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THEGINGERB3ARDMEN’s Portrait Challenge

Billy Lee Silva’s triumphant image is bold, unconventional, and a clear winner in THEGINGERB3ARDMEN’s iconic style

A big part of portraiture’s appeal is the opportunity to create an aesthetic based around the subject’s style. One glance at Billy Lee Silva’s winning image makes a bold statement, but there’s plenty of depth, too. For this creative, it all began with a chance outing.

“I went into the bodega one day and saw the owner selling sunflowers. I got hit with a little inspiration,” Billy recalls. “After seeing the vibrant yellow color and beauty of them in a fairly chaotic environment, I just knew I wanted to create an image around those themes. Chris, the model, came up with a bunch of looks, but ultimately, we felt that the outfit you see pictured fit the vibe best.”

Beyond pure inspiration, the bodega backdrop creates plenty of photographic interest. The juxtaposition between high fashion and daily life, however, is not found only within a constructed piece of art.

“New York has incredible fashion trends,” Billy continues. “People dress up with the most amazing, ridiculous, fun looks, then go about their normal lives – whether it’s food shopping, walking their dogs, or going to brunch. Seeing a person in an outrageous outfit anywhere, anytime in NYC feels normal.”

Such an image is never without challenges. “The hardest part was asking the bodega owner if I could create some images there! Thankfully, he was super cool about it. The lighting was also a little more complicated than I expected, but my XF23mmF1.4 was perfect for it. Funny thing, though – I didn’t feel too confident about how the images came out until I viewed them later at home.”

Billy’s experience is testament to trusting the creative process. Undoubtedly, there’s plenty more to come from an inspired image maker in an inspiring city.

“I love creating this kind of stylish image in different parts of New York,” he says. “The more unknown the location, the better. Most NYC photographers stick to the same locations, but there’s so much to explore.”

Of the many entries, Steven and Chad selected Billy’s for its immediately striking appearance – among more personal reasons.

“We chose Billy Lee Silva’s Last-Minute Bodega Run as the winner of this round of Create With Me,” the duo comment. “Not only does it feel reminiscent of something we would create, but we love pretty much everything about it. From the lines in the composition and the pop of color in the garment, to taking something as ordinary as a bodega run and turning it into an eccentric and lively point of view – Billy’s moment here feels right up our alley. He not only listened to the tips we offered for the challenge, but made them his own with flair and expertise. Well done, Billy, and congratulations!”

Please note, this video was released during the 2022 Create With Me competition. Entries have now closed.

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