Anthony Supreme Is Living In A Dreamville
You might not know it, but you’ve probably already seen Anthony Supreme’s work. As J.Cole’s photographer and close friend, he shot the cover of the rapper’s 2016 album 4 Your Eyez Only and is about to start his next adventure on the J.Cole KOD tour. He may be living the dream, but it’s a result of hard work, opportunity, and focus. After a stint in the military and his mother’s passing, Anthony decided to drive from his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina to Los Angeles, California in his Honda Element to pursue a dream of directing. While living out of his car in LA, he met J.Cole through a mutual friend from Charlotte, and the rest is history. We caught up with the talented photographer to hear about that big move and his creative process. And, just for Milk, he’s created a stunning new shoot starring Lute, an artist signed to Cole’s label Dreamville.
Can you talk about how you wound up in Los Angeles?
I moved to LA about four years ago. My mom passed away, and my dad was at a point where he was ok and retired, and my sister was married and everything, so I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I guess like every typical ‘follow your dreams’ story. I got a little Honda element and went out there and slept in my car and stuck it out.
What happened once you got to LA?
At one point I was trying to overcome my living situation, but after a while I started loving it. I don’t have kids or anything like that, [laughing] so I think if I had kids it would probably be a little worse. It allowed me to be more focused on what I was trying to do, because during the day you can’t just sit in the car. It’s too hot. So I was like yo, I’m gonna go out and start working on emails or teaching different things to different people, or just kind of like working on photography or working on my directing. Never being lazy. I was always on time because I never had to drive anywhere! I can just drive where I need to meet somebody, sleep in, wake up in the morning, and be ready to be on time. Then I met [J.] Cole. My friend Scott and I knew each other from Charlotte, and he had a project with Cole that he brought me on for. I kept developing my own photography skills one day at a time and presenting new ideas. From there we did the cover for Cole, and I kept growing and growing and growing.
How do you think that your childhood in North Carolina informs your work?
When I first started, I was doing music videos in the Charlotte area. In LA I started getting more serious about photography. I never went to school or anything, so it’s been trial and error—doing different things and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I study a lot of other people’s work. When it comes to North Carolina now, I think I’m trying to match where I’m from and who I am into my style of photography. I’m not there yet, but I’m learning.
How has LA impacted your work?
Access. My style of photography often involves musicians or celebrities of some sort, so access to them. Somebody is always there. New York is good too, but I think in Los Angeles you can do more things and go more places and create. You can go to a beach, a studio, outside or the street and capture the city. All the looks are kind of there. Maybe not green trees.
Can you contrast directing and doing photography? Which one do you prefer?
I think I like directing more. Photography is relaxing because it’s not as stressful, and directing is more passionate for me. Honestly directing makes all the money. With photography you have to be way more strategic in what you do, ’cause it’s easy to do stuff for free. I think documentary filmmaking and hopefully going to film school at some point is the long term goal.
How did you get here, in terms of your style? What did your earliest photos look like?
My earliest photos didn’t really have much mood. It’s different when you go to school for photography and you get the culture and the history and the background. I just picked it up and started doing it, so the first thing that I saw was images that I thought were cool, and then I later discovered the background and the stories. That influenced my style a lot. Now I create moods to make people feel.
Can you explain your process, when you’re taking a photo? What’s going through your head?
It’s a lot of planning. I study whatever the subject or the talent hasn’t done, and from a human standpoint I try to tell myself not to be nervous, and not to be afraid to ask for certain things. I challenge myself to find the right way to articulate what I want. And I also take time to study certain shots beforehand to know the angles. As far as gear, if it’s a super serious shoot I’ll have a range of film, different 35mm to 120mm and even digital as a super 100% I have the shot. And then I go back and forth based on creating certain moods, and the music, and trying to articulate certain images and shots.
In terms of how you shot specifically J Cole, can you talk about that process and how you thought about it?
Most of the photos that have come out are press photos, and that process starts out with pitching him what I’d like to do. With one shoot he was about to go to Africa, and he only had like 3 hours out of the initial 12 hours we scheduled. Then when we first got there he was really sleepy, so he slept for like the first 30 minutes. He had a lot going on. That’s another big thing—especially with celebrities who are always on the road and always in different time zones—it’s like trying to get them to be in this moment and not be everywhere else. That whole process began with trying to get him in that right space, and trying to get all the moods captured the right way in a short amount of time. Cole is very open and artistic too, so he trusts me that I’ll get things done in his time frame too.
What is it like to be on tour?
It’s interesting. J.Cole is more chill. Most of the time he has his son and his wife with him, so it’s not wild and crazy like some artists. I think he’s been on tour so many times that it’s more about business. He goes and does his performance and goes home. He has his routine. He’ll show up to the arena probably an hour before he has to go on, and he does a little routine backstage, gets ready to go, does his thing, stands backstage for a little bit, and then he goes home to the tour bus. It’s not like there’s a room full of groupies and women every night. His tour is more chill, like the adult version. From a photographer’s point of view it’s like the same stuff every night, so you just have to be creative and find something that’s not been used or an angle that you haven’t shown already.
Besides photography, what other art forms inspire you?
I’ve been working with this comedian, and his art form is really interesting. Not something I would like to do, but it’s definitely ballsier than anything else, just because with a musician you can sort of hide behind the music, but he can’t really hide behind anything. It’s just his words. People are waiting for him to give them laughter, and the whole room is quiet and they’re looking at you. He’ll go to multiple clubs in one night, testing his punchlines to build up to the main piece of content. And through his own process he’s testing and doing the same lines and trying things. It’s scary but interesting.
If you could shoot any artist, who would it be?
The Weeknd. His stuff is crazy.
Images courtesy of Anthony Supreme
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