Today we’d like to introduce you to Chantal Gainous.
Chantal, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I wasn’t very good at photography when I first started. I knew that my grandfather used to photograph our family and country, most of those prints lost to a few misplaced moving boxes when my family immigrated to America in the 70s (from the Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines). I knew he loved to photograph his cricket team, one of the only photos we’ve been able to recover. I knew that my cousin, Anthony, had made a real hustle out of it, shooting for bands and rappers in Atlanta and Tampa at the local dive bars and hubs; but him and his brother always know how to make a hustle out of anything. That didn’t mean I could do it too. Today, my cousin proudly claims he’ll be in charge of my studio the second the rent contract is signed.
When I first picked up a camera, a humble Nikon D3300 given to me as a Christmas present, I was pretty determined that I would figure it out on my own. This camera would accompany me on a month-long summer trip to Europe and I’d just “figure it out.” I knew nothing about ISOs or shutter speeds at the time. And so, while everyone is usually consumed with the food (I still ate good, don’t get it twisted!) and other things of a new country, I was chasing the perfect photos of the people and places in London, Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam.
To me, this was the ultimate test if I was really to be any good at this. If I can’t take amazing photos of easily amazing views in amazing countries – there was no hope.
I had really convinced myself by Summer ‘15 that if I didn’t learn another skill beyond writing, that my Public Relations/Journalism degree from FAMU would be useless in this fast-paced visual world. I knew that just writing a catchy article was not gonna be enough to land me a full-time job with all the fancy benefits once I graduated.
I came back from Europe with mediocre photos. None of which you can find outside of my family circles…ha. But I didn’t give up, I tried something harder.
I hang around a lot of the local Tallahassee Hip Hop culture/crowd. I started practicing shooting at the local showcases, specifically with the 6-person hip hop collective,Cap 6. They always made sure I was allowed to have my camera in the venue they were booked to. I followed them everywhere for years, and to this day, I still do.
I got an opportunity to shoot Many Rivers Festival in Atlanta, for FAMU Journey Magazine, a kind of rock-the-vote rally festival put on by Harry Belafonte and the Dream Defenders organization – headliners Common, Estelle, Macklemore. And that’s when I knew this was something I really wanted to do.
Now, as one of my side hustles, I’m a media coordinator for WRLD Entertainment. I’ve shot 3-4 festivals and numerous tour stops throughout Florida. I’m constantly working to organize more opportunities for aspiring journalists, photographers, radio hosts, you name it, to be able to produce quality content and have the proper access and protocol with these artists. I also work to better the relationship between local talent support and the tours themselves. Lots of tours have shied away from that handshake, but I hope that we’ll be able to prove that there is worth in this touchy relationship beyond pay-to-play.
I’ve helped organize media coverage for Trap Circus Festival (2017) – headliners Cardi B and Kodak Black and Best Life Festival (2018) – headliners H.E.R. and Ella Mai. I’ve also jumped in and lended a hand for several Florida tour stops – J.I.D. and Earthgang’s The Never Story Tour, GoldLink’s At What Cost Tour (April 2018) , Bas’ Milky Way Tour (November 2018), MadeinTYO’s Sincerely Tokyo (February 2019), and others.
My main job is for CompassMAC,a marketing agency as a social media strategist (which is a lot more technical work than it sounds!), but I do dream of live music, tour life to ultimately be my ‘bread and butter.’
I also try to make as much time for freelancing and creative projects with my close creative friends. I tend to use them as guinea pigs for when I challenge myself to dabble in graphic design and videography, and they’re always one of my subjects for a genius photography concept. My self-made brand, Axiom, has empowered me to try to compile all the random projects I do into one space. One day, it will work like a one-stop hub for artists/brands who are trying to upgrade their creative content.
I still shoot beautiful travel photography whenever my family travels home for Christmas. I’ve decidedly picked up where my grandfather left off – snagging photos of old, hilltop Georgetown where my grandparents grew up, of our family members, of the beautiful view of the sea, and I understand my grandfather’s love for his country developed through a lens, as I have grown to understand and love it deeply the same way myself.
I’ve also made it a point to not stick to just concert photography but to explore all the other style/subject avenues. I definitely also love fashion photography and enjoy that I can control every last detail in a studio setting (and in post-edit!) versus taking whatcha get during a live show, which can be frustrating. I think that is what ultimately makes me so unique. I try to live and create in a lot of different spaces never backing down from the challenge.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am a photographer. But I am also a promoter for WRLD Entertainment, a social media strategist for a marketing agency, and curator for the local shows in Tallahassee.
As a photographer, I’m most known for being a concert photographer after chasing so many local artists from showcase to showcase and them hearing me running off to festivals and everything. But I feel I love that I was able to switch over into more conceptual photography and I am most proud of the times when I really have pushed my art to look like no one else in my area. I don’t really pay attention to what’s trendy, I just trust my gut and stay open to the inspiration that I find in everyday life and traveling. I know that my family’s heritage also has a great influence, I’m always trying to make the most vibrant piece of work. I’m obsessed with color!
WRLD, I am just proud that we continually try to be a connection for curators and events all over Florida. And that we try to provide as much opportunity for media and publications to cover what we’re apart of. I know we want to be apart of the incredibly talented community that exists and is expanding across the entire state of Florida.
I am super proud that my own brand Axiom has some weight to it. I know it’s helped provide a space for growth within Tallahassee. I love when I can see creatives (especially black and in the hip hop culture) coming together at one of our events to just chop it up and build real friendships with other artists. I’m honored when people come up to me and express that they’ve been inspired or ask me where the ideas came from and how they might better execute their own creations.
I think what sets me apart is that I am not just focused on only being a photographer or only being a promoter. I encourage so many artists to continue to learn the business side of things as a way to continue to provide security and further their art. I think businessmen try to stay far away from connecting with the art and the artist fears to learn the business because they feel it will kill their art. I want to be the bridge and the happy medium between that. I think that’s where art thrives best.
Is there a quality or characteristic that has played an outsized role in your success?
Flexibility. And being able to leap with faith.
I’m not sure if I’ve perfected these yet, but I know that I always try to look through my situations with those lenses. I want to be an adaptable person and not someone who’s going to hesitate when it’s time to elevate.
- Website: www.kingchachiii.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: KingChachiii
- Twitter: KingChachiii