Keith Major

Using personal projects to fuel commercial creativity

New York City native Keith Major’s love for photography and art began in his pre-teen years, when he attended after-school programs at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Pratt Institute. He is inspired by beauty in nature, beauty in music and art, and beauty in the personalities of wonderful people. We asked Keith to tell us more about how he got his start, his inspiration and dreams, his shooting process, and the equipment he uses.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in photography.

I was always drawn to art and image-making in all mediums from painting to sculpture, from movies to performance art. My parents supported that interest by enrolling me in art programs, which, fortunately, was easy to do in NYC. I eventually found my way to photography, partly because I was a better photographer than craftsman or musician!

The joy that you can bring to people by creating flattering images of them, and the joy that people get out of a visually stimulating photo that I have taken, is what I personally find most valuable about photography as a medium.

What goes through your mind as you are shooting – what is your process?

I love the feeling of the camera in my hands. I love the work that goes into setting up a shoot. I love looking at the photos and composing an image with the materials on hand, selecting what tools will achieve the results I desire.

I often shoot what I want to in fashion and beauty on my time, utilizing a team of creatives from my short glam list. Sometimes I try someone new. Those photos feed my spirit. They allow me to not only show my craft for marketing purposes, but also help me to maintain a positive attitude and commitment when I’m hired to do commercial work. I’ve seen creatives get frustrated with the client’s direction. My process keeps me from feeling that.

In my personal work, I also develop and test ideas that I can then use for future projects. My fashion and beauty work serves as my laboratory.

For example, I recently had a shoot with a jazz trumpet artist this week who has a Swarovski crystal-jeweled trumpet. I’ll was able to use things I discovered on an earlier fashion and beauty test with jeweled items for this project.

How do you feel about the investment you made in Phase One equipment?

I feel it has been great for the lion share of the beauty fashion and portrait work I do. I can count on seamless reproduction in print and online. It has been a great investment.

I use the XF Camera System for most of my work. It’s a modern medium format ‘DSLR’ that has a spirit similar to the analog medium format cameras I love. The enhanced clarity and high resolution of images created with the Phase One   camera allows for versatility in image manipulation, as well as clarity for large reproductions. My large billboard advertisement work is seamless and my noise, slow shutter, selective focus ‘art’ images start from a good foundation of a high-quality capture.

Do you have a dream collaboration in mind?

A friend and colleague, June Ambrose, just became creative director at Puma. I’d love to collaborate with her on a Puma project.

Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us today!