Taking It to the Streets: Photographer Aundre Larrow
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.