Gearing up for spring break last school year, a conversation took place in Wallace Hall – one of the last mask-free conversations I had with a fellow student.
“I ain’t spoke to you in a minute, how you been my boy,” a cheerful voice erupted from a friend I’ve known since 2016, Trey “Guapo” Chatman.
It’s been years since we last spoke to each other besides the passing, “What’s good?” or “How you been, bro?” But within those few years, he’s adopted some new skills.
A senior marketing major from Talladega, Alabama, Chatman is the face behind the photography brand, Guapo Media.
Chatman said that he felt a connection with photography soon after his friend let him use his camera.
“My homeboy (had a camera), and I said, ‘Let me use that for the day,’” said Chatman. “So I go to this little thrift store, and I purchased this little bougie camera.”
Chatman mentioned he realized he wanted to keep doing photography because of his friends’ encouragement, even if he was not up to it sometimes.
“My friends started saying, ‘I want Trey to take my pictures!’ I was like, ‘Why they want me to take their pictures?’” said Chatman. “I don’t feel like taking pictures right now.”
His support system carries over into not just who he is able to capture, but how he can capture them, as well.
Chatman speaks a lot about capturing a person’s essence and personality, such as someone he considers a photographic influencer, Moneta Sleet Jr.
Sleet Jr. is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who captured Corretta Scott King and her daughter at her husband’s funeral.
Sleet Jr. was known for capturing celebrities and telling black stories through still photos.
“I saw one of Maya Angelou – she was just calmly in her bed with a legal pad, you know, writing,” Chatman said. “I was like, dang, this is Maya Angelou in the flesh. Like, you feel like you were there with those types of pictures.”
Chatman talks about how the environments where Sleet Jr. captured his photos helped influence the subjects’ personality.
While in Enterprise with a friend, they both stumbled across an open empty building, Inside, beside a small baby bed, were two couch cushions pushed together and a teddy bear, laying right beside the cushions.
“When you look at things like that, it’s like man, there are people out here living in poverty, and yet, still people out here rich as I don’t know what,” Chatman said.
After seeing this, Chatman posted on Facebook how he wants to be a photographer with deeper meaning.
A lot of the photographs that he takes yells “Black” and don’t just capture the person in front of the camera.
From the way black skin is shown radiantly to the photoshoots’ locations, Chatman focuses on capturing Black people regardless of complexion. Chatman said he is very pro-Black empowerment because of where and how he grew up.
Chatman said, growing up in Talladega, he experienced racism at an age so young he did not understand it.
“There was a whole bunch of racism going on,” Chatman explained. “I didn’t understand it as a kid, but when I got older, my mother kinda explained that to me.
“That really had an effect on my perspective of a lot of things going on right now.”
Going from taking photos of friends to the point where he considers himself a freelance photographer, Chatman has had to practice time management. He said Google Calandar has become his best friend.
Managing his personal schedule has been nothing though, compared to dealing with clients’ schedules and how they have tried to take advantage of him.
“I’m too nice with this; you really can’t be nice with business,” Chatman said. “You gotta be firm and strict with how you handle things.”
His major helped him with branding when he started his media company.
“Your personality is your brand,” Chatman said. “I just feel like you can relate that with anything.”
He said he feels his personality radiates through him wherever he goes and through his work. Whether it’s his logo, or the way his photos look themselves, Chatman is confident about his general style.
“I can take pictures of the shape of a building or a picture of a car or people,” Chatman said. “There is just something that fascinates me about getting an angle of something in a different way than how someone else would see it.”