Keeping it 100 With Ro.Lexx
The tipping point of Ro.lexx’s career was one you might recognize: Bryson Tiller’s Trapsoul. album cover. Her phone rings one day out of the blue — “What are you doing tomorrow?” (Luckily she was free.) Twenty-four hours later, Ro.lexx and Tiller are shooting in his home, maneuvering her $10 lights around the get the shot. That memory serves as a lesson that she won’t soon forget: “it just taught me that I can create with what I have, you know?” and, consequently, makes her someone who understands a thing or two about authentically capturing a person’s vibe (even when your only equipment is a pair of $10 lights). It should come as no surprise, then, that she fits the bill for our Keeping it 100 series in partnership with FUJIFILM North America. Below, Ro.lexx reveals some more memorable moments of her photography career, building chemistry with her subjects, and what the biggest compliment is that somebody could say about a photo she took. Learn more about the X-T100 here, check out Fujifilm here, and if you’re feeling lucky, head to our Instagram to enter the giveaway.
How did you get started in photo? When was the moment when you were like okay, cool, I can actually do this for a career?
Yeah. I played sports my whole life, so I didn’t really have time for the creative world that I’m in now. When I was a senior in high school I got hurt. I had a college scholarship, so I got that taken away because I got hurt. And things kind of just happened the last three months of high school, where I was like, “Oh this is crazy, I kind of have to figure out what I want to do.” I’ve always been really independent, so I ended up graduating high school, and I had two jobs, and I was like, “Hmmm…what do I want to do?” I was kind of in that place. I knew that I always did like to take photos, and edit, like on Myspace and my Facebook and whatever, so that first year when I got out of high school I saved money, got a camera, and started messing around with it. Obviously with the power of social media, I would just ask people who I thought were cool, like, “Oh I have this idea, can I do this, can I do that.” Eventually it just grew into what it was. But…I don’t know. I just always feel like I have nothing to lose. Like back then, Bryson Tiller, the artist, I really liked his music, when he was super underground. And I just asked him, “Hey, can I take pictures of you?” through social media, and he was like, “Yeah, of course, I like your work.” The stuff I had on my Instagram. So from that point forward, just because we kept it really consistent and I started building an aesthetic with him, it was like okay, this is like real life. Like, I can do this.
Do you feel like working with him was kind of like the tipping point?
Yeah, right before him I had started to network pretty well, like through people that I knew. But when I worked with him it was like my first publication, like learning how the business side of it works. You know, just having bigger plans than posting it on Instagram. So I learned a lot through that experience, yeah.
It’s crazy because I feel like nowadays it’s like everyone is a photographer, and everyone has an iPhone in their pocket, but it’s such a huge leap from that to working with artists and trying to get your stuff published and hustling in that sense.
When you’re shooting, how do you make sure that you’re capturing photographs that deliver a true sense of rawness and authenticity?
When people talk to me about my work, they always tell me like, “Ooh! Is this candid?” Like they don’t really know how I took it. And I feel like that’s the best compliment I get, because I just pride myself on that. Authenticity is serious. Because I don’t know, I’m just not the biggest fan of the most posed, beautiful looking photo. I would rather it be real. And I feel like my shooting experiences, like when I’m doing the photo shoot, I befriend my subject as soon as I can, and get to know them and make sure that through our interactions and our time together they’re super comfortable, because I just want them to know…I always make it clear that these photos aren’t going to go anywhere, it’s just going to be fun, just do whatever you want. And then from that point on, you build a chemistry, and just make sure that everything is true to what it is. Like, when I show somebody a picture of themselves and they like it, I can see their confidence is just like, “Oh, I look good. I feel cute taking pictures.” And then I’m like, “Okay, cool. This is nice.”
What’s the biggest compliment somebody could say about a photo that you took?
Oh my gosh. Hmm. Honestly it’s probably when people comment on the pictures I take of them. Like say I do a shoot with someone and they’re like, “Oh this is the best shoot I ever did” or “This is my favorite picture of myself.” That’s crazy. Because I know how it feels to not necessarily want to be in front of the camera. I mean I don’t ever want to be. [Laughs] But I know how it feels when someone is like, “Ughh..I have to be the subject…” You know it’s stressful, like you always want to look your best, obviously. Or when they post it on Instagram, I’m like, “Oh okay, they loved it and they want to share it with the world. That’s dope.” Or even with artists, when they appreciate my work to represent their art, and I think that’s amazing, doing album covers or single covers, and stuff like that, that’s crazy. All the work they put in, and they still like my vision and can pair it with that, and I think that’s dope.
Yeah, ’cause that means that you really get it and understand what they’re trying to express.
So who are some photographers who you respect or work with or just think their work is dope?
