Before Covid, if you happened to be in the crowd at one of New York’s underground clubs or stumbled upon a Manhattan afterparty filled with high profile models, the likes of Jordan Daniels, Mona Tougaard and Kaia Gerber, it wouldn’t have surprised you to see the photographer on the rise Tyrell Hampton point his camera towards you.
Whether it is Adesuwa Aighewi grappling with a dance step, by Tia Jonsson crouched on the bathroom floor for an impromptu filming session or Barbie Ferreira in the company of friends on the cobbled streets of Broadway, there is no doubt that the 23-year-old image-maker captures what it means to be young in New York.
To use his own words, the young dancer simply loves “photographing the people I care about”. The day after the night before, you can expect Hampton’s images to be the focus of his Instagram feed (and upload to your account TikTok, which is filled with cameos of famous people – hello, Dua Lipa!). “One of my friends recently told me that every time we have a night out, they’ll go to my Instagram page to see what they’ve done,” he tells Vogue.
The journey of the talented Hampton began as a teenage dancer, before his interest in photography turned into a career, when he moved from his then Pennsylvania hometown to New York in 2015: at 18, he immediately merged into the world of creativity. The eclectic young man planned his next move carefully and signed up for a photography class at New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design, perfecting his signature “fly-on-the-wall” style.
Fully immersed in the subcultures of Generation Z, Hampton has been from a very young age fascinated by pop culture and videography. Seeking to occupy large amounts of time traveling by car to and from the Philadelphia School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), Hampton began making videos about his life. Like many teens fascinated by virality and internet notoriety, he wanted to establish his own fingerprint and started uploading videos to YouTube, detailing daily activities such as “barber haircut and dance exercises”: it is still possible to watch them online.
In 2020, her postgraduate perseverance had its effects. When not in the company of the most famous people in the fashion world, Hampton dedicates himself to making the video of the campaign for the 50th anniversary of Calvin Klein, to the creation of an editorial service of GQ on Lizzo, or the collaboration with one of his favorite designers, Alexander Wang. “I think I only got to work with him because I really wanted him,” he recalls.
Here, alongside some of his favorite images taken before the lockdown, the photographer shares his experience of movement Black Lives Matter and tells what it means to take photos of new fashion stars.
1. Dancing was his first passion
“I was born in Philadelphia, my family later moved just outside Pennsylvania, where I went to an arts high school. The commute was an hour to get there and back, so for four years I spent a lot of time on the phone on the road trip. I did daily vlogs, especially on trivial and random things; I’m still on YouTube now. I had a lot of free time, so my brain was already full of ideas when I entered university ”.
2. Movement inspires your fashion photography
“I immersed myself in social media as a young man: I always looked at the fashion images of Juergen Teller and Mario Sorrenti. Even today, one of my favorite designers is Alexander Wang, because many of his campaigns had a particular movement or a certain sensitivity of their own. They made me want to be in that image, to emulate that feeling.
“The philosophy behind my philosophy of taking candid photographs was born out of my obsession with moving images. I wonder: “Who knows how things would be if this moving image were frozen in time? Growing up I looked at so many images that when I went to university I started thinking that maybe I could switch to photography and see where it would take me” .
3. His goal is always to portray his subjects in their most candid state
“I started hanging out in the club scene in college – I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, so it’s interesting to be in those places while I’m alert and sober. I used to take my camera to the China Chalet, which is a well-known restaurant / nightclub in New York, and my main goal of the evening was to take pictures in the most interesting and detached way possible, which is why I often find myself having angles or strange moments.
“Since my subjects are so familiar to me, I know what their next move will be, what will make them smile, giggle and what music will make them move, so the images I shoot are unique moments that surprise or intrigue me, such as for example people who scream, smile or light a cigarette “.
4. Remain impressed with the A-list characters
“One of the photos I made that I love the most is that of Miley Cyrus smoking a cigarette at a Met gala a year or two ago, and I caught his attention at the right moment. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, Hannah Montana!’; it was very spontaneous.
“Before I started working with Wang, I used to sneak into his shows. One year, I was sitting next to reporter Elaine Welteroth and sat there, bright blonde hair and enthusiastic. I think the city definitely helps to amplify its impulses ”.
5. “There are no limits” is the philosophy of this artist
“You never know who you will meet in one of these places: it can be a friend of a friend, the person you have observed for years on social media, a celebrity. New York is so unpredictable, the energy here is really kinetic. I would like people to perceive that sense of community from my images and to see these subjects having fun and enjoying each other’s company ”.
6. 2020 has centralized his place in society as a black man
“This past year has been very, very interesting. I recently talked to some of my black friends about it. We realized that this year’s events have aroused repressed emotions, triggered something in us: we are a minority in a society that does not appreciate us.
“At the start of the quarantine, I was at home with my mother and brother. However, in view of the easing of restrictions, I returned to New York to be with my friend Jordan Daniels who is left alone in the city and we participated together in the Black Lives Matter protests. It was an eye-opening experience: Jordan and I had to protect each other. It was liberating to watch the movement, but equally daunting to realize the truth behind being a minority in the United States ”.
7. Activities of daily living stimulate his creativity
“I use Tumblr. I have been using it since around 2010. I manage to find archival images and old editorials, enter them and end up in a time tunnel. When I was younger, if I lacked ideas, I would dance; now I go for a walk around the city and take pictures of random things I see: maybe a dress, shoes, or a couple that inspire me to recreate an interesting pose “.
8. Expect a book in the near future
“I would like to create books that collect the photos I take every year, like those by Rineke Dijkstra, in which she photographs a person growing up, getting pregnant and having children. Not only for me, but also for my friends, because my work follows their growth in recent years: I think it is very interesting to observe such a thing ”.