Paid in Exposure podcast co-host Gavin Boulware was born with albinism, a genetic condition in which there is little to no color in the skin and hair. As a kid, it was an insecurity for him, but throughout his adult life, he has figured out ways to overcome the obstacles presented by looking different than most. Now, he embraces being unique in a crowd, and has used his extroverted nature to give a platform to minority photographers.
“It’s funny how the number one ‘obstacle’ I had to battle as a child, now allows me to give back tremendously in my community … It is easy for me to be recognizable now. And I’m grateful for it. And you know, it’s actually a blessing,” Boulware told Queen City Nerve.
On June 13, Boulware will bring together a group of photographers from the community he has grown through his podcast and popular Facebook group for a photo walk through Uptown. The event, which allows local photographers and models to mix it up, share tips and get quality shots, coincides with National Albinism Day, created by the United Nations in 2014 to highlight albinism advocacy.
“I have two goals (for the photo walk). The first goal is to meet as many photographers as I can to create a bigger system.” Boulware explained. “(The second) is getting out there working with as many photographers and helping them, because I see a lot of people struggling with things that I struggled with a long time ago.”
Like his upcoming photo walk, Boulware’s podcast, titled Paid in Exposure, aims to support and uplift Black and brown photographers. Nearing 100 episodes, Boulware provides a platform for marginalized voices in the photo community.
“I just haven’t stopped just because I’ve noticed not only how many people I’m helping, but how much I’m helping myself as well. And so, I just want to keep the resource going,” Boulware said in the lead-up to the 100th episode. “The podcast isn’t a shortcut, but more of a navigation for Black Photographers, because our journey is so different. Every photographer goes through their ups and down, which is why I know this podcast is vital for everyone, but nobody is directly speaking to Black artists and the issues we face. “
From business to accomplishments within the community, Boulware wants to show that it is not all work and no play. “I encourage other photographers and anybody that’s an entrepreneur with this show that if you buy into your personality people will buy into you, your business is going to just grow well beyond your dreams.”
Preaching self-love with his extroverted personality, Boulware has also cultivated a community on social media through a Facebook group called No Mo’ PIE to aid and celebrate Black and brown people in the photography field.
“When I find a resource that I find available, whether it’s in Charlotte, or whether it’s outside of Charlotte, always bring it to the group,” Boulware said, “It is also a place where we can ask questions. Sometimes I don’t have the answer, but there are hundreds of photographers in our group, so someone is bound to find a solution.”
Boulware will be the first to admit that he doesn’t know some things, such as videography, which is why holding photo walks is just as much about education as it is about making art.
“I have almost actually preferred educating photographers more than actually shooting,” he said.
The education goes beyond simple how-to instruction, there’s also the mental health aspect of it. With negativity on social media commonly leading to anxiety, Boulware wants to help those in his community be unapologetically themselves and face the fear that comes with putting themselves and their work out there.
“I tell photographers, ‘Hey, if you’re dealing with anxiety, you got to love yourself first’. You got to sit down, say, this is how I want to be me. And I want to be me unapologetically. And once you get there, everything just opens up,” Boulware said
“Early on in my life, I was taught to love myself unconditionally,” he continued. “Being an artist isn’t the most glamorous job. The pay isn’t always life changing. Some go a lifetime without being recognized and the battle with anxiety can be unbelievable. However, once you walk through the doors of self-love, everything changes. I strive to teach that weekly and I pray it makes a difference”
With this photo walk, as well as through mentorship opportunities and a podcast episode, Boulware plans on discussing his experiences coping with discrimination and bullying and encouraging photographers to embrace their individuality and express their self-love in their own art.
“I want to get that out there that we have this community,” he said. “I’m on Facebook, we have a few hundred photographers in there. We are posting everyday. People ask them questions every day. So, if you’re ever dealing with something, let’s sit down. And now this podcast is still going because of things of that nature.”
The photo walk is scheduled to happen June 13 from 5-7 p.m., with the meet-up point to be announced the week of the event on the Paid in Exposure website.
Paid in Exposure releases a new podcast each Friday, featuring interviews with professional models and photographers to discuss how they overcame anxiety and insecurities to become high-performing professionals in their fields.
In this article from earlier this year, Brianna Monroe talks to Joshua Galloway, another Black photographer in Charlotte, about the journey that led him to his first museum exhibit at The Light Factory.
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