Phil V is a #YounGeniuZ who is a creator by definition and has been one of entertainment’s elite up and coming photographers, specifically using a Polaroid camera. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY the young go-getter has one thing on his mind, and that’s to consistently prove to himself that what he envisions can come into fruition. Being in the presence with the likes of: Jay-Z and artists like KAWS, with a dollar, a dream and a camera, in one year? This is only the beginning for Phil.
Mechanical Dummy had a chance to talk to him about his humble beginnings as a creator making clothing designs to what it takes to make it in the city of Dreams. We got to touch on the realities of success and what he had to go through to make some of these moves happen. With the success of his experiment “the Polaroid project” Here’s what he had to say.
Words by: Roger Kimbeni
Mechanical Dummy: Phil how you living man?
Phil V: I’m alright man taking it easy up here.
MD: You’ve been making a lot of heavy moves these past couple years, so for the people who don’t know who you are can you introduce yourself?
P: I’m Phil V. originally from Brookyln, NY. Lately I’ve been working on this photography project that’s been getting me a lot of good responses. But essentially I’m a creator all around; I don’t want to put myself in that title of just calling myself a photographer. I actually just recently have been embracing that title as a photographer but all around I’m a creator. It’s the whole spectrum of creating in general and working with people, networking with people stuff like that. So with this photography project I’ve been using only polaroids and that’s just the medium that I’m using right now. There are a couple reasons of why I chose to use polaroids but that’s just a medium. I’ve been at it for about a year and a half now.
MD: How did you start of as a creator?
P: I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember. I’ve got pictures that I’ve drawn that my parents took pride in and stuff like that, so I guess I’ve been creating artistically and visually for a long time. My earliest memory for one of the concrete things was; I started making T-shirts early in high school, like ninth grade. I basically started creating t-shirts, it was iron on and I basically had my own brand in my head. Nothing was a company, or a LLC or anything like that, it was just really in my head. I used to wear a lot of air force 1s; I was really an airforce 1 freak. That was like back in like? Shit, 2006 maybe, around that time period. The brand I was working on was called Base-1. The basis of the actual designs was airforce 1 so I called it Base-1. Before I started making t-shirts I was into photoshop, illustrator and I taught myself that, ever since I was in junior highschool I just picked it up one day. I used to be on forums a lot back in the day too, the Hypebeast forums, I know a lot of people was on Niketalk before it got too crazy. Another forum I used to be on a lot was Uptowns.net. Those forums were like some of the first meeting places for a lot of people. The same way a lot of people meet on Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter now. Those forums back in the day were how people used to meet. The way it was set up, there were different categories. So they had like 20 categories and I was going into the graphic design section and the uptown section (air force Nike shoes). So on these forums I guess I developed my own love for art without even knowing it. When I saw someone create something I would ask “How did they create that?” I would go create that myself and that’s how I started learning how to use photoshop and illustrator, and I basically taught myself how to use all those programs. So early on with the t-shirts, like I mentioned those were iron-ons, same way that you would use a high quality heat press would be the same way I would use my iron at my house to make an iron-ons. So the quality was pretty much garbage and the t-shirts I was using was garbage too but I was really just making stuff for me. I wasn’t really concerned with anybody else wearing it, I was just really inspired by air force 1. So earlier in high school I just wanted to see and wear my own creation, I wanted to do what I wanted to do. It wasn’t like “yo I want to be a graphic designer” it was more like “ I want to create something dope that I would look at and say I made that”. It wasn’t trying to be a designer for anybody else, it was really just about getting out my own vision out of my own head. Ever since then I’ve really just been trying to get my own visions out. That’s what I’m doing with the Polaroid project right now. Rather than me going to look for a photographer, I want to be my own photographer. That’s why I’m just coming into terms with the word photographer because I’m just trying to get my vision out rather than having to depend on somebody else to explain your vision. It takes time to hone your craft you know what I’m saying? but that’s just how it is, do things for myself.
MD: You have a real “By any means necessary” personality. You’re relentless and I remember I was reading about you being at the Paul Wall concert in New York City and you didn’t have a backstage pass but yet you still got a photo. How do you get into these parties, with their being gatekeepers and having to get through certain people?
