Introducing our new Image Makers series where wehighlight the creatives working behind the scenes to bring the vision of the biggest musical artist to life. From the photographers to stylists, glam teams, and blinged-out grill makers who are members of a core crew for the icons inhibiting our daily lives, we ask questions to uncover the steps they took to get them where they are.
Blair Caldwell recently directed his first music video for a song called “Don’t They” by his friend, R&B singer and Friday Night Lights actor, Josh Levi. It’s a beautiful and intimate video that plays out like one long moving photo. A shirtless Levi is seen sitting in front of the incomparable Normani–the Fifth Harmony singer we last fell for as a dancer in Cardi B’s “WAP” video—as she braids his hair while he sings seductively into the camera.
The ability to capture that moody stare and seduction is what Caldwell has built his career on as a photographer for some of the biggest names in modern music, including Beyoncé, SZA, Saweetie, and Sam Smith. He has also spent a decent chunk of his career on the road, touring with artists like Normani, most recently on Ariana Grande’s 2019 Sweetener tour.
Originally from Texas, Caldwell is currently living in Los Angeles, keeping busy as a freelance photographer and music video director. Most recently he shot photos of Michael B. Jordan for the fall cover of Wonderland. We caught up with the young creative to ask him about how he got to where he is today and the things that clicked along the way.
What first made you want to become a photographer?
Honestly, being drawn to what I see. I’m very observant and I pay attention to people’s features. I’m big on colour tones and just being observant to the spaces I’m in, so my mind really loves to capture what I see and feel.
Can you walk us through the creative process for clients? Is there any type of formula that you follow?
To prepare for a shoot I like to create a mood board and note down ideas. When I’m on set, I like to just show up and make sure the lighting is beautiful and the setting is clean and easy on the eyes. One of my mentors told me to always make sure the set is clean and easy to be on, and I still live by that.
What does a typical workday look like for you right now?
It’s always different, but I’m either in front of my laptop editing all day or shooting on set, then I head to In-N-Out afterwards. I usually make the selections late at night and Dropbox it to the client, then the magic begins [laughs].
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing the finished product and feeling good about it. Also seeing the client happy with the outcome.
What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
Constantly believing in myself and not comparing myself to others. I’m still working on that and overcoming it every day, but it takes time and work and training your mind to focus and think positively.
What have been some stand-out moments of your career thus far?
Shooting Coachella, or should I say Beychella [laughs]. That was a moment I’ll never forget. And it’s so cool because I worked so hard in rehearsals to be able to actually shoot the show, so it was just the coolest experience. I was so blessed to have been able to be a part of that moment [on] both weekends.
What is the piece of advice you stick to?
Stay focused and try to surround yourself with the right people. Who you hang around is who you become. Also don’t be afraid to help others and work under people and learn because it will help you be a better person.
What traits help you find success at your job?
Having a good heart and treating everyone with respect because you never know who that person may become or you never know if you’ll have to need that person one day, so just treat everyone fairly and you’ll go far.
Who would be in your dream group text chat?
Pharrell, because he’d send all the cool fashion links; Michael Jackson so he could share some unreleased music; Will Smith because he would send the best funny videos; Aaliyah because I’ve just always wanted to know her; And Solange because she would share some of her creative ideas.