Behind The Lens: JunyaWrk
Written by Greg Harris
The Behind the Lens stories has discovered the journeys that some of your favorite photographers have taken to get to the point where they're at now. We had the likes of Tyler Mitchell to ArtsandVisuals to Ike Abakah and more tell their story about their upbringing, what influenced them to pick up the camera, and how this passion of theirs have taken them to new heights.
We recently spoke to Sahbabii's right hand man and Atlanta creative, JunyaWRK. The Georgia bred photographer have captured the likes of Yung Bans, Young Thug, Metro Boomin, Hoodrich Pablo Juan, and more. His film directed photography sets himself apart from the scene with his retro approach.
Read our in-depth interview with Junya below where he talks about his relationship with Sah, what are some of his goals, what inspired his work, and more.
How’s Your Modern Life?
It's a work in progress but I'm loving it.
What are three things you have to do when you wake up in the morning?
Check all my socials, check my journal for ideas that i've wrote down that I may wanna execute and write down any new ideas that I may have, and call my girl for a lil personal motivation haha.
Before you were on the road taking photos, how was your upbringing?
I grew up with my mom and pops. I was always very cultured. More cultured than most of my peers because I moved around a lot. Never stayed at one school or place for long. I was always in to something extra curricular at school because I never wanted to be home. I didn't too much get along with my mom so I always did stuff to keep me busy wether it be good or bad.
Before you were interested in being a photographer, what were some things that interested you when you were younger?
Music. Music and fashion. I went to a performing arts magnet school for 2 years and when I was a senior in high school I started a semi successful clothing line with my friend. We started throwing parties and and used our social status to come up with a annual fashion show called "Young Atlanta" we fell out after the third year over some stupid shit so I began doing my own thing. lol
"People are quick to label you as the "Camera Man" and I hate that. I started off doing creative direction and design so I'm way more than that. I actually went to an art school for design and marketing. Like I said, I fell into photography on accident, I actually thought photography was kinda corny because so many amateurs saturated the market. It just looked extra goofy to me to be lugging around all this equipment advertising you photo specials on social media. lol I didn't wanna be that guy. But there are some advantages. Photography made me more social than I am. It sparked convos and created some relationships. Also being an actual "creative" and not just a guy with a camera makes me waaaaay less corny. "
What moment in your life stood out to you the most that inspired you to be a photographer?
I never wanted to be a photographer to be honest. When had that clothing line that I mentioned me and my parter use to point a lot of photographers to shoot our lookbooks and what not. They didn't have the vision that I had so I started shooting some of our shit. But didn't take it all the way serious because it was a handful for me to design the clothes, put in orders and design, and keep track of the website. I just appointed better photographers and if they didn't execute my vision then they were booted. But I didn't actually invest in cameras and shit until spring 2015. When I wasn't I hung around a lot of street dudes and you know a lot of them aspire to be rappers. I always had a camera so a lot of my early work is really me capturing the essence of street life. I was apart of it every day. From there, I would just happen to be in somebody's studio or video shoot. That was also the year I met 21 Savage. I took a few of his photos back when bro only had 8,000 followers. The rest was history.
How was the Atlanta culture when you were growing up?
The Atlanta culture was real and authentic. I was back and forth from the west side & Clayton County since I was in elementary school. I remember when we still had project housing up. I use to have friends in Bankhead Courts, Bowen Homes, and Hollywood Courts. All on the westside. I stayed in Riverdale for the most part but would visit my aunts in Adamsville frequently. Ti was probably my favorite rapper when I was in middle school. I bought Trap Muzik and Urban Legend when they came out. I was in 6th grade when Gucci Mane and Jezzy dropped the So Icey Video. I even had a Jeezy the Snowman tee in 6th grade but I was put in ISS for wearing it. lol It was a beautiful time back then.
What are the advantages and disadvantages about being a Atlanta photographer?
People are quick to label you as the "Camera Man" and I hate that. I started off doing creative direction and design so I'm way more than that. I actually went to an art school for design and marketing. Like I said, I fell into photography on accident, I actually thought photography was kinda corny because so many amateurs saturated the market. It just looked extra goofy to me to be lugging around all this equipment advertising you photo specials on social media. lol I didn't wanna be that guy. But there are some advantages. Photography made me more social than I am. It sparked convos and created some relationships. Also being an actual "creative" and not just a guy with a camera makes me waaaaay less corny. Going to shows and sessions with different artist is cool too but I'm starting to shy away from artist portrait photography and do more fashion editorial stuff and stuff that is more avant guard and provoking.
Aside from the culture that stems from the music scene in Atlanta, how do you feel like the creative scene is growing in the city?
It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The digital age bro. We're in it. Look what dudes like Gunner Stahl and Cam Kirk have done. But to answer your question fr. Atlanta is the black Hollywood. People move here to get their groundwork in their creative field.
Your right hand man and main artist you’ve worked with has been SahBabii. How do you all meet one another and elaborate on you all’s relationship.
Saaheem! he's my family. I came up with him over the years on a street aspect and family aspect. Me Sah, and his brother T3 just use to talk about what we would do when we finally made it to the industry and how groundbreaking we would be. SahBabii and T3 are geniuses in my eyes. Right before Sah dropped SANDAS he would tell me that I need to work more on my craft and leave the street shit alone. He took me in and we just started creating together. I love him for that and will always appreciate the fam for that. I got a lot of intimate photos of him because I actually lived with him. we would all just wake up some days and do random mischievous shit. Day by day his name started to get bigger and bigger and went from shooting him at local clubs and parties to actual concert venues. It's beautiful. I'm also known for my intimate photos of him where he's not performing. The photos of his daily regular life are more popular because Sah is such an enigmatic character and people wanna know more about him. I'm the only one who can get that intimate inside view.
What are three things you feel like you want to improve on as a photographer?
My girlfriend and I talk about this a lot. But of course I want to be recognized for more than shooting SahBabii or taking portraits of rappers. I want to shoot maybe even fashion editorials. Do things for Paper Mag, Wonderland Mag, Nylon, etc. I want to make actual works of art and even just capture aspects of life that people don't see often and romanticize it.
What are three things you want to experience before 2017 is over?
Have a photo show in somewhere other than Atlanta. Come out with a book or Zine. Move to New York
What are three goals of yours that want you to accomplish before you die?
I have to get my shit in a museum
I want to eventually do more than design and photography. write screenplays and films.
I just wanna create a long lasting legacy to be honest. It's a lot I want to do but I can't reveal that all here. haha