J. Shotti pictured with Teyana Taylor
J. Shotti, a former music producer and song writer out of the Bronx, shares his come up from running around with a mixtape to becoming a self-made photographer taking pictures for luxury brands, celebrities and even coming out with his own photography book, ”EVERY TWO WEEKS”.
AT FIRST, THERE WAS MUSIC
J. Shotti, known at the time as ‘John Shotti’, studied music business and hung around most of the music executives out of NYC, creating music. He shared how he remembers taking classes with soon-to-be celebrities, such as Chrisette Michele, and just having fun. He made his mark in the music industry after producing his ‘A Prince in Harlem’ mixtape which was a musical blend of Prince and Cam’ron tracks back in 2006. Released with Tapemasters Inc., they sold over 2,000 copies in just the first week, was covered by Billboard Magazine amongst other magazines and received a lot of attention from record labels and brands alike. John Shotti was off to what seemed a promising career in music and was in discussion with a lot of labels to come up in the game. All was going well until he ran into legal problems and was looking to almost facing jail time which was a huge wakeup call. The glitz and glam seemed far from reach and he entered a dark space of just putting everything into perspective from then on – what was the purpose and is this worth it?
John Shotti’s Cover Art for his “A Prince in Harlem” Mixtape
FLASHING…LIGHTS, LIGHTS, LIGHTS #KanyeVoice
Soon after, taking a break from music, he fell into a romance with a young lady who became somewhat of a muse and inspiration. That same year, for his 25th birthday, he was gifted a camera, which he had no idea how to use or what to even do with it. He started taking pictures of his girlfriend at the time, and would be mesmerized on how well he would capture the emotion and seize the sweet moments with her. This led to an appreciation for photography and its’ power of storytelling through an image.
Music was his form of expression, and he saw similarities with photography, he said, “like music, you have a short time frame to tell a story. A song runs for 3 to 4 minutes, and that’s all you have to tell a complete story. With photography, it’s the same limited time, except you only have one image to express a whole thought.”
WHAT’S IT GONNA TAKE DOE?
He kept snapping pictures of every moment and decided to really focus on this new found craft and documenting everything in his portfolio on his MySpace (back when MySpace was a thing). He remembers on how he would be up in Barnes and Noble reading book, after book, after book, teaching himself photography techniques, who’s who in the game and what’s it going to take to get this new found passion to start bringing in cash flow.
THE START… THE CONNECT: PIETER HENKET
All this research gave J. Shotti a new vibe. He went all in and started emailing some of NYC’s famed photographers to see how he can get an ‘in’. (Keep in mind that this dude, Shotti, still doesn’t know how to properly work a camera…#YoloDoe) Soon, he got the attention of famed Dutch photographer, Pieter Henket, who at the time shot Lady GaGa’s album cover, ‘The Fame’ and was shooting for big time acts.
Pieter Henket, shot by J. Shotti
J. Shotti led Pieter to check out his work on his MySpace, (yo, check out my MySpace doe…) and Pieter was immediately turned off by Shotti’s profile picture which was a gif. of Shotti throwing out newspapers in the middle of the street, which Shotti thought was artsy but Pieter deemed it to be ‘too out there’.
J. Shotti’s .gif from MySpace
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT, BRUH, BRAH
Relentlessly, Shotti continued pursuing conversations with Pieter until he finally gave him a shot to come in and watch Pieter at work and stand in the background of a Ryan Leslie shoot. Shotti, nervous, still not knowing what the heck he’s doing or how to take a proper picture, remembers accidentally breaking a light stand, stepping over cords and completely lost in this new found glamour he never imagined getting this close to.
Sure enough, his humbleness and willingness to learn and listen to Pieter, led him to more invitations and more exposure and entrance into Pieter’s world, network and Shotti, gratefully, took advantage and soaked everything in.
Shotti shares that the biggest, most valuable lesson Henket taught him was, “take photos of what you love versus what you think may be ‘cool’.” This taught Shotti to be comfortable, let go and feel free when capturing moments and keep it personal, have a palate, and own it.
A natural hustler, he ran around with the same hustle of running around with his successful mixtape, selling his photography service and shooting Soulja Boy, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Estelle amongst others.
Photo taken by J Shotti, Estelle on set.
His story of trying to make a name in the ever-so difficult music industry, getting so close to making it and almost losing it due to found troubles, led him to a whole new life and art.
Today, J. Shotti’s proudest accomplishment is his first solo project, a collection of instant film images entitled ”EVERY TWO WEEKS” which is his debut and self-published by J. Shotti, documenting images he’s collected that clearly shows his artistic style and taste in photography.
J. SHOTTI’S CURRENT PROJECT: “EVERY TWO WEEKS”
J. Shotti explains, “I wanted to create images in a more organic way, simply making art out of life as it happened in a cycle of time which I feel most of us live our lives. The output of instant film and the beauty of its imperfections was the perfect way for me to capture that. ”EVERY TWO WEEKS” consists of over 200 images that serve as a visual diary for both Shotti and his subjects during the 14 days in which the project was shot. It collects encounters with models, musicians, friends and strangers alike, as captured by two automatic pack-film cameras that showcase Shotti’s distinct perspective on time and how we spend it.
Organized around themes from the 7 days of creation, the large format paperback reflects on Shotti’s signature portraiture style fused with a candid snapshot aesthetic. Stella Giovanni, the design team behind the book add, “This intimate slice of experience reveals a life at once sensational and universal in a narrative of daily creation. Expect a bold size and style that varies at the pace of New York’s streets.”
PREVIEW THE PROJECT