When A Model Isn't Enough by Shon Houston

With a coming return trip to NY looming on the horizon mere weeks away, I wanted to revisit my last trip to NY. In January, my girlfriend and I set out on a 5 day business trip to NY. Interestingly enough this was our first trip together as a couple, though she was flying in from Charleston and myself from Cincinnati, Ohio. Trying to create a cohesive plan like traveling to a new city while in a long distance relationship has its share of difficulties.

One of the great things about our relationship is that we are both in “the industry”, did that sounds as pretentious as it seemed as I wrote it? She is a model while I am a photographer. We understand the demands of a day on set and the importance of staying present in your work.

Naturally as we approached the city, understanding what we both do for a living you would think we had incredible shoots planned… but we didn’t. I believe there was some intent to not looking at this trip the same way we would scout locations and produce some high end content, maybe even looking at a local NY brand and working on some pop up campaign. Instead, we took images of the moments. Though we were there officially on business, we didn’t short ourselves the opportunity to relish in the energy of NY and took turns snapping images of what we saw. Occasionally, I of course turned the camera on her, but in a more candid way, nothing overly prepared. It feels good to do that sometimes. Some times the most unexpected moment is worth capturing however you can.

Moral of the story, it feels good to be in love with your best friend, and if you’re a photographer, it doesn’t hurt if she happens to be a model either. (;

The Midwest Culture Lab by Shon Houston

Beloved Ohio community, Issue 1 was about healing and transformation. While Ohio was not ready to transform, the campaign that we waged with all of your help was exceptional. This year, we expanded our imagination of what the world could look like.

We increased youth turnout to 35% (4 points above the higher-than-ever national average). In the last midterm, Ohio youth voted at only 11.6%. We are building a power-building organization that is rooted in love. We created a world and brought light to communities that are unseen in Ohio. We funded Black and brown artists across the state to create political content and culture that resonated broadly. In other words, we won.

Thank you to the thousands of you who helped with this campaign.

Thank you to the 1,568,347 of you who said YES!

Thank you to Mariah Johnson and Leroy Da'Vaughn Bean for their song "Ode to the Midwest", our community's ballad; to Amber J. Phillips for her voice and her joy; to Shon Houston of Shon Curtis Photography for his larger than life image. Thank you.

The War of Portraiture by Shon Houston

I'll start with a video I recently found on Youtube from Sean Tucker a portrait photographer and storyteller out of London. The video can be viewed below. 

December 30, 1941



Yousef Karsh was scheduled to shoot Winston Churchill backstage after Churchill gave a speech to the Canadian House of Commons, after this heartfelt and passionate speech Churchill made it known that he was not interested in shooting with Karsh. Having only two minutes to shoot the portrait and a reluctant Churchill silently refusing to put out his cigar, Karsh moved in only after finalizing his setting on his equipment, apologized and proceeded to pluck the cigar from Churchill's mouth and take a picture. 


Needless to say the expression on Churchill's face in the above portrait was a raw moment that the world recognized as the true Churchill. He took many more frames but this was his favorite image.

Understanding this, we as photographers are tasked with capturing the truest form of our subject. Not every client is truly going to like having their picture taken. It allows them to explore their identity and recognize their visual impression on the world. 

Every portrait is a war between the sitter’s vanity, and the photographer’s guile.

This reminds me of something I found in my reading of Gregory Heisler's 50 Portraits and Techniques From a Photographer's Photographer | Heisler found his success in his portraits from access or gaining the trust of his subjects. Once he was able to establish their trust, their vanity is what was cast aside which allowed him as the artist, to create a masterful portrait and articulate his vision as the photographer. As one of the great photographers of the last 30 years, his images are timeless and perfectly executed. I try to read a few passages from this book every day and can say that his writing and account of the sessions he has held over the years with various clients have truly assisted me with my understanding of how I want to approach portraiture. 

The war in photographing a person comes from what we expect both as a photographer and a sitter. We eagerly anticipate both the good and bad results in our session when we should both focus on building the bonds between us, because that will truly allow us an opportunity to create honest images, and quite often, the more honest the image, the more beautiful.

Lexi in Yellow.jpg

The Uncommon Creative Podcast | Episode 03 - MASTERWILLIAMS by Shon Houston

Photo Taken by Tamon George

Photo Taken by Tamon George

Do not shy away from being yourself.
— Gary Williams, 2017

What's good internets? Shon here, back with another episode of The Uncommon Creative Podcast. Today we are honored to have our incredible guest, Gary Williams aka MASTERWILLIAMS. Gary is a photographer and videographer out of the DC area where he is a co-founder of a design agency, Creative Theory Agency. Responsible for creating global social campaigns for clients like NIKE, Timex, Levi. Gary himself is a GQ insider and world renown creative. Listen in as we talk music, social awareness, and authenticity in the creative community. Enjoy


Shon's Socials:

IG & Twitter - @shonshot | @shonshot
Facebook | facebook.com/iamshoncurtis

visit my website | shoncurtis.com

Gary's Social
IG & Twitter - @masterwilliams | @masterwilliams

visit Gary's website | masterwilliams.co
The Agency's Website | creativetheory.agency

Lessons on Authenticity From @MASTERWILLIAMS by Shon Houston

Photo Source: Frame Bridge Interview with Gary Williams

Photo Source: Frame Bridge Interview with Gary Williams

Whenever I find myself looking down the viewfinder of my camera, no other thought is in my mind. And that is a hell of a thing for me to say. It feels like I'm always stressing over just about everything. I welcome stress to some degree. All of this internal anxiety makes me feel like I could explode, supernova into nothing but air. Except for when I'm behind a camera. There is just peace. 

