DaiJohn McLaurin is a photographer who for the past few years, has been cultivating an eye-grabbing catalog of smiles and happiness. Born in New Jersey, McLaurin discovered his love for photography at a young age through films and much more, but didn’t take it seriously until he got older. Fast forward to now, the fashion and editorial photographer has been around for a bit over a decade with a lot more up his sleeve. “It’s deeper than just taking pictures for me at this point,” he shares.
DaiJohn McLaurin is channeling his own self-expression into a safe space for people of all walks of life to express themselves and feel good. Collaborating is the basis of his craft and has allowed him to evolve into a well-rounded photographer with limitless capabilities. “When they see themselves looking nice and it gradually gets better throughout the shoot,” he emphasizes. “The best part is seeing them show up and feel better about themselves.” Serving as not only a role model, but an amazing example of what happens when you follow your passion, DaiJohn is someone whose work I deeply admire.
For our latest Behind The Lens, we spoke with DaiJohn McLaurin about exploring new avenues in his work, lessons learned in the field, and much more! Read below.
I love the way you capture love and happiness within Black people—tell me about that approach to taking photos.
I like to make sure people are super duper comfortable. Without them being comfortable with who you are, they aren’t going to put their guard down. While I’m setting up or while we’re first meeting for a session, I’ll try to chop it up and let them get a feel for who I am. I feel like I make myself transparent so they feel like they have nothing to hide. I’m genuinely happy when taking photos, it kind of rubs off on people.
What was one of the biggest lessons you learned from photography and how did it change you?
I would say trying to find that balance between business and personal. That’s been a big lesson for me! When it comes to your craft, I feel like it’s always important to do what fulfills and satisfies you instead of trying to please everybody else. You have to make sure that your heart is in it because when it’s not, things might not go exactly how I want it if that makes sense.
What is the most rewarding part of your job as a photographer and what is the most challenging?
Seeing people feel more confident in themselves. I love it! Often, people might just want to take photos of themselves. When they see themselves looking nice and it gradually gets better throughout the shoot. The best part is seeing them show up and feel better about themselves.
I think consistently is challenging. Always trying to outdo yourself is tough. Especially with social media, you always have to follow up your last post with something better. Not saying that’s a bad thing but sometimes I might just want to take some casual photos because it makes me happy.
Looking back on some of your most recent work, what has been your favorite shoot these past couple of months?
I have a couple, it’s so hard to just say one! The most recent one isn’t released yet but I took a different play on my lighting and the way how I’m editing is through colors I’ve never really used before. One shoot I did a couple of months ago, the mid-summer dream set, with Asia and Phoebe on the air mattress in the water. Really, anything that I post, I had a lot of fun shooting.
With that being said, where do you draw your inspiration? Is it from fellow photographers or does social media play a part?
I draw inspiration from what I see and colors. For example, if I’m riding through a random street in New York or a random spot in New Jersey, I might see something and be like “oh that’s cool.” If I see certain colors on a wall that might attract my attention or when I see a really dope outfit. Some of the stuff from Fashion Week or any collections they might have dropped.
What are you hoping to explore in terms of themes with your photography in the near future?
Absolutely! Galleries, workshops, I want to work with the youth. I want to eventually have a program that I set up with other artists and provide the youth with equipment or anything along those lines. I have the plan in my head but that’s for later on down the line. It’s deeper than just taking pictures for me at this point.
Elsewhere in photography, check out our interview with Atlanta photographer Marko The Shooter!