If you haven't seen him dressed to the nines and clasping a camera over a crowd of people, then you've probably seen his work. Self-made and perpetuated, Dylan York has become one of Atlanta's most recognizable life-style photographers. Capturing the beauty of Atlanta through the people of it's every weird and wonderful angle, York has branded himself with an impeccable knack for snagging the moments of revelry and rawness of the dirty south. For this week we asked the guy behind the lens about what he's learned from his vantage point of skylines and alleyways.
BANG! So, here’s the unavoidable question: How did you get started with photography?
Dylan York I was living down in Macon and working at a vintage clothing store where all the musicians and DJs would hang out and I was going out at night and basically had access to everything: backstage, DJ booth, green room. So I would just go out with my little Lumix dSLR and capture lots of candids. Really gritty stuff, behind the scenes craziness. So I started posting them on Facebook and the local newspaper, The 11th Hour, picked me up for a half page article every two weeks. Eventually club owners and DJs began offering me money to shoot their parties. Then I started taking it more seriously, trying my best to capture the gritty stuff but also the people having fun, the atmosphere of the party, everything. After about a year I kind of outgrew the city; Will Thompson convinced me to move back up to Atlanta. I met Chucky at Chuckyfoto and Wil May a few months later and the rest is history.
BANG! As a self-described lifestyle photographer, what life are you trying to capture?
Dylan York Everything about this life that is fun and beautiful. I shoot events primarily but I also love shooting live music, models, families. I assist Jon Ruby on occasion and he's taught me so much about capturing a subject's personality and emotion. When you capture the intensity of an amazing concert, or the sparkle in the eye of a really happy person- that's what I love about what I do.
I'm a total humanist when it comes to photography; people are my favorite subject. I try and capture people at their best and their happiest. There's no reason to do anything otherwise.
BANG! I’ve noticed that you take a lot of photos of pretty ladies with tattoos and glasses in the trees. Is that the client demographic that reaches out to you the most, or do you find the most creative flexibility with them? Also, are there any subjects that you would like to shoot that you haven’t gotten too previously or haven’t done much work with?
Dylan York I think I hold a bias because that's the sort of women I've always been attracted to aesthetically. It's also who reaches out to me the most. I was actually discussing this with my friend Ryan the other day; I've become known for #girlswithtattoos. One of my goals is to kind of shake that niche and take on models with a more "mainstream" look. I want to do more head shots, more editorial; people seem to like that part of my work. I want to start working with modeling agencies, pull from their roster and begin doing more fashion-oriented work. My last girlfriend was a nationally published model, she taught me a lot about all of that and it was inspiring and eye opening. There's so much out there in that vein. She also broke my heart…so it goes.
BANG! Due to the nature of your work and the environments it leads you to (particularly night clubs) you must get a lot of people wanting to work with you. What is your process for selection and collaboration?
Dylan York I've only been doing the whole shooting models thing for about a year and aside from what Jon teaches me, I'm all self-taught. It's a growing process and I'm just now feeling comfortable enough to start pushing myself as that sort of photographer. I've kind of had to begin filtering who I work with. Everyone wants pictures and I get hit up a lot. If someone asks me to shoot I usually ask "Okay, well what is this for? What are you going to do with these pictures?" If they just want pretty pictures of themselves, I may oblige. I want my work to have a purpose, though. If I ask someone to shoot it’s because I think we can work well together or they have a look I want to capture. I love collaborating with local companies and stylists and artists that I think are hustling hard and growing in the right direction. If it's someone like Jordan Knight or Kayleen it's pretty much just for fun and we learn in the process. I was the first person to ever shoot Kayleen Scott and the second person to shoot Jordan, we've become friends as well as colleagues. We grow every time we get together and I love that.
BANG! You’ve done an incredibly good job branding yourself with the glasses and “Who the fuck is Dylan York?” What was the methodology behind that?
Dylan York When I came back to Atlanta I hit the scene hard, tried my hardest to get a forum with the people I admired and wanted to work with, like Chucky and Jon. I kind of just hustled, went everywhere met everyone and it paid off. I was where I wanted to be in six months when I thought it would take a year. I came up fast. People were telling me it seemed like I came out of nowhere. So I kind of started making fun of myself. "Who the fuck is this kid? He's everywhere."
Not many people rock tortoise-shell Shuron Freeways. People began knowing me from my distinctive glasses. It turned into a way for people who've never seen me in real life to figure out who I am. Tall, lanky hipster with horn rims and a camera; that must be Dylan York. When people trust that you're a good social photographer they loosen up around you and you're able to just capture the moment.
The glasses are also a good way for people who aren't necessarily used to having their picture taken loosen up in front of the camera. If someone tells me they want a picture but don't know what to do with themselves I say "Well here, put these on…" I snap a photo, they laugh, they've loosened up and I can usually get a genuine smile out of the next shot without the glasses. I want people to be themselves and feel relaxed around my camera, I love capturing people when they're genuinely happy and having a good time.
BANG! What does Dylan York do in his spare time? Do you have any of that?
Dylan York Sometimes I do. And I usually spend it quietly with a few friends. On the few nights I have to myself I may go to The Book House or The Northside Tavern or if any of my DJ friends are spinning a low key dance party I will go there; sometimes I like to hit up The Clermont Lounge. Currently, however, I'm shooting five parties a week not to mention what Jezebel or Chuckyfoto or Eide has me cover, or the things I book on my own. Spare time is a rare commodity for me, I like it this way.
BANG! Is your work inspired by something specific to Atlanta, urban environments in general or something completely in and of its own?
We have an amazing scene here that hasn't fully realized itself yet. The music, the art, the people, the culture being brought to the table by transplants and natives alike. Atlanta is turning into Little Hollywood, we are leading the way in Hip-Hop and EDM. It's culturally diverse and if you know where to look, there's a lot going on. That's what influences me. I have no ties to one set scene, I'm everywhere. I do that on purpose, I see the good in everything. Buckhead, Midtown, Ponce, West Midtown, East Atlanta; I'm not above going anywhere and doing anything because you never know when and where you'll stumble upon something amazing.
Photo Cred: Jon Ruby
BANG! Do you think that there is an unfair exclusivity to certain “scenes” that makes it hard for artists to penetrate the market?
Dylan York I think that if Atlanta is going to grow it needs to work to get rid of its cliquishness, on both sides. It's as simple as that; you can learn something from everyone and not hanging out with someone or around a group of people because they're not your particular flavor of "cool" is elitist and prejudice. At least that's how I feel.
BANG! What’s the next move for you?
Dylan York I'm looking to do more editorial work; diversify my portfolio. More head shots. I want to contribute to this Little Hollywood thing. I think it's amazing, I see studios shooting on location throughout the city all the time. I want to work for more publications, take on new clientele. Shoot more high end and corporate events. I'd like to go a bit more regional, not just Atlanta. We have amazing surrounding cities: Nashville, Charleston, Savannah, Asheville. I've come a long way from basement electro parties two years ago and I want to see what the next level looks like. It's made me a better person. I never ever want to be satisfied, I want to keep growing. Life is too short not to, and the moment you stop growing you die anyway.
To find Dylan York you do not need to shine a bat light in the sky, simply immerse yourself in the funky and fearless of Atlanta and you'll probably cross paths. Due to the nature of his work, he's all over social media, so taking a gander through ye olde facebook or tumblr would be smart if one was inclined to see some of his photos. Who knows, you might just end up in of one of them.