Pursuing dreams can be extremely intimidating and almost daunting. For me, Stone + Harper was always a loosely thought of dream that took years to become actualized. I've always loved the arts, styling and creating. The thought that I could create a company that would allow all of my gifts to run wild in any direction I want them to was always too dreamy to be real. I still feel that way. I knew then like I know now that it was not an endeavor I would be able to spearhead alone. I also know that it is extremely rare for me to find other people who are right there with me when it comes to style preference. This is what makes Justice Smithers a god-send.
Before meeting Justice, we had a few mutual friends that he's photographed. I stumbled upon some of his images on Instagram, and was pretty floored by them instantly. Justice has a way of weaving together the use of subliminal lighting and unusual (in the best way) posturing to create some of the most stunning visuals I've seen in a while. I learned pretty quickly that my timidity and prideful independence would not mesh well with starting up a business. It was way out of my comfort zone to send Justice a message on Instagram, but I'm so thankful I did! His way of conceptualizing style and visual aesthetic is so weirdly in sync with mine that I often ask myself where he even came from (Harrah, Oklahoma incase anyone was actually wondering..). It's kind of embarrassing how excited I can get about Justice's existence. In our very first meeting, I freaked out and asked him to be my business partner. HA! *amateur hour*
Since meeting, I have gotten to work with Justice on two lookbooks and some merchandise photos (you may recognize him from those - I made him model!) It is pretty amazing to be able to say "do whatever you think is best" and really mean it. Between styling and shooting photos, I definitely had the most fun I've ever had "working." On top of it all, I got to meet some of his wonderful family. His sister, Amber Black, designed the most stunning logo for me. Not to mention, Justice and Amber were the most lovely hosts on the days of merchandise photoshoots and gracefully allowed me to use their dining room as a studio. I joked about this, but I still would like to figure out a way to trick Justice into signing a lifelong contract with me. I would if I could!
Most photographers do not love being in front of the camera. Justice was kind enough to let me follow him around while photographing him in his beautifully lit, dreamy, minimal, subtly western inspired space. He even let me ask him personal questions. God. Send.
S&H: Introduce yourself!
JS: My name is Justice Smithers. I’m 26 years old, born and raised Okie. I take pictures.
S&H: If you could choose a theme song for your life, what would it be
JS: "I guess I would have to go with my favorite song, “Oh My Sweet Carolina” by Ryan Adams. It’s just a song about finding your way home, and it always seems applicable to the different seasons of my life. That whole album by Ryan Adams (Heartbreaker) is just ridiculously good… It will always be one of my favorites."
S&H: How long have you been creating? What made you gravitate towards photography?
JS: "From an early age my parents encouraged me to pursue anything creative, but I didn’t get into photography until my junior year in high school. I always loved taking pictures with the family camera, so I eventually saved up enough money and bought my first “real” camera."
S&H: How would you describe your art to the blind?
JS: "I recently had a lady describe my website as, “really simple, with white backgrounds, and a bunch of pictures of people.” It's an extremely minimal description, but I kind of liked what she said. I don’t know if she meant for it to be a compliment, but I’ll take it that way. I usually shoot portraits, so I like to keep things clean, minimal, and precise; focusing on the subject."
S&H: What have you learned from your failures?
JS: "I’ve learned that there is not only one way to do something, especially in photography. Failing can force you to think outside the box, and eventually get a better result than you hoped for. I studied film photography in college, so there was a lot of failing, before I got the result I wanted. Film can be so temperamental, but I think its the best way to learn. It really forces you to learn everything about your camera settings, lighting, and composition. I waisted a lot of paper and film in school, but I’m very thankful I got to learn something as hands on and tactile as film photography."
S&H: Did you have the opportunity to study your art as a child in school?
JS: "I was homeschooled, so it was mainly just encouragement from my parents to pursue creative things. If I would have had a more traditional education, I might have been exposed to more creative outlets. I took piano, and guitar lessons for several years, so I feel like I was given more than enough opportunities to pursue my creative endeavors."
S&H: Who are some of your inspirations?
JS: "I admire Alfred Stieglitz. He was married to Georgia O’keeffe, so she was the subject in his photographs a lot of the time. She was not the most traditionally beautiful woman, but he captured her beauty. Seeing things from his perspective is eye opening."
JS: "I also really love Francesca Woodman. She might be my favorite photographer. She took a lot of self portraits, but would use models as subjects occasionally. Her point of view was so ahead of her time. Every one of her photos seem relevant and new, even in the photography world today. In her lifetime her genius was never recognized. She dealt with depression, and eventually committed suicided. Its a hauntingly tragic story, but I feel like her photos are a glimpse into her soul."
S&H: What keeps you going on hard days?
"I would say, surrounding myself with creative people keeps me going. I definitely get inspired by the people around me."
S&H: Why in the night sky are lights hung?
JS: "I don’t know how to answer this question. Aliens."
S&H: What advice do you have on bettering the world?
JS: "Just love people. I know it sounds like a generic answer, but I think its true. "
Justice's personality is even more lovely than his photos! It was so much fun hanging out with him and get to know the inspirations behind his insane talent. From spinning records to styling merchandise photos, there was never really a time when I didn't feel inspired and encouraged in my own creative abilities. He's a joy to be around and to work with! If you've ever considered working with him on a photography project, DO IT.
His prints will be on sale in the store all month so don't forget to order yours. To see more of Justice's stunning visuals, visit his website
Thanks for being such a wonderful human and artist, Justice!