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Taking It to the Streets: Photographer Aundre Larrow

By Charles Purdy

a portrait of Aundre Larrow

Aundre Larrow

As a journalism student at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Aundre Larrow transitioned from being a hobbyist photographer to a storyteller whose primary medium is photography. These days, the Brooklyn-based creative is building an impressive portfolio and pursuing inspiring personal projects—and he was just named one of Adobe’s new Creative Residents.

Born in Jamaica, Larrow moved to Florida with his mother when he was a very small child; the pair made a home in Fort Lauderdale, where Larrow’s mother is an English teacher. From very early on, he was raised to be a creator: “When I was little and my mom was working, she’d give me these huge pieces of canvas to paint on, and our deal was I could paint whatever I wanted. But when she got home, I would have to present it to her and tell a story about it. That was our little thing when I was very young, before I was really reading.”  

A LIFELONG INTEREST IN PEOPLE’S STORIES

As a youngster with many diverse interests, from theater to basketball, Larrow was always very social and excited about getting to know people—a passion that clearly fuels his current photography work, as does his experience as a high school student in the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which he feels refined his powers of observation. 

A portrait of a woman from
A portrait of a woman from
A portrait of a man from
A portrait of a man from
A portrait of a woman from
A portrait of a man from

Behind the Cut was a series of portraits of people who had just had their hair cut—for people of color, there’s always an interesting story there,” says Larrow.

“Each year in IB class, there are only two or three black males,” Larrow says. “It was interesting because people would know you—like, ‘That kid doesn’t go to classes with us; he’s an IB kid.’… I think the experience helped frame how I think about stuff now—about how we’re separated based on expectations for ourselves and expectations that people put on us, and all those interesting stories to tell…. I went from loving to talk to people—and, honestly, my mom thought I was going to get abducted; she could not stop me from talking to strangers—to maybe talking less and studying people more.”

Throughout high school, Larrow took photographs for fun. He enjoyed working with film, and he sometimes borrowed a camera from a girl he attended church with, until a theater teacher gave him a camera of his own when he was 15. Then, one Christmas, his mom gave him an Xbox as a gift—and he asked if he could exchange it for an entry-level Canon DSLR.

A photograph of three people from the series
A portrait of a young boy with a bicycle from the series
A photo of a group of people watching a police incident in Gainesville, photo by Aundre Larrow

My Neighbors is a project that Larrow completed in his senior year of university. He says, “I would bike around East Gainesville, and if I found something interesting, I’d stop. One time, I stopped at a church having a fish fry. And then some police officers came whipping around this corner, and people started following them, so I did, too.” A photo from that evening, of a group of people bathed in the red light of a police car, is one of Larrow’s favorites from that series.

TRAINING AS A JOURNALIST

With a very busy class schedule and plenty of extracurricular activities on top of that, Larrow still found time to do a lot of personal writing when he was in high school, and his talent as a writer led him to choose a journalism major when he went to college (at the University of Florida, Gainesville). He thought he might want to go into broadcast journalism—but he was still doing photography for fun, as well as taking on the occasional assignment for the student paper (shooting rallies and notable speakers that came to the campus).

“I had earned a lot of required college credits during high school, so I was able to take photography classes,” says Larrow. “My freshman year, I took a class called Visual Literacy that helped a lot. We had to process our own film, and I really liked being in the dark room, and I learned and experimented a lot. This is when I started to think about photography more.”

He went on to shooting college basketball games and then did some photography internships—for instance, at the Chicago Reader. After he graduated, he was evaluating career paths and made the choice to continue pursuing photography—in part because he was already earning an income from it. 

photo of rugby players by Aundre Larrow
photo of a football player in a purple helmet, by Aundre Larrow

About his sports photography, Larrow says, “The thing I love about sports is that it’s such a microcosm of reality. And no one notices a photographer because the events are so photographed, so you have a lot of freedom.”

“I moved to New York because I didn’t want to move back to Fort Lauderdale,” says Larrow. “Photography kept me from being broke. I kept doing it, and it kept giving back to me, and everything really started to click.”

DEVELOPING AS A PHOTOGRAPHER

Larrow found a supportive and enriching creative community, both in New York and on Instagram, which he says he relies on for inspiration, feedback, and commissions. He’s worked on a variety of projects for companies like Bevel and American Express, as well as taking on editorial assignments, wedding photography, and portraits. It was in New York that he realized that he could make standard headshot work interesting and do complex narrative work for brands.

 

photo of a man in a hat by Aundre Larrow
profile photo of a laughing man buy Aundre Larrow
A photo of Steve Sweatpants, by Aundre Larrow

Before a studio or portrait assignment, Larrow prefers to do a lot of preparation and pondering—he says he can guess how we’ll he’ll do on an assignment by how much time he’s had to think about it beforehand. He creates mood boards and looks at images online. “If it’s portraiture, I feel prepared if I can talk to them ahead of time and ask them about how they like to be portrayed,” he says.

He shoots with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (but he says he might want to look into getting something smaller as he moves more into street photography this year), as well as with his iPhone, and he does postproduction work in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. “I take a lot of shots,” he adds. “But I usually go into a portrait shoot having three or four images I really want to nail. A lot of my images that come out great are because the subject says, ‘Can I do this?’—like put on some glasses or sit a different way or something, and you kind of collaborate with them. My goal is to get them not in the best light but the most accurate light.”

THE YEAR AHEAD

For his year as an Adobe Creative Resident, Larrow is planning three photographic series: The Echo Chamber is a multimedia project centering on portraits of Americans in different places throughout the county; it will examine “what America is like right now and how a sense of place impacts thought.” Summer Friends is street-photography exploration of basketball courts in New York. G Train will be another street-photography project, focused on the people who ride the only New York City train that doesn’t go into Manhattan.

“Both of the smaller projects are primarily photographic,” says Larrow, “but will include natural sound and movement through video and audio gathering. If enough content is gathered, I also want to try creating some cinemagraphs. For Echo Chamber, I want to nix the studio portraiture and spend time capturing people in their spaces exclusively, and jump fully into the sense of place narrative.”

photo of a model at NYFW 2017, by Aundre Larrow
photo of women backstage at NYFW 2017 by AUndre Larrow
photo of a couple backstage at NYFW, photo by Aundre larrow

Larrow shot these photographs at New York Fashion Week in 2017.  

During the coming year, Larrow hopes to add skills—such as drone photography and working with motion—and grow as a creative while also producing work that allows us to see our world and the people in it from a new perspective.

“I’ve always been fascinated with films, and I look at shots and study them, and I need to be able to do that,” he adds. “I want to challenge myself to be able to create work that’s cinematic. Three years from now, I want to be able to create similar work in a still and a motion space. I don’t know if I want to be a photographer forever, but I know that how I think about this is going to be important forever.”

The Adobe Creative Residency empowers talented individuals to spend a year focusing on a passion project, while sharing their experiences and processes with the creative community.