Your Image is His Image: Photographer and Model, Bryan Taylor Johnson
While a junior at Morgan State University, studying Business Administration with a minor in Marketing, Bryan Taylor Johnson decided he wanted to become a model. Advised that New York City was the place to pursue it seriously, his stepfather drove him from Maryland and dropped him off on 34th and Broadway. His first trip to New York, he checked into the Holiday Inn Martinique and rose the next morning to Keyshia Cole’s song, “I Changed My Mind.” As Bryan remembers, “I had never heard [the song] before and I thought to myself, ‘This is such a new day with new possibilities – I’m ready.’” Taking in his new surroundings, he visited modeling agencies in two rounds. Even though he wasn’t signed, he was able to meet many models and people in the industry. This led to him being introduced to the photographer, Joe Lance, who then introduced him to the designer, Tamara Pogosian. She consistently invited him to industry parties, which ultimately led to him getting a modeling contract with Empire Model Management and later Boss Modeling Management.
A great storyteller and a Leo in every way, Bryan lights up as he recounts his first years in the modeling industry while juggling school, three jobs, and a thriving social life. Although he still models, he’s most known for his photography. He has shot for the top modeling agencies across the country, Italian Vogue, Ammo Magazine, OhLaLa Mag and has done advertisements for Starbucks, American Express and VH1, to name a few. In college, he often sold his photography across campus, but deciding to pursue photography more deeply came as a result of him moving to New York City after college to pursue modeling:
I moved here and started modeling, but it didn’t happen for me full time. I got a lot of work, but it didn’t allocate enough income to sustain the lifestyle I was used to. I didn’t want to wait tables considering the jobs I had before and didn’t want to feel like I was being knocked down. I decided to pursue photography deeper. I originally always shot women, but I didn’t have the connections here to have a stylist, MUA, and all of that. Instead, I tried shooting men since I already had men’s clothes. I started going on Model Mayhem and grabbing models from there. From there, it spread like wildfire and everyone wanted to be shot by me. I became known as the “model” photographer and within 2 years of me getting really serious, I booked my first advertisement with Starbucks, and then American Express where I shot Kim Burrell, who I shot again for VH1.
Through his experience as a model, Bryan has created a brand that specializes in molding models and getting them signed to top agencies. Being a model of color, he’s experienced what it’s like to be shot with no direction, resources, or coaching and feels that these are fundamental to creating a great image and developing great models. As Bryan explains, “Sometimes models just don’t know what to do and I believe that’s the photographer’s job. A lot of times I work with professional models and they talk about how other photographers will just say “Go!” and give them a message board without much direction. I know what that feels like as a model and I understand what it takes to get a model to do what I need them to do, especially if they are underdeveloped. [With my models,] I cater to them, I show them their angles, and teach them how to perform in front of the camera since I’m a big fan of motion in my images.”
Bryan also uses his photography to address a much larger need regarding the image development of ethnic models, a group that has always experienced frigid neglect in comparison to their white counterparts. “A lot of photographers don’t[provide intensive development and coaching] for black models and that’s one of the main reasons I got into this industry: I wanted to shift the existing paradigms and show agents and designers that black people can and do look expensive when given the proper photographers, styling, and care. I specialize in shooting ethnic models and my dedication to my black artists [models] allows me to show them that they can look expensive. All it takes is a photographer taking time to show the artist [model] that he can be great and then everyone else will follow suit.” Being able to unlock the hidden potential of every model he works with has been fundamental to his success. With his marketing slogan, “My image is your image,” he assures models that they are in very good hands when they work with him since their image is directly linked to the way he’d like people to perceive him. He relies on extensive skills in post-production, model molding, and interior design to ensure he delivers what is promised.
As Bryan has worked tirelessly to establish his company over the past three years, it’s required perseverance and dedication. However, the passion for positively impacting people and unlocking their beauty and potential drives him and informs the way he lives his life, conducts business, and interacts with family and friends. For him, success is measured by effectiveness, which allows him to leave a lasting impression. It’s about producing a great image and creating art that touches and impacts viewers:
I would define being effective as touching the world. With that said, although it goes with everybody knowing your name, it’s also about impacting them. It’s being a real artist; they have music that touches people, it inspires people, helps them through a break up. Somehow a person is staring at their videos or listening to their music and they relate it to their life. I want my work to do the same thing internationally. That’s success for me. For people to look at my work and say they love my work and that it inspires them or that they view it art. Or, touching people and making them feel like they are beautiful, capturing their beauty, and freezing it in time. My imagery will last forever and I want everyone to know that I can provide that.
Bryan’s passion for fashion photography extends deeply into being able to leave lasting impressions. He elaborates saying, “One thing I like the most about fashion photography is the ability to express my thoughts – it’s like poetry to me. I’ve been into taking pictures since I was in middle school. I was one of those kids that had all the books with pictures of his friends and saved a lot of memorabilia. Fashion photography inspired me to continue that path through expressing stories, poetry, and advertising fashion, beauty, and sex most admirably. I would like to leave a lasting impression that people will talk about forever. I think that’s the most admirable thing that an artist can do – leave something behind. If I don’t do anything else, I’d like to awaken people’s perspectives and shifting their paradigms.”
With most of his time focused on juggling family, friends, and his business, Bryan still finds time to hone in on other talents such as writing poetry and, a personal favorite of mine, motivational speaking. “In Barbados, I do motivational speaking to young people in the arts, inspiring them that they can go out there and pursue their dreams. I teach that they can go after what other people believe to be intangible. I am relatable to them. They can see a young, black, intelligent guy and be inspired to create an entire dream for themselves. I’d like to be a role model for people whose parents teach that the only way to make money is to go “corporate” or that going after your dream is a poor man’s job. There is no such thing as “no” when working to pursue your dreams, there’s just later. It’s about timing and finding the best route or technique to get you there.”
As Bryan continues to progress closer to his career goals, he has decided to shift his target audience. Although most of his energy and time have been previously spent developing models, he is now investing most of his time and resources in working for artists, designers, as well as advertisements and campaigns with companies and corporations. But regardless of his audience, Bryan will thankfully always be devoted to ensuring one thing: your image is his image.
To contact him directly or see his most recent work, check out his website at http://bryantaylorjohnson.com/
Cheers to pursuing the intangible, capturing beauty, and being inspired to change lives!
“If it’s worth your eyes, remember to cc:Keith”