The Wide Angle

This photographer thrives on creating art spontaneously
Katherine Copeland.

I first picked up a camera at 14 years old, fueled by an obsession and love of photography. And I’ve had that same drive ever since.

These images are excerpts from my ever-growing personal work. Images that don’t always have a rhyme and reason or even a purpose other than to satisfy my desire to do something fun and maybe to create something that I’ve never done before. What if we try this? What will it look like backward, or with this color or in total darkness? Oftentimes I try to come up with some absurd idea, or I get inspiration from other pictures, television shows, movies and daily life.

I see humor and beauty in many things, especially people. I’m a natural people person. I often say that I try to make extraordinary pictures out of ordinary, everyday people. I practice on my friends and associates almost all the time. Luckily for me I have access to plenty of people who don’t mind being photographed. Without them I wouldn’t be as happy as I am.

They trust me to experiment on them with the camera. This allows me to play with various lighting techniques, props and concepts. I never know exactly how anything will turn out until I’m knee-deep in the process or when the photo shoot is over. And I’m in awe at the end, just like the subject.

I love how spontaneous this way of making art can be. Genuinely organic. That feeling is addictive. Forcing a habit to do more photo shoots. The challenge is always trying to not repeat the same thing, but to look at something from a different angle. Literally trying to do the impossible.

Styling: Cherie Scurry-Burns. Makeup: Sharron Bullock.

Brianna Williams, 31, and Christian Davis, 25, both of Maryland, are engaged to be married in October 2022, and welcomed their son, Azure, four months ago. For their maternity photo shoot, stylist Cherie Scurry-Burns drew on the themes of Mother Earth and the Garden of Eden. The couple’s pose, meanwhile, evokes the yin-and-yang symbol — a deliberate choice by Joseph, who was inspired by their infinite love for one another. “They are the yin to each other’s yang,” he says. “I really wanted that to come through in the photographs.”

For this image, Joseph took inspiration from a “photo giant”: Albert Watson. The fashion photographer’s image of a ballet dancer wrapped in fabric spurred Joseph to create his own version. “I loved the movement of the fabric, the way it ebbed and flowed and mimicked liquid once it’s airborne,” Joseph says. Pictured here: model Malon Chandler of Fredericksburg, Va.

Styling: Cherie Scurry-Burns. Makeup: Sharron Bullock.

In 2020, a California production company called Circadian Pictures held a competition for artists to create works that centered on the coronavirus. Joseph jumped at the chance to enter. With stylist Cherie Scurry-Burns and makeup artist Sharron Bullock, he created SheRo (model Maya Corey of Washington), who, with her sidekick, Headdress, would save humanity from the pandemic. “What if a superhero could save us?” Joseph asks. The image was a runner-up in the competition.

My fascination with angels led me to take this latest photo,” writes Joseph. “I feel like angels not only observe us but also save us without our knowledge quite often,” he says. “I’ve had a couple of car accidents where I only walked away with a few scratches — I credit divine intervention, for sure.” He gathered a few of his friends for a photo shoot, using large wings to evoke various moods. Pictured here is model David Carter of Washington.

It would be so much easier if I could speak their language,” says Joseph, joking about the challenge of photographing animals. This particular photo shoot was hilarious because the dog, Hershey, was extremely rambunctious. Luckily, Megan Jones, who owns the dog boutique Furever Fab, had doggy snacks on hand. She and Hershey had a great rapport. “Hershey followed Megan everywhere she went — and he’s not even her dog!” Joseph says. Jones had borrowed him from a friend for the photo shoot. Joseph says he enjoys photographing the bond between people and pets. “Such incredible loyalty from the pet and the pet owner is a love that the world needs every day,” he says.

Joseph is always on the lookout for, ahem, eye-catching props to use in photo shoots. He spotted this mask in a Halloween-themed store — and he knew it would fit in with his quirky shooting style. “I have always been attracted to oddities, but with reverence,” he says, adding that “this eyeball mask is right on the money. The strangeness of it is why I like it so much.” For months, he had been itching to use it for a fashion shoot. The opportunity arose when Brandon Metz, 28, a.k.a. DJ Fade the Future, traveled from the New York City area to take some photographs for his modeling portfolio.

Joseph made good on his promise to his friend Donna Holley-Beasley, a local makeup artist, to do a photo shoot for her. Here, model Liliana McGee, 18, of Bowie, Md., wears a hooded piece of fabric that stylist Jodie Johnson brought to the set. Liliana was a natural in front of the camera, using fabric to create movement — which can add a lot to a photo, Joseph notes. “I love the feelings it can evoke, especially when it comes to chiffons and silks,” he says. “In some cases it can look like liquid floating in the air.”

While kicking around ideas for a photo shoot with friend and stylist Cherie Scurry-Burns, Joseph hit upon an idea. Step 1: Grab all the animal print clothes and accessories you can think of. Step 2: Take makeup artist Sharron Bullock along for the ride. Step 3: Head to Eastern Market. Joseph loves how the area almost makes it look “as if Cherie is in Paris, a place famous for its taste in clothes.” The outing was a thrill for the trio: “As a team we are always doing photo shoots for other people, and this particular day was our turn just to have some fun.”

Joseph met DeVonte Thomas, 28, at a restaurant a few years ago, and they became fast friends. When Thomas, a professional basketball player in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), decided to model for a photo shoot, Joseph knew exactly what he would focus on. “I have always admired people with tattoos,” Joseph says. “I wish I had the courage to get tattoos. Instead I live vicariously through other people with ink. They are walking works of art and expression.”

For a photo shoot with model Monica Ajak, stylist Cherie Scurry-Burns came up with an unconventional approach: a gold face mask. Joseph was lukewarm on the concept, but he remained open: “Just bring it and I’ll see what happens,” he recalls saying. But during the shoot, he decided to go in a different direction and asked Ajak to take off the mask. As she began peeling it off, Joseph says, her reaction caught his eye. “The harder she pulled, the better her expression,” he says. The result: one of his favorite images to date.

It’s not often that Joseph gets to put makeup artist Sharron Bullock in front of the camera. Cherie Scurry-Burns styled the clothing and elaborate hair. Bullock added the smoke from her vaping pen for extra drama. “This was an afternoon of playing around on the set and trying to create something visually unique,” Joseph says. The three often work together on photo shoots, and their team chemistry is evident in this photo.

I believe that angels walk among us disguised as mere mortals,” says Joseph. He has been working on and off for the past few years on an angel-themed series of photos with his friends, including Malon Chandler of Fredricksburg, Va. To capture this moment, Joseph asked Chandler to run through the grass and leap in the air — dozens of times. “This image ended up being one of my favorites,” Joseph says. “He looks like he’s arriving — his toes are just about to touch the ground.”

When makeup artist Donna Holley-Beasley wanted to capture her work on camera, she turned to Joseph. For this photo shoot, they brought in three models, each with different complexions to show Holley-Beasley’s range. The trio included Alexis Wilkerson, pictured here. “Alexis has a regal way of carrying herself,” Joseph says, “and I wanted to take advantage of that persona on camera.” The fabric — an inspired move by stylist Jodie Johnson — adds a dash of mystery.

correction

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of SheRo's sidekick, Headdress, as Headress. The article has been corrected.

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