David Camarena is one, and I met him because he was on tour with Kehlani. And he’s full of really good energy, and we get along in real life. And his work is just super, super dope. We both came from the sports world, and then went into this world, and we’ve kind of just built our brands with our own names through the music industry, which is super dope, and even right now we’re doing a project together, he’s doing video. And it’s just really cool to be with him but…he’s just one of those people who I feel like everyone should want to work with because he’s just so laid back and cool. So many times I’ve been on sets and you can get anxiety from other people’s energies, and I don’t think they realize how much that affects the whole project: how the model’s looking, or how they’re gonna act. You definitely have to set the tone of being comfortable, so that’s my favorite thing about him.
And then Allbyallen, and he’s just so cool. He doesn’t ever show his face on Instagram and I’ve never met him before, but [Laughs] what I did, I followed him, and I told him like, “Hey, your work is amazing.” It’s like super minimalistic and he does some fashion stuff for Aleali May. That’s how I found him. And I just always was like…I just always want everyone to work with him. I’m like, “Go work with Allen, he’s so cool, he’s so low-key.” And I just admire that side of it. And he shoots a lot film, and digital, but he’s just super super cool. Like his work is super…I don’t know, I just love it. And the last girl…she’s from London and her name’s Vicky and she’s like literally me, but in London. She started in the sports world, and we followed each other like maybe two or three years ago, when we both kind of first started. I met her at a festival out there, and she just like came up to me and was like Ro.lexx I’m Vicky! I’m the girl! And I was like, “Oh cool!” Yeah, it was super dope. So I wanted to pay tribute to keep doing what she’s doing, and we’ve come a long way in the last three years, and I don’t know, I thought it would be cool.
What’s one of your best memories shooting?
I feel like I have so many!
[Laughs] Ok, give me like top three if you can’t pick one.
Okay yeah, I’ll give just a couple, but one is when I did Bryson Tiller’s album cover. He literally called me the day before. We had never shot together before and he just called me and was like, “Hey, um what are you doing tomorrow?” And I was like, “Nothing…I don’t know” and he was like, “Okay, well can you do my album cover? You can come to my house and we can shoot it.” And I was just worried because at that time I had only shot natural light. I didn’t really know what I was doing. He was just like, “I don’t want to leave my house, so whatever you need…” and I was just like, “Whaaaat? What do you mean you won’t leave your house though?” I just had these really cheap $10 lights in my room, and I took them over there and we shot the album cover with that. And I just put the lights everywhere in the house until I really liked something, and we just edited it together and he was like, “Alright, that’s it. This is the album cover.” And I was like, “What? What’s going on?” I just love that story because it just taught me that I can create with what I have, you know. Like I don’t need the $5,000 light to get the same thing done. I’m a strong believer in energies and coming to life that way, but that’s a funny story because he and I always talk about that. I’m like, this album cover came from $10 lights…[Laughs] So that, and then whenever I shoot kids I really like it too. I shot Nike Young Athletes, and there was a little boy from Spain, and he didn’t speak English, so I had to try and speak Spanish with him and I don’t know, it was really fun. And then at the end of the day his mom came up to me and was like, “My son says he loves girl with blue hair.” I was just like, “Oh, this is so cute!” Stuff like that I love. Honestly I have so many good things. I just love that people like to shoot with me, and they’re like, “You’re so humble, and you’re so regular,” and I’m like yeah, I don’t know what you expected but thank you.
[Laughs] I guess you just never know until you meet people.
Yeah, definitely. Even when I was shooting two days ago, and I was playing basketball. I had to shoot young athletes’ basketball, and I was like, “I want to play,” and everyone kind of just looked like, “Oh…okay, you can play.” Yeah! I like being present with the whole moment, you know. I don’t think things should be separated. I’ve been on other people’s sets where they separate the production from the talent, and I think that’s really weird.
I mean, it’s like we’re all human at the end of the day trying to create something cool. It doesn’t have to be so intense.
So my last question is, what do you have coming up, any cool projects you can share?
Definitely. I’m always working on new concepts for myself. Like, for my self satisfaction. But I’m going to start getting into stage design, and just some cool aesthetic creative directions for different artists. So I’m super excited about that. Just to grow from the title “photographer” into just an overall creative person will be cool. [Laughs] So I’m really, really excited about that. And then I’m planning on making some items for myself, and seeing how that goes. I don’t want to say what it is, but I’m looking forward to that, by the end of the year hopefully I’ll have something done. And I’m just excited to keep building my brand as a whole.
Images courtesy of Ro.Lexx
“Keeping It 100” is a series in partnership with FUJIFILM North America
Stay tuned for more from our “Keeping It 100” series for the FUJIFILM X-T100