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Barbershop Talk

Keep your Eyes on the Stars, and your Feet on the Ground

Jamal Muhammad October 31, 2016

Written By: Nayo Johnson

My name is Nayo Johnson, and I am an artist based in Oakland, California. I grew up in a family full of artists and realized my passion for visual art and photography at a very young age. I was officially introduced to photography at the age of 12. Taking photos for a company called T-Rich Productions. I did not take photography seriously until my senior year of high school after the football season where I attended Oakland Technical High School. During my four years attending Oakland Tech, I mainly focused on sports and excelling in my academics. My family always kept me involved in music, art, and photography programs as an adolescent.

Eventually, I learned an array of skills and techniques on how to use a camera and find my personal aesthetic. Photography distracted me from football, and within a year, I made a firm decision to discover alternative ways of expressing my creativity. My journey at Oakland Tech encouraged me to surround myself with individuals who supported my craft as a photographer.

Photo Credit: Nayo Johnson

Photo Credit: Nayo Johnson

To pursue my education, I attended Sonoma State University after graduation. The atmosphere was such a change of pace from being in Oakland. Living and going to school in Sonoma County was an interesting dynamic, to say the least, simply because there wasn’t a lot of people that looked like me. In essence, I stood out, which is a blessing and a curse within itself.

It was a predominately white school, not saying this is a bad thing, but the intentions of people off campus were something in which they were not used to nor comfortable with me. Many people didn’t hesitate to openly express their concern with me in a multitude of different ways. There are exceptional students in Sonoma County, and at the university, but that environment was not conducive to my learning style that further led to my homecoming.

However, I always had a camera handy, and people began noticing that I had a passion for art. Students on campus slowly started to show their appreciation for my work that I upload on Instagram and Facebook. It became routine for me to go out and catch the sunset, and capture whatever I could before the red, yellows, and blues faded to black. In Sonoma, there are so many beautiful scenic spots that seemed undiscovered or the most popular place for landscape photographers.

Photo Credit: Nayo Johnson

Photo Credit: Nayo Johnson

On my departure from Sonoma State, I returned to Oakland where I continued my education and my passion for photography. So I wanted to continue my studies at the University of Arts in San Francisco, majoring in photography, video production, and digital art. But I changed my mind when I realized the amount of debt I could potentially create for myself. Besides, I decided to find another economically friendly way to hone my abilities.

From watching Youtube videos, emailing local photographers, to speaking with professors from Berkeley City College about the subject. I was absorbing as much information about photography not only as an art form but also as a business. Immediately, reconnecting with close friends and family who are all talented artist of all varieties and created, a production company called StarShooter Produxtion.

StarShooter Produxtion simply started as a photography page on WordPress.com to showcase the work I was doing as well providing local updates on past collaborations. Once my artistry began to improve, I started finding my identity with the camera. I transitioned from shooting spectacular still photos to shooting action shots.

Photo Credit: Nayo Johnson

Photo Credit: Nayo Johnson

Towards the end of 2014, StarShooter Produxtion got its first independent contract with SPORTSWURLZ, a small company based in San Jose that publishes local photography of high school sporting events. That’s when I started to realize the real art in photography because shooting things standing still and in motion are two entirely different concepts. It was a learning curve that I had to overcome, but through watching Youtube videos, emailing local photographers, and speaking with professors, it becomes less and less complex, in which I found a love for video and cinematography.

At the beginning of 2015, I transitioned into cinematography which was difficult because going from editing photos to videos was a challenging process. Nevertheless, I did not quit or complain I just practiced until I was familiar with the software. And now I have a couple of music videos that are streaming on my website.

Lastly, I want my production company to attack the issues in today’s society visually. Also, I would like to work with other production teams as well as an artist to create more short films that embody the struggle of the impoverished, less privileged, and especially the black experience in America because I feel like these topics are of supreme importance. My motivation as a photographer comes from the artists that I work with and how I’m able to help them on their journey. I would love to team up with other organizations and like-minded business to help raise awareness about certain political issues as well as working closely with community leaders to improve the communities in which we operate from on a daily basis.