By Fred Gonzalez
Upon entering the studios at Image 1st, you’re taken aback at all of the patterns on the walls (from solid colors to artistic designs straight from a posh hotel lobby). A billiards table lies just a few feet away from the four-post bed (what’s that for?). Then you turn the corner, and there’s a wall of graffiti, a motorcycle, a green 1940s-style couch, and more walls dripping with color and style.
We weren’t in a typical photo studio anymore. Were we overseas?
Actually, in some quirky way, we were across the pond. Image 1st Studios started in London and quickly became the go-to studio for many. Eventually, their unique style was imitated throughout the city at other studios, and their trademark approach became commercialized. Luckily, the founders got the bright idea to bring the original concept – one focused on attention and detail and less on mass production – to the States, and particularly Miami’s Wynwood Art District in a bland warehouse that looks more like an unfinished apartment building.
The guys at Image 1st, John Anthony Sutton and Danny Gabriel, pride themselves less in the results but more in how they get their subjects to those results. You don’t have to be a model or have any prior modeling background to experience a professional photo shoot with all of the details and none of the attitude.
They have an in-house makeup artist/hairstylist, Nicole Patterson, that makes sure you are looking at your very best. All you have to do is provide the clothes. But do pick something nice – you can’t PhotoShop over your fashion faux pas.
Then you’re in the caring hands (and eyes) of John, who helps you get comfortable by reminding you that the pressure to look good is on him. And if you listen closely to his directions (as he speaks with his whimsical British accent) he will be guiding you every step of the way. Literally.
John has an uncanny knack for verbally breaking your body down and positioning it in the right spots to make a great image. Just imagine you are one of those bendable wire figures you played with as a child, and John is carefully shaping you, bending joints, turning hips, and tilting your head (hiding your double chin, strategically covering your muffintops – quite a useful skill, indeed).
Between smiles and squints you are thinking: “What kind of contortion am I in? Am I shooting a poster for a yoga class?” And then he shows you the image on his digital camera and you look and are amazed – “Not only did that work, but I look good!”
It’s that simultaneous building of your confidence as they make you feel relaxed and entertaining you with creativity that makes Image 1st unique. No one is yelling instructions here. No ego-driven photographers in sight — just friendly attitudes and welcoming smiles.
By the time you leave the studio you feel as if you have made new friends who know how to work a camera and have a great gig. And can probably make a mean cup of British tea.
Images 1st Studios, Wynwood Arts Complex, 250 NW 23rd St., Studio 312, Miami; 305-572-0201.
Open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Current deals include photo sessions starting for as low as $150, or you can customize your own package.