Angel Colour is a New York-based, Florida-raised photographer, retoucher, and graphic and web designer. He left his life in Florida to pursue his dream of becoming a professional photographer at the age of 19. In fact, he is still 19, and has been in New York less than a year. He is already supporting himself with his art. His story is inspiring to anyone in the midst of their journey to become an artist.
Angel spoke with us from his New York City apartment in Mid-August.
PT+: What sparked your interest in photography?
Angel Colour: It's always been a hobby of mine since I was little. So, since middle school, I've always just been taking photos as a hobby. With the social networks back then with MySpace and everything, it was popular to take a lot of photos. My photos always got a lot of views and a lot of comments.
I always wanted my stuff to look top notch. That's why I got into retouching and graphic design.
I started doing professional photography last year, my senior year of high school. After that, I went to the International Academy of Design and Technology for two semesters. That was in Tampa, Florida. That's when I decided that Tampa just wasn't for me. I was just way too talented to be there.
So I flew out to New York City because I knew if I was going to get anywhere, I had to get the hell out of Tampa. Everything was just too easy there. It wasn't a challenge. So I moved over here, and started building my portfolio. And everything here just started falling into place. Everything has picked up so fast.
PT+: What advice to you have for young photographers?
Angel Colour: Do not half-ass your dream. If you want to dream big, you have to take big steps. Big dreams require big actions. That might mean quitting your job or moving to a new location. For example, you can't be a winter sport photographer when you're living in Florida. If your dream is to take photos of people snowboarding the action of winter sports, you need to move to someplace like Canada. That's a big step, but you're not going to get discovered in Florida.
There's always room for improvement in yourself. I'm a self-taught artist, from graphic to web design to photography to retouching. Everything I do I've taught myself. Now most of my money comes from photo shoots and web design. I do websites for people within my industry like make-up artists, hair stylists and wardrobe stylists.
PT+: How has your Florida upbringing affected your work?
Angel Colour: I was born in New York, but raised in Florida. I still say I'm a Florida boy because when I came over here I was so lost. New York is so huge that you could live here for years and years and discover something new everyday. I don't consider myself a New Yorker yet.
While riding the train the other day I saw two six year olds on the train dancing for money. It was crazy. One kid was clapping a beat and the other kid was dancing. Every time I see things like that I just reminds me, "Wow, New York is rough."
New York is expensive. Florida is really, really cheap compared to New York. It's hard to live here. You either make it in New York or you pack your bags and leave. It's all about survival. It's like L.A. but dirtier. Whether it's singing on the street or dancing or drawing people's faces on the street, people are hustling.
When you don't have any money, you use whatever you have, which at the end of the day is your talent. Not everyone is given a job, but everyone is given some kind of talent. And that's what people use to make their money. And they literally stand there in the middle of the street and do it. Like their beating on a trash can with some drumsticks and whole crowd forms around them and starts dropping money. That's the artistic drive, that's the struggle.
It's that stuff that keeps me going. As a creative artist, you have to hustle. It's a constant hustle.
You can paint all day, you can take photos for years, but nobody is going to know who the hell you are unless you get your name out there. You have to get your stuff out there.
PT+: How do you define success?
Angel Colour: I definitely think I'm on the right track to being successful. When I first started out, my dream goal was to take over the world by 21. By 21, I wanted my photos on billboards. I wanted to be shooting internationally for every magazine. But now, I don't know. Well, actually, maybe I might be able to do it by 21. (laughs)
Success for me is being with one big creative agency in New York, London and L.A. by the time I'm 24. Success for me is really about my career. As far as family and friends, that's already good in my life.
PT+: What was moving to New York like?
Angel Colour: This is really risky. Since I moved to New York, all I've been taking are risks. Even moving here was a risk. I sold my car in Florida and came up here with $200. I said, "whatever happens, happens." You have to believe in yourself. I got two credit cards and maxed them both out. I didn't have job. I just had to hustle. Lucky, in that same month, I booked a shoot with super model Diana Cano. I used to that money to pay of my credit card. It was perfect.
When I first got to New York, I started interning with a photographer. I was really excited to intern because when I got here, I didn't have a DSLR camera. I just had a regular 7.1 megapixel camera that cost like $250 at Target or something. That's what I started photography with. I didn't have the money.
That's what pushed me hard as a retoucher. When people would see my images, they would automatically assume I was shooting with a professional camera. That wasn't the case, it was just that my retouching was so good that I would make a regular photo from an average camera look like it was taken with a DSLR.
With the photographer I interned with, I decided I was going to do retouching for him for free and in exchange, he was going to lend me his equipment. He had a 7D and he had all this high-end equipment and strobes and studio access. That's what allowed me to produce my first high quality images.
Now, I shoot a mixture of entertainment and whatever I can get. I shoot with PR and modeling agencies. My big gigs are with models and celebrities. My small gigs that I use to my pay my cell phone or something like that are random, everyday kinds of people; people looking for a family shoot in Central Park or something.
PT+: What's next for you?
Angel Colour: I have my first art gallery exhibition November 14-16. It's going to be at Sapphire in Downtown Manhattan. I'm really excited about. All the walls are mine.
Visit Angel Colour's website here.