I attempt to capture this within the image I take. When photographing people, I try to capture them in their calmest moment. When the worries fall from their brow and the step out of their "sunken place". As I advance in my photography career, I stop and admire those people that inspire that same peace. I think photos are supposed to produce something deeper than the subject. That requires the photographer to think and compose a deeper story. Gary Williams is one of those photographers. 

Recently, as in two days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Gary for the upcoming episode of my podcast and in doing so I remembered a conversation with another creative professional, where he had mentioned having two selves. A social/business self and a true self. As a creative, we can develop an alter ego of sorts that when referred to in public one can't recognize the other. Needless to say, I wasn't feeling that. I wasn't feeling having to build some facade that would act as a buffer between me and my work, a professional side and a personal side. 

Speaking with @MasterWilliams  I proposed a question, something that was along the lines of "When social media plays a major role in business today, how do you navigate your own authenticity?" at least in my mind that's how I wanted to say it. Ultimately what I did say allowed Gary to produced the answer I was looking for, because what followed was one of the most concrete lessons I learned growing up. My mother taught me that lesson, and to hear it mirrored from a 30 something-year-old man by way of DC, I knew it to be important for others to hear. ALWAYS BE AUTHENTIC. Do so fearlessly and unapologetically. Even in the business world, you can be appreciated and respect more for your honesty and your personal truth. 

Sidenote: Episode 03 with Gary Williams goes live in 20 minutes.

Click here for Itunes | Click here for Soundcloud

The Uncommon Creative Podcast | Episode 2 - Ruben Hughes by Shon Houston

Failure is a personal feeling.
— Ruben Hughes, 2017


What's good internet? Shon here, back with another episode with some real takeaways you can use when approaching your business of being a creative. On this episode, I am joined by Mr. Ruben Hughes a social content lead at Squarespace and content creator. It was truly my pleasure to have one of my personal inspirations on and the lessons he gave will help position you for more gigs and social community growth around your brand.

BTW we are now on itunes!!! So don't be afraid to like, subscribe, and share.

Link to Itunes and Socials Below:

Ruben's Socials : IG & Twitter - @rubenhughes
Ruben's Website: ruben-hughes.com

Shon's Socials : IG & Twitter - @shonshot
Shon's Website: shoncurtis.com


Music brought to you by JOY SANDFORD ( joysandford.com )

Trust The Aesthetic by Shon Houston

Residence 154 - 4.png

When you look at this, what do you see? As I sit here in my living room hovering my hands over this keyboard to my outdated laptop, I scroll the endless beauty that is Instagram and fall onto a post by probably my favorite account on that social site... Ruben Hughes. 

At the moment I can't clearly remember where I first encountered Ruben's work. Maybe it seemed familiar but I know that when I first laid eyes on his work something in me changed. As an artist, before I explored my own depth, I grew to appreciate art in many forms. I started as a musician, that then transitioned into a writer and today a photographer. "A natural progression", in my mind. Photography stuck harder than anything else. I've found joy in creating beautiful images and capturing moments for others. I never looked at the full story of a person, just wanted to freeze-frame one of their moments.

I hadn't fully grasped the concept of evolving as an artist, as a photographer, not until I came across Ruben. His images soothed me. Not only did they tell a story, the captured an essence. These were the kind of images I imagined myself taking one day. As a creative striving to make a business out of a passion, I found myself missing that ingredient. I need to tell stories. I opened myself up to the possibility of growing even more. I reached out, looking for some career changing advice from Ruben. I didn't anticipate him actually responding, anytime I reach out to someone, I never anticipate hearing back from them. But I did.



He gave me some honest advice and it sums up to "trusting the process" and maintaining authenticity. I am learning that these paths are some of the best-kept secrets to being a successful creative and entrepreneur. I tend to study the paths of those I admire. Understanding their journeys can be just as eye-opening and rewarding as appreciating their present standard. Ruben's story is one that I look forward to hearing. That said, I have invited Ruben to be a featured guest on the next episode of my podcast: The Uncommon Creative.

We record the episode this morning in an hour from now. I am both nervous and eager. I can't wait to share his story with you. Stay tuned.



The Uncommon Creative Podcast | Episode 01 by Shon Houston

This episode is a real take on what the life of being a creative is like, and we look at marketing and business as two creatives in different markets. Enjoy

Featured co-host is Cleavon "Prophessor X" Matthews a Dayton spoken word artist. His socials and mine are below.

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