Having landed some of his first assignments on the strength of personal work, photographer Elton Anderson has been working on a personal project featuring his favorite celebrities and entertainers to attract the notice of more clients. Anderson and actor/comedian Cedric Antonio Kyles (aka Cedric the Entertainer) share a common goal–to be featured in GQ–so they recently collaborated on a photo shoot they called “The Road to GQ” to get the magazine’s attention.
Anderson explains that he was able to approach Cedric by enlisting the help of a friend who was working on digital marketing for Cedric’s TV Land sitcom. Cedric and his team, along with stylist Apuje Kalu and Anderson, strategized ways of incorporating three things that are important to the comedian – fashion, comedy and family – into the shoot. It took place in April 2014. Box Eight Studio in Los Angeles provided a mix of outdoor and indoor locations, and Anderson’s wardrobe stylist brought in a ton of props. Anderson says they were able to shoot six looks in about four hours. “Cedric was funny (of course) but most of all he anticipated what I needed from him as a subject,” says Anderson.
Though the shoot has yet to lead to an assignment for GQ, Anderson says the results are encouraging. A few GQ editors gave Cedric some social media shout-outs, and Anderson says Cedric has had a few email exchanges with the magazine. “If anything,” Anderson says, “the images have strengthened my portfolio by leaps and bounds and allowed me to set up meetings” with other potential clients, including TV Land, BET, BONOBOS, Essence, Walmart, and Capitol Records.
Anderson, who would like to shoot more musicians for editorial and commercial clients, also recently photographed his favorite rapper, Kendrick Lamar. Anderson had only five minutes with Lamar, but says, “It’s really fun to take a celebrity and bring them into your world for a minute. I end up making really cool friends along with great imagery.”
And it’s a a good way to move your career forward. “Personal work is the fuel that keeps me growing creatively and professionally,” says Anderson, a former pharmaceutical sales rep who moved to Los Angeles to pursue photography full time in 2012. “Potential clients tend to gravitate heavily to the work I cooked up in my brain and executed versus something I got paid to do. I actually booked my first big jobs with Disney, Monster Headphones and Walmart because of my personal work so I’m motivated to shoot for myself on a more continuous basis.”