I was fortunate enough to become friends with the exceptional photographer Justin Amoafo, right before his ascension into elite lensman status. Justin was only 15 years old when we initially met but his tremendously poised demeanor and go-getter mentality positioned him light years ahead of his peers.
Born and raised in Queens, New York by Ghanaian parents, the multi-talented visionary was instilled with an immense value for education. As a matter of fact, at the age of 11 Justin suggested that he should attend boarding school. “I was always an outcast and wanted to expand my horizons, experience a new environment,” says Amoafo. With his parent’s approval and a lucrative scholarship, the young adventurer was enrolled at the prestigious Eagle Brookin Western Massachusetts.
Justin was one of only six black kids in the entire institution but the statistic didn’t cast a shadow of fear on his pursuit of enlightenment. Amoafo was so in awe with the refreshing scenery at his new abode, he decided to freeze it all in time. Using his roommate’s state-of-the-art camera, Justin began to take pictures of the beautiful landscape surrounding Eagle Brook. Since then, photography instantly became Amoafo’s primary focus. He started posting photos on Flickr, which ultimately led him to gain fans across the world.
Immediately following boarding school, Justin attended Brooklyn Tech HS with an increased passion for snapping. After a year of saving up lunch money, the bright-eyed shutterbug was able to purchase his very first camera, the Canon t2i. Mastering the art of Flickr, Amoafo leveled up to Tumblr, where he garnered even more admirers.
Justin is currently attending NYU Shanghai with a major in Interactive Media arts and Business but that isn’t stopping him one bit from putting work in behind the lens.
FRENDY: What compelled you to study abroad after high school?
JUSTIN: As a kid, I always dreamt of traveling the world. After a summer abroad in high school, I made it my business to take advantage of every opportunity to see a new place. Naturally, I had to pursue college options outside of the USA.
FRENDY: Is it difficult for you to find a balance between schoolwork and photography? Are you able to find steady shooting gigs in Shanghai?
JUSTIN: One of the most difficult things for humans in general is maintaining a balance. Whenever you find yourself in that comfortable place, life switches up your situation. Thankfully, my major at school and my real life career/hobbies are intertwined, so usually it’s not too difficult.
Work in Shanghai has been steady, thankfully. People here show a lot of love. When they see you doing great work, they’ll always go out of their way to help you get gigs. As usual, staying hungry & seeking out opportunities is also a great way to close gigs.
FRENDY: You’re one of my favorite people to follow on Snapchat due the display of your worldly adventures. Are your travels for leisure or work?
JUSTIN: Both. Living internationally already makes it much easier to pick up clients that require me to travel or have an opportunity abroad. I’m always itching to travel regardless, so most of my free weekends and ‘vacations’ are spent visiting a new city.
FRENDY: How did the relationship with your muse Sira P Kante come about?
JUSTIN: *Laughs* She’s definitely my muse. A modern day Naomi Campbell. Sira and I met through one of my good friends. We met up for a test shoot one day in Summer 2016 and the rest is history.
FRENDY: I admire your effortless ability to network with the industry’s finest. I noticed that you’ve been shooting superstar musicians and promising actors who are from the motherland. What set of events lead to such astounding opportunities?
JUSTIN: Every connection I’ve made, both business & personal has been organic. I never force relationships, but I’m definitely not above a cold email or intro. That being said, the world is smaller than we all think. It’s so often you want to work with someone and a friend (or friend of a friend) can make the connection for you. Organic networking is the best, especially when you’re already social.
FRENDY: What are the top 3 pictures you’ve ever taken?
JUSTIN: I don’t think I have 3 strict top favorites but here are some that I like -
FRENDY: Are you planning to take your creative talents into new heights?
JUSTIN: I’m always striving to be my best self. Photography is one of my passions, but by no means is it my only means of expression. I am working on expressing myself fully, with no filters or limitations. We’re in the era of the multidimensional artist and I think that’s so great. Everyone should be able to create with no filter.