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Friday, April 20, 2012

A Photographer's Fashion Sense:

Marvin Bartley's Fashion Photography, and more... 

"I always knew what I wanted...where my life is concerned."
Marvin Bartley steps in front of the camera gracing us with a few poses, some of which he’s taught models to use. 

Believe me, it was as easy to get the photographer to agree to this shoot as it was for him to stop himself from directing it. Some habits are just too hard to break. With his camera pre-set, the lighting adjusted, and a few awkward moments aside, the shoot picked up pace. Two outfits later it was finished. Like most photo shoots, we check the images to see what we’ve got and for a someone who’s spent years looking through the other side of the lens, most of the images were pretty impressive. The hard part was really narrowing down.

In keeping with the shoot I got a chance to delve into Bartley’s fashionable side. In my previous interview with the photographer for ARC Magazine, I focused on his first love—fine art photography, but I’ve summoned some detail about his second favourite, which is fashion.

Bartley claims he’s always been fascinated with this genre of photography. Fashion magazines were always stacked in bundles in his dorm room at Edna Manley College, all with the intention that one day he would have an opportunity to create images that mirrored high-fashion and editorials campaigns. At first he would practice with his friends, who would offer their own level of modeling, but the determination to be great pushed him to eventually work with models, musicians, commercial clients, and the occasional individual looking for a physical upgrade. He started teaming with one of Jamaica’s multitalented household names, Dexter Pottinger, who easily exposed him to a few tips to improving the way he captured high fashion images, while referring a few styling ideas to the photographer’s personal style. 

These days, fashion photography is what the young Jamaican does to relax, especially when he wants an escape from the rigid commercial world.

“My goal for this year is to move my fashion photography into a very unique expression as I found with the direction I have in fine art,” Bartley explained, “Because those are the things that make a difference; when no one else is doing what you do.”

So far, Bartley has proven that his technical style and approach can co-exist in all sectors of photography, where his fine art, fashion and commercial work influence each other. One example is Etana's album "Free Expressions." 

His repertoire includes shooting for magazines such as SHE Caribbean, Jamaque, Iconography, XO Mag, German Playboy, and Ocean Style. Some of his other clients include Musicians such as, Tifa, I-Octane, Gyptian, Alaine, Shaggy, Sean Paul, Tarrus Riley, and Richie Spice.

However, the ardent photographer feels his journey is only beginning. He plans on catapulting not only his fashion and commercial work, but his fine art as well, claiming top clients, and the not-so-high ones, who are willing to give him a chance.

I wanted my readers to get to know the 29 year-old a little better and Bartley graciously shared with me his routine and his thoughts about this whole business of “fashion.”

What’s the first thing you usually do when you wake in the morning?
I reach for my iPad, put it on Calvary Chapel, and while that is playing, I generally look on the images for a project I’m working on then check my email. I’m a gear head. While editing, I’m usually watching something on photography and the latest gears on my second screen.

What can’t you leave the house without?
My iPhone and, occasionally, my iPad

Do you believe you have found your calling and when did you realize that?
Yes. Ever since I got good at it.

Have you crossed paths with anyone famous or intriguing in your career? What was that experience like?
Even though I’ve met a few celebrities, like Sean Paul and Shaggy, meeting Renée Cox was the most memorable. It was a big deal to meet an artist I’ve been researching and whose work deals with issues that I care about. She’s a very artistic person in both her works and personality, so it was very exciting. To have her tell me, after viewing my fine art, that I was unto something good, is definitely reassuring. Even today she’s still encourages me.

Who do you hope to meet or work with one day? And why?
Joel-Peter Witkin. He’s the only photographer that I can identify with in the kind of photography that matters most to me. I would like to be in the same space with him, or even watch him work, because, outside of reading about it, that’s the best way to understand his creative process.

Left to right: Jamaican artistes Tami Chynn, Gyptian, Tifa
How do you usually end your day?
No matter how late I work, I will still take time out to browse photo-related sites like Digital Photography Review and DigitalRev TV.

Is there anything that has happened to you in your life that has sobered you up, or has impacted on your life today?
I always knew what I wanted. I’m very patient when working towards a particular goal. It’s safe to say that I’ve never been drunk, where my life is concerned.

What philosophy do you live by?
“Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” I heard that at a high school graduation in 1999, and that philosophy has stuck with me since.
What excites you the most about fashion photo shoots?
I like doing shoots that involve a team, like a make-up artist, designer, and stylist. When everyone plays a separate role, they tend to dedicate meticulous time to it. I believe such collaborations create beautiful outcomes. I also like the ones that are planned way in advance and the ones that are impromptu. A model is on hand, the outfits are materialized out of nowhere and the make-up is ready. Spontaneous moments like these make the work exciting.

What kind of models do you prefer to work with?
For the women, I like working with tall elegant models, who are effortless in their gestures and body language. I like the facial features to be Afro-European (think Liya Kebede). Sometimes, I appreciate the angular facial features, a kind of strangeness that can appear alien.

For guys I like working with men that are just as tall as me. I’m 6ft 5”, so at times I find it strange to shoot someone who is below 6ft in height. However, if the model has strong facial features and is very good, I can easily overlook that.
 Female model wearing Chantell Walters. Male model wearing Romero Bryan for Iconography Magazine
Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers?
Don’t just know all the technical things. Just do it. Don’t just buy all the equipment you can buy. Use them.

What is your fashion sense?
Anything that’s not what you see every day. I don’t like trends or the idea of everybody wearing or doing the same thing. I like when people have some originality. The fact is everything has already been done and having a fashion sense is finding out what works for you, your body type, your personality and making the most of it. It really doesn’t change that much once you find it. That’s when you have your “sense” and not what everyone dictates.

See More Images from Marvin Bartley's Portfolio:
Also, catch up with the photographer at his blog space to see what he's been up to lately!

Model wearing Catalin Botezatu for SHE Caribbean 
Model wearing Barry Moncrieffe for XO Magazine
Image left for Jamaque Magazine
Model wearing Sushma Patel for SHE Caribbean
Editorial Page for Jamaque Magazine


  1. wonderfully done Chevonese. i got a better understand of what my brother does and why he does it for a living. it was a great experience as i read the answers to the questions posed, being exposed the passion, love and dedication he has towards his work. love it, beautifully written. inspiring.thanks girl.

  2. I’ve been a follower on your blog for a while now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation

  3. Thanks Chevy for making me look good! lol

  4. Thanks!I really love the way you captured the location and models and made a balance to the atmospheric fashion sense. Very compelling. Congratulations!