We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Anthony Lewis a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Anthony, thanks for joining us today. We’d love to hear about when you first realized that you wanted to pursue a creative path professionally.
I didn’t know. Ever.
It wasn’t until recently that I found myself ready to trade twenty-ish years of trial and error as an artist for car detailing or pressure washing someone’s driveway and patio til I croak.
So I made a choice fairly early and I just stuck to it. I think I was maybe in middle school. I remember saying, “I want to be a producer.” And I said it so confidently and so often, people often looked at me with the same incredulity I felt hearing about all these years I had to live.I had several ideas about what being a producer could mean; ideas that landed me in production rooms, or on set to make films, or at weddings, documenting a couple’s vows. I’ve since hovered in those shadows, trying to pull on strings where no one was looking to make things happen wherever their attention landed. And I was happy doing it.
I’ve stayed in those shadows for years. Might explain the vitamin D deficiency.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
I tell people that I’m a photographer. But before so much of everything else — being a husband, sibling and son, student, mood-lifter (when I can be) — I’m an artist. And I absolutely STUMBLED into photography.
My ironic love of people — I’m an introvert — usually had younger me doodling on paper. It was at once an escape and a black hole for me: the way someone’s nose looked. Or what they wore, what they did. How they might appear in the event that we’re actually not alone in all of space.
Then I bought my first digital camera at a Circuit City, just for kicks, and realized I could trade my sketchbook collection for computers.
And while all of this was happening, I realized how little of my own reflection I saw in all the things I loved. I remember asking myself how to translate what I’d studied in illustration technique books into something more Black. More Brown. Those books didn’t really teach sketching for curly hair with shrinkage. I was in maybe 7th or 9th grade, then.
Today I still express my ironic love of and for people. At the top of my list however, are the people who look like me; people with brown skin. And at the top of that list are Black women.
The excitement I get to witness in those with whom I work absolutely sends me. I still remember being told for the first time, “I’ve never seen myself like that before.” I chase that kind of result every time, and with each new client or personal project I’m only trying to outdo my last thing.
My current offerings are in fine art portraiture, boudoir & headshot photography, with an added benefit of beauty retouching and surreal composite portrait work. I love to provide an exemplary service with thorough pre-production, a fun and relaxing session date and meticulous post-production, all before arriving at, should the client desire it, high quality printed work fit for the gallery.
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
Clichés suck. That’s the first thing I needed to unlearn. The second thing , hilariously also leads into a cliché: failing is bad. I almost wish I knew earlier just how good failing can be.
Being a quick study at an early age for me was frustrating. It made me extra sensitive to condescension from teachers and elders. So, I grew wary of the clichés I was handed, especially when they were wrapped in shiny tin foil. I quickly found that attaching humour and sarcasm to clichés helped me to not snowball into irritation or anger.
The fearlessness to approach art and business randomly was such a blessing in my younger days. Over time, however, I came to condition myself against being so free with “just trying” things. My anxiety, coupled with my “need” to please people and always be the best or most unique, eventually prevented me from seeing that every single failure wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be for myself. Years of useless worry came from learning to fear failure instead of embracing it.
Part of me believes that my physical and mental health would be in a much better place if I hadn’t fed my anxiety by chastising myself for failing, instead of seeing them purely for the teachable moments that they were. By unlearning self-chastisement and being more gentle with myself, I’m grateful for how I now find happiness.
As much as I still blow raspberries at clichés, I’ve learned to appreciate the truth in them. Failure is good. Condescension still sucks though. Try not to do that to anybody.
Alright – so here’s a fun one. What do you think about NFTs?
I’m both nervous about and excited for NFTs. Sometimes, I do get “gold rush” feelings about them, and wonder if/when they’ll cease to be a thing, for the poor and the rich alike.
Most times, however, I’m feeling more “electricity, talkies and internet” about them. At one point, candle light and good housing design were peak human achievement. But the overwhelming success of the power industry, dialogue in a film, or even the mundane DM on any given social media network was deemed laughable before becoming commonplace.
Whether it’s in any of its currently known forms or an as yet unseen conjugation, digital currencies are here to stay, NFTs included. Now if only we could address the whole non-eco-friendly aspect of it all.
- Website: www.neatshinyowl.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/neatshinyowl
- Twitter: twitter.com/neatshinyowl
Anthony Lewis, Carla Lewis, Mong Bui and Tomasyn Hayes