We are Memphis: What industry are you in?
Aleks Antonio: I’m in the creative industry, photography specifically, industry.
We are Memphis: Awesome.
Aleks Antonio: Yeah.
We are Memphis: And what would you say is your passion?
Aleks Antonio: My passion is really to create and build the tales, stories with pictures in order to convey emotion or make tit somebody. That’s really what I really want to put out there.
We are Memphis: How did you get started and furthermore, how did you pick up this passion?
Aleks Antonio: Well, I’m from overseas, I’m from Panama, and when I moved to the United States, I realized I had nothing to show where I was from. I had no pictures other than stories but I had no pictures with me. So, I wanted to be able to capture things, so I could illustrate the story of my life; where I live, where I’ve been, where I’ve gone, things like that. So, photography was one of those things that to me, was the easiest thing to do where I can show what I do, what I enjoy, what I see and that’s what kind of got me to go from taking a picture of– I don’t know, vacations to finding the beauty on what I was doing so I could show a better image or where I was.
We are Memphis: That’s really good. I like how you used you know, your creative outlet to essentially tell the story to the people you’re trying to engage with. It’s pretty cool. What steps did you take to master your craft in photography?
Aleks Antonio: A lot of tutorials, a lot of YouTube.
We are Memphis: [Laughs] yeah.
Aleks Antonio: It’s one of those that I will go– Like I will see things that I like or I will have an idea and I will search on how to do it, how to bring it to life so it was– There was a lot of YouTube videos I’ve seen, there’s a lot of talking to people in the same field that act and kind of pick their brains as I trial and error, took so many horrible photos and done so many bad projects that I had to learn how to figure out what I really wanted to do or how to do that.
We are Memphis: That’s awesome: What drives you to do what you do and what motivates you?
Aleks Antonio: To do what I do, the fact that I like to share things [laughs]. Besides that, I like to travel or go places to see new things and new perspectives and things. That’s what really one of the things that motivate me to keep more for me besides, I have two small kids. So showing my kids where I have been and this or that is a big deal. If I need them to see the world’s bigger than your zip code.
We are Memphis: How do you stay motivated?
Aleks Antonio: Okay. To stay motivated, crazy enough is talking to my peers in Memphis that do the same thing. I here usually around wintertime I hear that- that creative block time that I don’t know what to shoot, I have no idea what’s going on, I don’t like the cold weather so I don’t want to get out. But I talk to my peers here, my other friends that do photography also and they kind of keep me on my toes. Say, hey I see you haven’t taken a picture in a while. What’s going on, what are you doing? You know, so they talk to me. They keep me humble.
We are Memphis: It’s good that you have that network to keep you in line so to speak and get you to where you want to go.
Aleks Antonio: Yeah.
We are Memphis: What are your biggest strengths and what do you excel at?
Aleks Antonio: My biggest strength. My biggest strength is honestly the way I feel to me is the fact that I want to learn more. I don’t feel good saying oh I’m awesome my XYZ because there’s always something that’s to learn. I do a lot of nighttime photography, and low exposure photography and I’m really good at it. I feel like I am but I know that there’s something there that I’m not doing right and I have to get better. You know?
We are Memphis: Yeah.
Aleks Antonio: So, it’s one of those things. My biggest strength would be that I like to learn more.
We are Memphis: Yeah, I think that’s a quality of any really amazing creative. They’re always striving to be the best. And I have seen your photos, your nighttime photography, it’s really good [laughs].
Aleks Antonio: Thank you.
We are Memphis: Yeah, but I have to ask you this too just for the contrast. What are your biggest weaknesses and what can you improve on?
Aleks Antonio: One of them is that I am my worst critic. For the most part, I don’t like half of the stuff I do. It’s not to put myself down it’s just because I know it could be better. The other thing is I get frustrated when I cannot get something. If I have something in my head and I cannot get it on the camera, I get so frustrated that I can’t think straight. I have to stop, leave, come back in 20 minutes, try this again you know it’s one of those things.
We are Memphis: Yeah. Again a trait of a creative. I think you yourself are your biggest critic, [laughs] right.
Aleks Antonio: Yeah, yeah oh.
We are Memphis: Yeah [laughs]. What has been your biggest win? And to go further on that, tell me the time where you play you finally made it.
Aleks Antonio: I did a show back in July. My very first show showing prints and actually selling prints. Everything was so surreal, I was like I’m actually doing this, this is here. Then, I thought nobody’s going to buy my pictures. And when the very first person came through, I looked at him and he goes, okay, I like this picture but I want it in this size. And he placed an order with me that was a massive order at the end of the day, that’s when I felt like oh, I am doing something right you know because–
We are Memphis: Yeah.
