you’ll be good to go. He told me this two hours before the show started. I’m over here at work rushing to get home so can I get my camera equipment together. When I get to the venue, I’m at the front of the line and the guy that I was talking to told me to call him whenever I get here so he could let me in. I called the guy, whose name was Gary, and no answer. I texted him and there was no response. Twenty to thirty minutes passed by and I couldn’t believe this was happening. While I was standing in front of the line, the security guard came up to me and said, “I don’t know if you know this, but we’re not letting any photographers in.” This is coming from Roddy’s team. I told him that I was waiting for somebody to let me in and they weren’t having it. I told myself that this was not happening. However, the guy said that he got me and told me to meet him in the back. I met him in the back and he gave me a VIP wristband. I’m thinking I’m good at this point, but then some more BS happens. I was chilling on the stage until Roddy came and then another security guard came up to me and said that I can’t be on stage. I said, “Come on, dawg. I literally have a VIP wristband. The dude just told me that I can go anywhere inside the venue.” The security guard once again told me to get off stage. So now I’m chilling right off the stage and I see Roddy’s team pull up. Once I saw Roddy Ricch with them, I pretty much finessed my way into walking with the team on stage. You can’t write this story. I had the perfect access to take pictures of his performance. He was chilling outside and I took pictures of him. I even got to talk to him for a little bit. That was a real dope moment.
The advancement of technology has been insane in recent years. It feels like everyone can be a photographer. How do you make sure that your photography stands out?
That’s a good question. The way these iPhone 11’s work. Who knows what’s going to be next? These cameras are real up to date. They’re almost very similar to the DSLR cameras and for some photographers that’s a little scary. However, the way I differ myself from the iPhones is how I edit my pictures. Anybody can have an iPhone, but not everybody has the capability to edit the pictures or the light the photoshoot a specific way. I have that skill and I have that capability.
Moving off topic for a bit. You talk a lot about credit repair. Can you elaborate on why that is important to you?
Most definitely. I explained before that doing photography helps me meet new people every single day. I had the opportunity to meet somebody that was in a credit group. He was talking about good credit, what you would do with it, bad credit, and teaching you how to build your credit up. I was in a situation where I had pretty good credit. I was at a 750 at the time, but I didn’t know anything about what I could do with that. I only got to that 750 because I was responsible with my finances. I had one credit card and I pretty much paid it off as soon as I got whatever I got with that card. I pretty much developed a passion after I joined the group. They taught me how to take flights for free, get hotels for free, and rental cars for free. They taught me how to get these dope credit cards that have extremely big bonuses and they have a lot of cashback. There are people that live off of their ability and knowledge of credit. From that, I was able to live a lifestyle I always dreamed of. Credit is extremely important to me and I just try to spread that knowledge and value to other people. I’m at a lifestyle where I’m happy and I’m in a good position. I just want to share it with other people so they can experience that happiness.
Who are some of the people that inspire you when it comes to photography?
I’m in a little group chat that I made and it’s with some of the top photographers in Dallas. I look at those people everyday. We have discussions about problems, success stories, and much more. Some people on that list include: Royal Line Photography, Images By Ahmad, and DJ Does It All. There are a lot of dope photographers. I can go on and on, but those are just a few in my circle.
Any advice for young black people that want to start in this kind of field?
Invest. You have to invest your time, money, energy, and your passion. If you don’t, you’re going to be stuck. A lot of photographers get stuck. I pretty much preach about how I was dedicated, I was on Youtube everyday, I would shoot right after that, and then stay in the lab. A lot of photographers get stuck and the reason why is because they have the same camera that they started off with. They have the same lens. In order to get better in this industry, you have to invest in some of the best cameras and some of the best lenses. Most importantly, you have to invest your time into shooting more. Photography is just like anything. The more you shoot; the better you get. It’s all about repetition. If you really want to do photography, you have to have the passion for it. Sometimes I work late hours, I don’t get home until two in the morning and I have to wake up at seven. However, it’s okay because to me it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like something that’s fun. It can be a little draining, but I never feel like it’s work. It’s something that I enjoy.