With the invention of the cell phone equipped with camera came the idea that anyone can be a photographer. And although, to some extent, this may be true...truly capturing human nature, creating an atmosphere in one shot, encapsulating a mood or personality, comes with talent that no technique can touch. Skills can be learned, but photography like that of Shot by Sud is inherited; blossoming with the innate ability to understand creativity and collaboration.
In this interview, Sud talks about his style, what he likes about working with tattoo collectors, and gives his advice for finding your own authentic artistic voice.
Can you give a little intro and background into who you are?
My name is Sud and I am an art photographer better known on Instagram as Shot by Sud. My work varies from highly stylised, with all details deliberate and thought out upfront, to spontaneous and instinctive. My style is raw, edgy and provocative. Through my photography I explore various themes, all containing some or all of the components of testing limits, strength, empowerment and vulnerability. It’s these contradictions that make my work unpredictable and unique. My goal is to make the viewer feel something. What that something is, is up to the viewer.
How has your style evolved over the years? Who are the photographers, artists, films, etc. that you look to for inspiration? What story do you try to tell through your photographs? What themes do you try to illustrate through your work?
About four years ago I bought my first camera, without having a clear idea of what I wanted to do. What I did know, was that I wanted humans as the subject, and capture them in a way that was different, deviating from the standard. Standard is boring.
Like every creative, my work evolves over time. I first started off doing more basic black and white portraits and I quickly realised I had to challenge myself more. With every shoot, I started adding elements that made the result more interesting to me. This evolved, into dreaming up entire concepts, stories and settings. The aim is to tell a story through photography.
I draw much of my inspiration from cinematics. The art of visual storytelling through emotions, sets, lighting techniques and color grading is a very noticeable influence in my work. Much in my own way, I use these techniques in my photography to create my own worlds. Each image I produce feels cinematic. Every aspect of the visuals is deliberate. Each model plays a specific role. However, every viewer is free to interpret and give meaning to the image in his/her/their own way.
You work with a lot of tattoo models. Why is this the case and how do they help with the aesthetics or narratives of your photography?
I think a lot of the themes prevalent in my work are similar to those of tattoo art: exploring boundaries, strength, provocation, self-expression, empowerment. My style of photography and tattoos complement each other, enhance each other. I have always been fascinated by tattoos. To me, it’s one of the most beautiful art forms. Tattoos are visual poetry, they tell a story on their own. That’s what I try to do on my art as well.
Why do you think people are so attracted to tattoos in general? Why do they stand out so much even though they are becoming more mainstream?
For me, tattoos are about expressing creativity, your story or your aesthetic. Whether a tattoo has a deeper meaning or it’s something random or just because you like it, it says something about you. That’s fascinating to me.
Over the years we’ve seen more public figures with tattoos, tattoos becoming more accepted in the workplace, lots of signs of normalizing them. However, the stigmas are still present as well. It feels like we’re in a transition, but we’re not there yet. And as with prejudice on any topic, prejudice on tattoos will probably always exist. But as long as they are not totally mainstream, it might also mean more mystique remains.
How do you find your models and what do you tell people who want to work with you? Any people (models, artists, set designers, etc.) out there that you hope to work with in the future?
Social media has connected the world in such a way that it’s become very easy to contact anyone. Most of the connections I make with models are through Instagram. Some of my models aren’t or weren’t traditional models at all, but Instagram lets me scout whoever seems interesting. And it’s allowed models to reach out to me as well. I am very lucky to be able to only do shoots and concepts I really want to do, so that translates into who I want to work with as well.
The list of people I’d love to work with can go on and on! To name a few:
Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole...to create a mixed media art-piece with a verse of their work written on a photograph of mine. Gotta keep dreaming, right?
Helena Bonham Carter. I think she’s one of the most brilliant actresses who’s out there. Would love to have her in front of my camera and create some crazy shots.
Tom Hardy as Alfie Solomons.
Cara Delevingne & Winnie Harlow...doesn’t really need an explanation ;)
Helen Hitori & Anh Wisle...they look pretty badass and would love to photograph them in my style.
Can you tell us about The Misfits project?
This year I started the ‘Misfits’ project, in collaboration with six international tattoo artists: Sad Amish Tattooer, Yanina Viland, Julian Siebert, Carlos Macias, Jen Tonic and Jay Freestyle. I know, these are not just any artists, so I’m super excited and grateful they’s agreed to work on this project with me. I’ve picked these artists because each has a specific and unique style, and I wanted to combine this with my art in a way that hasn’t been done before.
My vision of the ‘Misfits’ was to make six unique mixed media art pieces by combining my body parts series, special thanks to models Chaja Girard & Aria Rainbow, printed on linen, and ask the tattoo artists to go to town. The prints were shipped to L.A., Berlin, Lisbon, Amsterdam and München and the artists were given full creative freedom to work on the pieces with paint, markers, spray paint, whatever they could think of. I’ve received almost all the finalized pieces and I can honestly say the end result is brilliant.
In addition to bringing the original pieces to market, we will release a limited number of reproductions in various sizes, and even a special gallery capsule consisting of exclusive sizes. After the drop of the first series, I’d love to make a ‘Misfits’ part 2 series. Stay tuned via my Instagram to learn more about when all items will be dropped!
How has Covid affected your artistic output?
Before the pandemic, I mainly used Lightroom for retouching. I had spent so much time training my Lightroom skills that there were few new things to uncover. The pandemic made me slow down a bit, which allowed for more time to explore different things. I immersed myself in Photoshop in a way that I hadn’t before, and explored new ways of editing.
Slowing down on some fronts, has also meant gearing up on other. Because of the pandemic I was able to cut back on the number of shoots I do, and focus more on selling my prints. As is the case for so many entrepreneurs, the pandemic has shifted my business model.
In your opinion what makes a great photographer and what advice do you have for photographers trying to find their style or a job?
My main advice for starting photographers is always to shoot what they love and not to give a fuck about what people think and say. Following your own passion is the best thing you can do. Of course, there are some other elements that make your work a lot better too. I’d summarize them as exploring your creativity and storytelling skills, understanding and experimenting composition and light, people skills and dedication.
Anything else you want to share or say to the world? Any cool future plans that we should know about?
Another collaboration I’m really proud of is with the graffiti artist Marcel Labrie. We work under the name The World of Labrie vs Sud, aka The.Wolvs, and we create mixed media art. Together we think of concepts where we combine his signature style of graffiti with my signature style of photography. We already made some crazy art pieces!
Last but not least, I’m finally working on a design for a hoodie, which will be released later this year. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing this for some time now, and am very excited to have so many exciting projects coming up this year!