Interview with photographer Spencer Hawkins

SHORT BIO OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Im a award winning photographer and filmmaker. I started photography back in 2017 but took a 4-year hiatus because I lost interest. In 2021, I picked the camera back up and my life has changed dramatically. I shot a look book for my friend’s brand, Styles By Myles. In 2022. I was featured in 12 small magazines such as Goji Magazine, Kazarj Magazine, Northside Magazine, Fienfh Magazine and MAKESENSE magazine. I’ve also done commercial work for WHATABURGER and some smaller companies here in Auburn. In 2023 I wrote, directed, and shot my award-winning film, No Homecoming. It has been screened in numerous film festivals. It won best documentary at the Virginia Emerging Filmmakers Festival and Best Editing at the Auburn New Media Film Festival.

  • How did it all start out of? What inspired you to pursue photography as a profession (or as a hobby)?

I started photography back as a hobby in 2017. My dad and I are big car enthusiasts, we would attend car shows on the regular and watch cinematic tuner car videos all day and night, that drew my interest first. After thousands of hours watching, I wanted to see if I could do the same thing.

  • Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Sure, I hail from the land of Hampton, Virginia. I mentioned above I started photography back in 2017, but only for about 6 months. I didn’t think I had the right gear to capture what I really wanted, and I also had no money to buy the equipment. I first attended college at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and I picked the camera back up because I was depressed from school and needed an outlet to keep my mind off it. I must thank my friends Myles, Troy and Colin for letting me spend hours and hours using them as models so I can try to perfect my craft. Originally, I wanted to do cinematography, but I didn’t know anything about making films and there wasn’t anybody I could go to at the time for help. When I transferred to Auburn University, I was quickly introduced into a new world of visual arts. I met professional models, filmmakers, and highly experienced photographers. This is when I made the transition to cinematography/ filmmaking because that is what I really had the passion for.

  • Who were your early influences?

When it comes to photographer, I didn’t really look into photographers that much since it was a hobby for me and I mostly was influenced by cinematographers, but one photographer that stood out to me the most was VUHLANDES. I loved how he used natural light for most of his photos and documented his environment. I learned how to tell stories through my photography though him. Down the street from Auburn, there is a local HBCU down the street called Tuskegee University. They have extremely talented photographers and one photographer named Chris Etienne; work stood out the most to me because we had a similar style of shooting. His work exposed me to how to achieve better colors in my photography since I was only doing low light shooting. My friends have more of an influence on me than famous photographers.

  • What are the subjects that you enjoy photographing the most? What draws you to a particular scene or subject as a photographer?

I enjoy shooting my friends and older cars, mostly made in the early 2000s and 90s. Different settings draw me to a particular scene depending on what i’m doing. I love colors, so fall and the summer are my favorite times to shoot because I like to highlight the natural beauty of the environment into my photos. I love low light shooting since I’m a cinematographer since it’s kind of my bread and butter. I have a diverse selection of cameras ranging from 20-3,000 dollars. Each camera does something different for me and I use every single one. I try to keep every photo authentic so if I’m shooting that gives me the nostalgic feel of the 90s, I’ll have the subject wear attire from that era, and I would photograph them with a film camera. If I want some colors to pop, I’ll use my Fujifilm camera.

  • What has been your most memorable experience related to photography?

My most memorable shoot is the one i’m being recognized for, Sophisticated Nights. My friend Ch and I did not go anywhere for spring break, and I just bought a new camera and wanted to test out the low light capabilities since that is my favorite style of shooting. I pitched this idea to him and we both agreed on a shoot of the subject being an alcoholic businessman walking home from work. We drove downtown and just begin freestyling with different locations in the area.

  • What are some of the challenges of photography?

Some of the biggest challenges in photography. I would say some of the biggest challenges in photography is coming up with new ideas when you’re limited on locations and resources. When I first started out, I was always trying to shoot 24/7 because I my brain was full of ideas and I was trying to crank them out as fast as possible, and quickly realized I was overusing the same locations which made It difficult for me.

  • How do you balance between what you see and making it as dramatic and beautiful like a standalone artwork?

Honestly, I never thought about that at all. I don’t try to make my photos dramatic since that isn’t my focus, I freestyle 90 percent of the time I’m shooting a subject. I believe you can make anything stand out it just depends on several factors.

  • What do you want to capture in your photographs?

I want to capture actions in my photos. I like to make my photos look like stills from a movie, very cinematic, moody and using low light to capture my subject. What makes my images stand out the most is that I try to make them tell a story. My friends would always tell me im a great story teller so I tried to translate that into my photography. Instead of having somebody pose, I wanted to capture them doing something such as playing cards, talking on the phone, waxing their car or even trying on shoes. It gets the viewer engaged and they began to think what the subject is doing, which has them looking into the photo for a long period of time.

  • Are you always keeping an eye out for what’s new on the camera market?

I don’t usually keep with cameras because so many are coming out at a rapid rate. I only look into the market when I plan on buying something and lately older cameras have caught my interest the most since I switch up the vibes all the time.

  • What’s the post-production process like?

I usually already know what I want to do with the photo before I even log into lightroom. Sometimes I’ll take photos and edit them months, sometimes even years from when I originally took them. I’m big on quality over quantity and being authentic. About a year ago I fell in love with film photography, and I don’t have a post-production process for that since I like the photos fresh from the scanner.

  • Where do you want to take your photography career?

Photography is just a hobby for me when I want a break from cinematography, I’ll go cook up some ideas for photography. It keeps my creativity flowing when I need a mental break. I would still do work for any companies that reach out to me though.

  • What’s the most difficult part of what you do and what advice would you give to up-and-coming photographers?

The most difficult part about photography for me is trying not to be exactly like everyone else. I try to stay off social media because everything is trending at once and if I come up with a great idea, I get a little upset if 50,000 other people are doing it. I soon had to realize that we all probably had the same idea and I only see it because of algorithms. For up-and-coming photographers, if you don’t know what do shoot just go shoot everything and see what you like the best. I started out wanting to shoot cars because that got me into photography, but I soon realized I didn’t like it and preferred shooting subjects on the street. Experiment with different settings in lightroom. Often, I would make 5 edits off one photo just to see which one I liked the best.

  • Where can our readers find you online?

I can be reached on both my Instagram accounts @Lavishedprince and To watch some of my short films here is my YouTube.