Aleks Antonio: You know me liking my photos or my wife liking my photos is one thing but it’s kind of like she’s supposed to like it, she’s my wife. When a stranger here that he wants a large print for his office, he wants to post it because he does really like it. That’s when I felt like I made it. I called my Mom and told her I made it.
We are Memphis: That’s awesome man, again–
Aleks Antonio: At that point, yeah.
We are Memphis: Yeah, I mean to sell like your art as a creative, like that’s a win for anybody in the creative space.
Aleks Antonio: Yeah.
We are Memphis: How did this push you forward in your career?
Aleks Antonio: It definitely pushed me forward to want to create more, to want to get out more and shoot. I didn’t start shooting people until later in my career. I started with landscape and cityscapes. Yeah. It was cityscapes and abandoned buildings and landscapes and that’s what I sold. So when that happened, it got me through that frame of mind that I need to get out and shoot more within Memphis, but also to get out of Memphis and shoot other cities and you know kind of capture whatever I can as I go along.
We are Memphis: What’s your routine to get you through the day? And to go further on that, like what daily routines do you have that contribute to your success?
Aleks Antonio: I always look for inspiration outside of photography.
We are Memphis: I got you.
Aleks Antonio: Because I don’t want to copy somebody in order to gain my own fame or popularity or whatever it is.
We are Memphis: That’s awesome.
Aleks Antonio: Besides working on editing and all that stuff when I go on Instagram or YouTube looking for videos, it’s to see what other people are doing in other creative mediums with video, whether it’s a podcast, whether it’s whatever and outside of photography because I don’t want to compare myself to people because that would be– I used to do that a lot. Comparing myself to somebody else got me frustrated because I wasn’t as good as them or I felt like I could never reach their level and that was very toxic for me because I was like, if I’m not that good, I should stop.
We are Memphis: Sounds like you have a good remake strategy of the art and photography that you put out because you’re acknowledging that it’s good to get inspired by the people, but it’s not good to 100 percent copy them. I like how you’re taking inspiration from these creative individuals not necessarily photography and add that to your own arsenal in your photography.
We are Memphis: Where do you see yourself in one year in your business and in your personal life?
Aleks Antonio: In my business, honestly, I see myself doing more commercial work. I’ve done some clothing companies here locally and I really enjoy that work. I really enjoy the commercial part of it. Right now, I do a lot of wedding portraits and a lot of families also during the fall that’s why I like the fall colors.
Aleks Antonio: But I see myself doing more commercial work. I see myself working more with local companies, local organizations trying to promote the city that I live in and as far as personally with my family, I mean just being able to provide for them and be as a good father and husband to my wife and kids.
We are Memphis: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Aleks Antonio: Wow, five years. You wouldn’t go that far.
We are Memphis: [Laughs]. I’m going to go that far.
Aleks Antonio: Five years, I always thought of owning– I don’t have a studio so in my head, I always thought of owning a co-working studio. Like there’s a lot of co-work in the country you have something in Memphis. But there’s not a true photographers coworker place that you can go edit and you can go shoot and do things like that. That’s what I have in my head to actually work on is owning my own co-working spaces that I can– people can come in and collaborate, work together and grow and build each other. It’s about the community at the end of the day.
We are Memphis: Entrepreneurship in general in Memphis is booming and then owning its co-working space whether it be strictly business related or a creative working space since after pop up as well. I think that’s a good goal to have.
We are Memphis: What advice would you give someone just starting out in photography?
Aleks Antonio: Never, never stop shooting. Doesn’t matter if it looks mundane and dull, take a picture of it. Some of the pictures on my Instagram are photos I took about 5, 6 years ago that I went back to that gallery and go oh, I completely missed this!
We are Memphis: [Laughs].
Aleks Antonio: A bad photo can turn into a really good photo later on or it can teach you how to avoid doing something, so never stop shooting and surround yourself with people like you, people that want the same things who want to go forward same way, people that are willing to push themselves and push others to do better.
We are Memphis: I like that. I like just referring back to your old work has. One, if it’s like on your Instagram or any social media outlet, it teaches you where you’ve come from and how far you had come but also, your audience sees the progress. It’s an upwards tick and they’re more likely to engage and follow you, so I like that a lot. How does Memphis inspire you? What about Memphis drives you to complete your goals and to become a better photographer?
