Trenton Eleque James is a street photographer who has lived across the country in Los Angeles and across the ocean in Spain, but ultimately calls Connecticut home. His photography has been exhibited all around the state at Hygienic Art, Slater Memorial Museum, and even Starbucks, where he was featured as the artist of the month in February.
In fact, the first time we met him was at a Starbucks in New Haven, CT. He saw the camera hanging from our shoulder and introduced himself as a kindred spirit. Months later, Art Zealous caught up with this emerging photographer in the very same Starbucks.
Art Zealous: What’s your artistic background? How did you get started in photography?
Trenton Eleque James: I’m self taught. I decided I wanted a camera, so I went to a pawn shop and got a Canon T2i. I found out about street photography through one of my friends, who was taking a class at the time. He was doing projects and I would go out with him, shoot a little bit, then it just kind of took off from there.
AZ: So you haven’t always wanted to be a photographer. What was your dream?
TEJ: When I was younger, I went through a lot of phases. Basketball was my thing, then I wanted to be a wrestler, and then music, since I was 17. Music had a hold on me for a very long time. In 2010, I lived in Spain, and I got to work with some pretty cool local music engineers and artists. In 2013, I lived in California to go to music school. I tried to pursue music in Los Angeles, but I felt like it just wasn’t my crowd. I came back to Connecticut and felt like I had to find myself. Photography kind of just stumbled into my lap, and it’s completely me. It’s however I’m feeling. It translates through a photo, and I don’t understand how, but it is. To me, that’s what art is: self-expression.
AZ: Who’s your favorite musician?
TEJ: This is a no-brainer: Pharell Williams.
AZ: Last song you listened to?
TEJ: “Best Me” by Sylvan Laque.
AZ: Walk me through your process. How do you decide what to photograph?
TEJ: Sometimes I feel like it’s my subconscious mind picking up on it. I’ll take a photo, and during post-processing, I’ll really start to see connections then. Other times, I look for light first. That’s what interests me. When I find light, I can wait for the right subjects to pass by.
AZ: I’ve noticed that most of your work is in black and white, though you do post a few color photos on Instagram. What significance does color (or lack of it) play in your work?
TEJ: Black and white, to me, is a lot more honest. I use it the majority of the time. You’re not distracted by color, so you’re forced to look at what’s happening.
AZ: You do most of your shooting in New Haven, CT. Do you see yourself traveling to other cities to shoot?
TEJ: Definitely New York. I’ve shot throughout Connecticut, and eventually I do want to travel and do travel photography. Not “travel” like “vacation,” but more of a social documentary style.
AZ: Dream location for street photography?
AZ: What can we expect from you in the future?
TEJ: I have a photo project that I’m working on right now, which is something I started doing to overcome social anxiety. I’d go to a public space and lie on the ground for about 30 seconds and allow people to just look at me and judge me. The photo project I’m currently working on, I’m doing these comfort zone challenges and taking the photo from that perspective.
AZ: Do you have any advice for budding street photographers?
TEJ: Practice. Keep doing it as much as possible, even when you don’t feel like doing it. I’ve had days when I didn’t feel like going out to shoot, but I’d come out anyway and get some amazing shots.
AZ: How can we keep up with you?
Trenton’s photography will next be featured in an exhibition about identity. “Illumination” will open on July 7, 2017, at Hygienic Art in New London, CT.
all images courtesy of Trenton E. James