At long last, after a lot of time and patience, Grimey Mondays presents something brand new. Through The Lens is a series that aims to profile the work of mainly photographers and videographers.
First up and starting the new series is photographer, video-maker and all round social media don Lumos, the man behind the multimedia platform El Seven. GM caught up with him to find out how he balances both the photographic and visual content within his craft:
Who inspires you now and who inspired you when you first started out?
“When I first started out, I didn’t really look at any photographers because it was just a hobby. I got my camera because I was taking good photos on my iPhone and I just decided to invest, improve the quality, find a means of making some additional money as well because I was in uni so every little helped. Nowadays, I’d say inspiration will come from my peers in the field of photography in the UK so people like Ashley [Verse], Vicky [Grout], Courtney [Francis], Blaow, them man. Looking at their work keeps me thinking “I need to match their level” or even just be inspired by their achievements. Courtney’s had billboard covers and the same with Vicky & Ashley, working with footballers and whatnot.”
What do you look for in order to get that perfect shot?
“To be honest, I just take a picture and I think whether I’d want to hang it up on my wall, would I want to put it on a t-shirt or if I was a customer, would I want to buy this as a poster, will that shot capture the vibe that I was feeling in the room when it took it. I just try to make it something that’s memorable, something that will want to be shared.”
What emotions do you want people to feel when they look at your content?
“In terms of the photography, I want them to think “I wish I was there” if it’s a live show. I want people to share it and feel like they were there themselves in the room to take in those moments. In terms of the videos I do, it’s a lot different with the kinds of vibes compared to my photography. Whenever I make a video, the first aim for me is I have to find it funny because primarily with a lot of the things I do, I’m always my first customer so I want to make sure it’s something that I would find funny. Most of my content is comedy, it’s there to make people laugh and smile, those of the kind of emotions I want people to feel with my video content.”
It’s been a gradual progression with El Seven, ranging across the likes of Vine, YouTube and Snapchat.
“Yeah, to be honest I’ve always had a vibe of being creative but until I made El Seven, it was just stuff thrown out there, there was no package or anything. Once I started El Seven, I realised that I needed to build a brand so when it came to photography, people knew that El Seven was gonna bring them shots from all around the world or UK artists performing, a lot of candid shots, performance shots. I haven’t really dealt with the fashion side of things with my photography yet but it’s just been a progression from the start that I’m trying to grow and grow. Most of my best work is on YouTube but I’ve not been consistent on that platform in the past, that’s going to change this year.”
Talk about your adventures in Brazil, how long were you there for?
“I’ve been to Brazil twice. For the first time, it was for the World Cup (in 2014), I was there for five weeks, for the whole tournament and a few days afterwards. To be honest, I was preparing for Brazil to win the World Cup so that I wouldn’t leave right after because it would be like a party for another month on top of that. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
Blame the Germans for that.
“Yeah, well blame the Columbians as well for injuring Neymar too.”
What about the second time?
“The second time was for the Olympics, I went to see Usain Bolt make history, getting the treble-treble. I wanted to be a part of that and also something I noticed from the first time I was there, Brazilians really love Jamaicans but there was no Jamaican participation in the World Cup whereas the Olympics, that’s our thing, that’s where we come out on the top so I wanted to be there as well to see what it would be like and also I knew I’d see a whole heap of Jamaicans this time around as opposed to last time when I probably only met like four, five Jamaicans out there which was a surprise in itself.”
What have been your favourite memories from your time with video-making?
“I’d say…let’s break this down…I’ll say in terms of video making, the most important video I ever made in terms of the viral content that I make was the Terminator one, that was the first Vine I made. I went to bed, woke up the next day and my phone’s gone crazy. I’m seeing all of this shit happening, my shit’s all over the timeline, it became a part of the London lingo, MCs dropped it in tunes, I know Stormzy referenced it in one of his tunes. If you said to someone “they’re not around no more”, a lot of people are going to get what you’re saying.
“Another special video I did was the GTA video I did for Bonkaz. I used to see Bonkaz’s name on the timeline a lot but at that point in time, I was really busy and didn’t really have time to take in new artists so this time around, We Run The Block had just dropped, it had just gone up on his SoundCloud and everyone was talking about it. I was just thinking to myself “it’s not to going to hurt me if I listen to one track”, I listened to the track, loved it and I’d planned to do a GTA for one of Popcaan’s songs originally. I’d been thinking about it in my head but I decided that Bonkaz’s tune was newer, I was feeling it, it’d be easier to get in touch with Bonkaz and get him to support it. I really enjoyed making that video, it took me like 60 hours to edit but it made me much better at editing, I edit a lot faster because of that video. It got a lot of support, GRM Daily posted it, RWD posted it, LinkUp posted it. It was good, it helped me establish a point of contact with Bonkaz, now me and him are cool.”