We are Memphis: What about Memphis drives you to complete your goals and to become a better photographer?
Aleks Antonio: This style of Memphis is changing. I’ve been in Memphis for 19 years. It seems like a crazy long time. It’s the longest time I’ve been anywhere at this point. I came from a Spanish country and Memphis has changed a lot. Memphis has grown from being horrible when it came to crime all that stuff to just brooming when it comes to new business, things to do around the city, how to embrace the city more. And inspires me besides that the city is changing and going the way it is to make me want to keep up with it you know, in a way. If Memphis is doing this, you present themselves to the rest of the country I say better city, I say renew city. Let me document that and show people that yes, Memphis is getting better, Memphis is for the making to come to even though I’m not from here originally, I love it here. It’s become home to me and it’s been great. So, the ever-changing thing that Memphis does is what kind of keeps me trying to keep up with it.
We are Memphis: Love it. Memphis is definitely a city of innovation. It’s a city that embraces creatives like yourself so I love that answer. Where is a place in Memphis where you go to unwind after work? At any place that fuels your creativity that you would recommend to budding photographers?
We are Memphis: Where is a place in Memphis where you go to unwind after work? Is any place that fuels your creativity that you would recommend to budding photographers?
Aleks Antonio: I go a lot down Main Street, Downtown Memphis. I would sit there and just to have a beer and watch people come through because you don’t have your typical tourists coming through there. You have your locals just like me that just want a beer and a burger and so, you have those people come through there. When I go out with some of my other friends shooting, we do a lot of walking around Main Street also just because it’s one of the areas that there’s a lot going on there. There’s music, there are small businesses that you can create a relationship with. So, I usually in that part of town just to decompress and relax from a busy day or wedding season or whatever it is.
We are Memphis: Where would you recommend people visit in Memphis if they wanted to mimic your success?
Aleks Antonio: It all depends on what they want to shoot. Let’s go with how I started. I started with landscapes. Downtown Memphis by the river, there are so many areas that you can get a beautiful photo of the skyline of Memphis. Crazy enough, you score over the bridge to Arkansas shooting back into Memphis, you can get a beautiful, beautiful photo. That’s one place that I will start with people. I have right now a young lady that I’m teaching photography and that’s one place we go a lot. We go down by the river by Front Street where you can see all the beautiful homes that align the Bluff. So that’s the part of the area I would recommend people to go to. There’s a little bit to play with in there, they’ve got the river, you’ve got the bridge, you have the pyramid, it has become a Memphis landmark. You know, you have done in the background you have that and then if you turn around, you have some of the old building that has been renovated like the Tennessee brewery that has been renovated and you have some of them that can make for an interesting photo.
We are Memphis: What are your thoughts on the Memphis photography scene and how does it compare to other places in the US?
Aleks Antonio: Memphis photograph scene right now is a very, very young scene. If I were to give an age, it’ll be like a teenager right now.
We are Memphis: That’s a good metaphor, I like that.
Aleks Antonio: I’ve met some as young as 17 years old to 45, 46 years old. But we are now kind of catching up to what other cities are doing photography. Memphis has really good photographers going up, doing great work but at the same time, we’re not at the top of the game when it comes to photography. I follow a lot of the New York photographs, what they’re doing, it’s completely different of what Memphis is doing but they are a little older on this. The photographs have been– they might be the same age as us in Memphis, but they have a larger playground so to speak that they can do more with. Memphis as big as you want to see it is still a fairly small city. So, you can in a way to run out of space to do things or because you always running to the same people in the same spot. So for me, Memphis, as I say, is a teenager in photography, we’re doing really good, we still have a lot of room to grow. I think we have amazing talent in this city for photos and videos and music and all that but it has a lot. We still have room to grow.
We are Memphis: What does Bring Your Soul mean to you personally and what does that mean for the people of Memphis?
Aleks Antonio: Bring Your Soul to me, it means showing why you’re proud of your city, where there is– In my case, showing off a beautiful photo of a sunset in Memphis or an event in Memphis. I mean showing why Memphis matters to be in the matter. The first time I heard it, it kind of made me think of how proud I am for a city that’s changing, the ups and downs. Memphis is a city that has a lot to give to the world. I will be bringing my soul and showing how I love this city and how great the city is to the rest of the world. For Memphians, Bring Your Soul should be that thing that when they go out of town, they can say yes, I’m from Memphis and I’m proud of this and this is why I’m proud of Memphis and name all the good things Memphis has done or is doing right now.