Photographer Cam Kirk creates space and resources for young creatives
When Cam Kirk first picked up a camera as a Morehouse student in 2007, he didn’t see many Black photographers in the field, so he decided to carve out his own path and create Cam Kirk Studios. He has photographed and produced for many hip-hop and rap artists, from 2 Chainz to Gucci Mane. His studio also offers space for young creatives to better their skills. On Sunday, May 15, Kirk is hosting a photography tour, which is part of a community cleanup. He joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk more about his studio and its efforts to support local creatives and their larger community.
Recognizing the need to unite fellow photographers:
“I was only five years into the craft, and I looked at my career and said, ‘Wow, even though I have achieved certain levels of success, there’s still a lot of resources that I wish I had.’ I wished I had a space to go practice in-studio. I wished I could learn more about lighting…. I wished I had a community of support, like a supportive community that would back some of the ideas I have, or just give me positive inspiration and things of that nature,” said Kirk.
“So it started from looking at my own need and then realizing I’m not alone in that need and wanting that space, and just seeing a void in Atlanta’s creative scene, [the need for] a space that just really empowered other young creatives, and really, a space that let them know that if no one else believes photography or creativity can be a true profession, we believe that.”
Resources for creatives and a mission to give back:
‘We’re really an all-inclusive creative space and a community space,” said Kirk. “So we also have, we call it our ‘creator’s lab,’ which is like a computer lab that’s filled with high-powered computers with all the apps and programs that you need to create. We have beat-making and music production equipment in there. We have podcast mics in there if you wanted to host your podcast.”
“We’re also invested in the overall growth of our community, physically and just environmentally…. We host an annual conference on Martin Luther King’s birthday that focuses on business, technology, fashion, arts, and community,” Kirk continued. “It’s completely free but it does require you to do community service work in order to gain admission…. We encourage the community to come out and volunteer with us. In exchange for volunteering with us, we give back to them by giving them a conference with some of the leaders within the community, coming back and giving back their time, knowledge, and energy through mentorship for that special day.”
A combination photography tour and neighborhood cleanup:
“In our [Downtown] community where our studio is located, I was just walking to work constantly and noticing just a lack of trash cans, which was our first issue. There literally wasn’t a lot of places to just throw away garbage if you had it if you were getting out of your car and you had a cup or a bottle of water. It seemed like there was a little bit of a disparity with just waste containers in our community,” Kirk explained. “We actually invested $25,000 to buy trash cans and recycling bins in our neighborhoods…. We take it upon ourselves, when the weather is nice, once a month to gather… and to go out and still pick up and collect more trash off the streets and off the ground.”
“We also add photography in it. So along our walk, we usually walk a mile radius, and along our walk, we have photographers come out, and they photograph buildings or street art or restaurants or businesses along the path. And we create a little contest where the top photos from each walk, they get free studio time. So just another incentive to get young people excited.”
More on the resources, current projects and workshops at Cam Kirk Studios can be found here. Volunteers can sign up for their next “Photowalk” photography tour/community cleanup event here.