“What else…I’ve done so many videos but it’s hard to pinpoint the ones that stand out. I was at work, my old job that I’ve left now and I was doing an induction as an IT technician with people’s laptops and while I was waiting for a person to log into her laptop, I was scrolling my phone and Drake liked one of my videos, I was gassed! So was this woman who I had just met & was getting set up, she was even more gassed than me. It was 2015 when Skepta did his Shutdown performance in the carpark, it was a video of that and he liked it, it was big man. It was on my Instagram, a short clip of Skepta performing there and I edited it a bit.”
Why do you think music and photography go together so well?
“Photography helps music reach further places. If you want to put a face to the artist or if you’re from America and you’ve heard about this artist, you want to see what the crowd is like when they’re on or see their kind of energy when they’re performing. I’ve got pictures of huge crowds going mad and if I showed that to someone in America, they’d be like “who’s that, I’ve not heard of them, how comes they got that kind of crowd” or even just capturing their swag, how the MC dresses, the way they accessorise, the vibes they bring outside of music, photography captures that all and I think it’s very important, it plays a massive role.”
What have you learnt the most from your experiences?
“In terms of photography, I’ve learned that networking is very important. You’ve got to know the right people a lot of the time to be in the right place at the right time to access certain things. I’d say with my photography, more so when I first started out, I’m like a cowboy, I’ll just turn up somewhere, no invite, wait outside for a long time, just chancing a lot of things and getting results. You have to have a lot of patience and build up a network of people that you can rely on to help you out. When you start to establish yourself, know how to email the right people whether it’s the artist, the management or the people handling the event well before hand to make sure you’re certified to get into the event.”
“Also, don’t take no for an answer, I remember when I first met Kano, Logan Sama said to me there was no chance of getting in to the Boiler Room event he was performing at, I managed to find out the location about 30mins before it started and Santander-cycled to Buckingham Palace sides from east and managed to creep in and finally met Kano, my favourite MC for over 10 years, I’ll never forget that day.”
"Another example involving Kano was at his Home Sweet Home Revisited Show I went there with no ticket and the plan was that I was going to finesse my way in. I waited for like an hour outside then Bonkaz turns up and I said to him “I lost my ticket, can you help me out”. He tells me to come with him, he gets me in there, I managed to talk his manager into giving me a pass so while I’m taking shots, towards the end of the show, Kano’s performing ‘Garage Skank’ and then he goes “fuck it, every man on the stage right now!”. Every man with access to the stage runs up there. I ran up to the stage and I’m thinking “I’m on fucking stage with Kano”, I’ve gone from not looking like getting in to being onstage with him and I’ve a shot of him with the crowd with blurs in it because everyone was going mad. That’s a moment I’ll never forget and I’ll always have love for Bonkaz for getting me in.”
“With videos, I would say when it comes to making viral videos, it’s a case of here today, gone tomorrow. It might be popping on the timeline one day, everyone’s talking about it, liking it, retweeting it but a lot of the time, that doesn’t mean shit in the long-run. If your plan is to be consistently making viral videos, initially you don’t expect growth in the short-run, you could have a video that gets 20k retweets and off the back of that, you probably get like 100 followers. You have to know that the views and interaction doesn’t equate to your brand building straight away.”
How have you grown as a person through your work?
“I think it’s made me…as a person, I move a bit different. Back in the day, if I saw a flyer with an MC’s name on it, I’d be like “oh shit, I’ve got to go” but I’ve seen these man so many times, it changed it a bit, it depends if there’s new music out but I’m not as hungry to go to these shows as I used to be to be completely honest. I’d love to have gone to Coachella this year to see Boy Better Know do their thing but see things like Skepta headlining Wireless, that’s great, I love that but I’m not like ‘oh shit, Skepta’s headlining Wireless’, I’ve seen them man shut down Wireless two, three years in a row. It’s like I’ve been spoilt by this kind of work.”
“In my ability to network, it’s always been good but I think it’s got better through all these different events I’ve gone to. I cowboy a lot of the time, trying to finesse my way in and a lot of time, you can’t finesse your way in with your bredrin because whoever’s helping you don’t know your bredrin, you may be able to sneak past one person but your bredrin isn’t as sharp as you. I think I’ve how to move on my own quite well but as well as being able to be around other people as well, interacting and getting along with them. I don’t just go to an event and just stand there by myself and not chat to anyone but if I am at an event alone I know I’ll be alright.”
“Knowing how to manoeuvre within the industry, I’ve learned a lot, how certain people are, you’ve gotta remember that a lot of time you seek people out, just because you talk to and see them at events or they follow you [on social media], it doesn’t mean you’re friends. Emotions and reactions that you’d initially have when you see someone you consider a friend, someone you’re close with, it’s not really going to be the same but there are people who I’ve met in the scene who I do consider as friends.”
All pictures used taken by Lumos. Find El Seven at https://elseven.co.uk/