P: Yeah I’ve experienced all that, security guards and all that. But I don’t know, maybe some of the people in New York take it for granted because they’re living in New York (the people who live and are from NYC). I’m from New York too but you have to understand that this is really the Mecca of opportunity. You can go anywhere in the world and make your own opportunity but when you have a place like New York City where it’s just so fast paced and a lot of stuff is happening you might go to 2 to 3 shows in a night. Where as if in another state they’re lucky to get 2 to 3 shows in a month, you know what I’m saying? I basically took advantage of my surroundings and everything I have right in front of me. I still feel like I don’t take complete advantage of it because the potential is limitless. It’s really limitless to what can happen or who you can run into out here in NYC. This is one of those places that you have to be at the right place at the right time. I say it’s being lucky and being lucky isn’t necessarily a strike of luck, it’s when preparation meets opportunity. So with my whole Polaroid project especially with the Paul Wall situation, it was a lot of people backstage and a lot of people worked their way up there somehow someway. In this city it’s never really a “no” it’s just when somebody can’t grant that (access) to you right then and there, then you have to find a way where you can grant it for yourself or figure out how to get what you want to get. It’s never a “no” don’t ever just settle at a “no” with anything you’re doing creatively. With the Paul Wall show in particular I didn’t have backstage passes; even with that, security guards fronted on me a few times before I even got to a position where I can shoot Paul. From the video we shot of the event it looked dope but that encounter was really one of those “alright well, preparation meets opportunity” I got backstage by me being relentless, I mean I want to be backstage for a reason, I’m not trying to be back there just to be chilling around people. I want to offer something more than just my presence or whatever the case is so when I do get backstage and when I did get backstage, I had my camera. I also had my videographer, who’ve I’ve been working with lately and she was on deck. Not only was I on deck, she was on deck and we just literally made that happen when opportunity presented itself and that’s how we got lucky with that. Situations like that, I’m not going to front and say “I know everybody and I’m well connected to the tee” like I never met Paul Wall a day in my life before that video. He was real receptive, it happened organically and a lot of things that happens with me is organic and I’m prepared. You have to be prepared if you have your camera on you and you end up running into these people especially being in NYC. You can get that shot that you want or if you’re a designer and you have your cards on you or you’re wearing your actual designs, that’s you being prepared to meet that opportunity. In New York it can happen that fast. Keep your mind on that goal; I didn’t really want to leave that venue without getting those shots that I wanted. I could’ve left and there have been times where I did leave and I didn’t get the shot that I wanted for whatever reason. But in that case I wasn’t leaving. Being at concert venues and all that you can just work your way in and if you’re not fortunate enough to get that connect that can just literally get you back there, sometimes you don’t have that connect so you have to make it work and be prepared. There’s been a lot of situations like that, a lot of times I do have the connect, I got the plug, I might be the plug or you just have to make it work.
MD: You’ve shot a lot of people from all aspects of the industry like Pharell, Jay –Z, Dame Dash, Drake, Lenny S. ; and even business owners like 40ozvan, A-trak, Kid Super, Vashti and etc. That’s a good look man. I’ve been seeing this video series that you have called “shorts” when did you start doing that?
P: With the shorts that’s just an extension of my Polaroid project. I’m just giving people the lifestyle. This is literally just a glimpse though, it’s not the maximum full potential of what I can do visually but it’s a glimpse of the lifestyle, every time I meet up with somebody or every time I have a shoot. I’m just offering people the lifestyle. I met my videographer recently, and we actually knocked those (the video series) out in a good amount of time. She’s very consistent, I got footage floating around in a couple people’s hands right now that haven’t been edited, but with her we were able to come out with 6 videos in less than a month before even me meeting her (in person). She was on it, I appreciate good people like that who are willing to work and see the vision and we can really come together on one accord and create. Some people will still go on my Instagram or my Tumblr and they’ll ask “what app is that?”. We’re in 2014 where there are so many apps and you can do whatever you want from your phone. So with the videos I’m just trying to show the people that this is not no app. This is not no hobby where I’m just sitting at home creating pictures, I’m actually in the field, I’m actually interacting with these people, the same people that you love the same people that we all love. There’s not too much commentary on the videos, because I just want to show what I’m doing, I’m not too big on speaking unless it’s a interview or something like that. This is a display of what I can do and who I can feature, working with people all around the world. The content is really limitless. You can’t get that vintage Polaroid look unless you have a vintage Polaroid camera and I’m just trying to show people that.
MD: What’s some advice that you can give to the young visionaries that want to follow their dreams?
P:You have to listen to yourself, that kinda sounds arrogant or it might sound a little crazy but the fact is you’re living your life. You have to listen to yourself because you’re living your life, you make your own decisions in life. You can take everything that you hear with a grain of salt, everything that your parents want you to do or what other professors want you to do, you can take that with a grain of salt. Ultimately, if you want to create or you want to do something that is unorthodox, that somebody will look at you and think that you’re crazy, if you truly believe in yourself with something that you want to do then you have to listen to yourself. It’s not going to be easy, I’ll tell you that straight up, especially financially if you’re not figuring out how to get money for what you love doing initially. It’s going to be tough but anything worth having will be hard to get. My advice is to listen to yourself, don’t even listen to my advice hahaha. Listen to my advice with a grain of salt but still be like “yo, he is right, and I’ll use that philosophy and I’m going to apply that philosophy to my life” That’s my philosophy now. Give yourself advice, stay true to yourself. It’s tough out here, especially in New York, there are a lot of financial obligations out here for sure but in the end it’ll be worth it. For some people it takes a year for some it may take 5 or 10 years but if it’s something you truly want to do, you only have one life to live so you might as well go after that. And if it takes you a longtime then it takes you a longtime or you might have to work a little smarter instead of working harder. Stay consistent; don’t look for that instant gratification because it’s not going to happen overnight. Even when it seems overnight, trust me it didn’t happen overnight. So just stay persistent with yourself, listen to yourself, and believe in yourself. If you have outside influences like your parents, listen to them but take it with a grain of salt because at the end of the day they already lived their life so now you gotta live your life. Its hard though especially if you’re reading this now and you’re living at your parent’s house, it’ll be tough to listen to yourself while still trying to keep your parents happy and while you’re not financially stable. But sometimes you gotta be financially unstable, you know what I mean? Like Basquiat was homeless before he came and did his thing. It really takes that drive, that inner drive; you almost have to psych yourself out.
Donate to Phil V at: http://Gofundme.com/
Visit his Website at: http;//www.philvnyc.tumblr.com