The Blueprint from The Man Behind the Camera
People always ask kids, “what do you want to be when you get older,” but why don’t they ask, “what do you want to be right now?”
Meet Shaughn Cooper a man who many have come to know as, the 22 year old celebrity photographer who is on fire. A native of Clinton, Maryland, Shaugh’s affection for photography seeded from his truest inspirations: his family and his passion for Rap.
At a young age, Shaughn was inspired by the memories captured in his mother and father’s photo albums. He noticed that in his generation no one was taking pictures on cameras or printing photos out, it was all on the phone. After he tried to print IPhone photos out, he realized that the quality of a cell-phone camera wouldn’t cut it, and got his parents to buy him a camera.
Rap also drew Shaughn to photography. As a young kid rap was Shaughn’s escape. He would listen to rap a lot and blog. On Tumblr, he would see pictures of rappers; quickly realizing he really couldn’t rap, he thought “I could possibly take photos.”
“I was inspired to take photos of artists and music.” – Shaughn Cooper.
The inspiration in art is the beauty of perspective.
Even as a youngin’ Shaughn had a robust musical palate that ranged anywhere from Eminem to Queen or Outcast to Nirvana. By the age of 12, Shaughn was already a dedicated student to the craft. His initial artistic inspirations surfaced when he discovered photographers; Chi Modu, and Jonathan Mannion, who documented Hip-hop greats like Wu Tang, DMX, and Nas.
“They basically documented New York rap before it was really big.” — Shaughn Cooper.
Music is a powerful form of art because it blurs the lines between experiences, perception, and reality. As a creative, Shaughn aims to give another perspective of how people see the world.
Life as an Artist and an Entrepreneur
“ I don’t even consider myself just a photographer, I’m so much more than that.” — Shaughn Cooper
A little more than a decade ago when Shaughn became interested in photography, many people doubted whether it was a professional pathway worth pursuit. Among his family and friends, there really weren’t examples of successful artists or entrepreneurs. The only narrative people knew was the homeless struggling artist or the artist that tragically suffers from drug addiction, like Basqueot. This experience taught him two big lessons.
“There really ain’t no blueprint for this. Their way of thinking is outdated.” – Shaughn Cooper
Growing up Shaughn was active; he would draw, play sports, write poetry, code, and blog. When people asked him what he wanted to be he’d say, “I want to design video games, or I want to be an astronaut.” Finally, one day he got to the point when he said, “I just want to be a photographer.” While deciding, he was in his second semester of college studying accounting. In accounting class, he observed that not even the professor seemed to want to be there. He felt uninspired and thought I could be gaining experience taking pictures somewhere right now.
“You can be an accountant, you can be a lawyer, but you can be an artist full time, too.” – Shaughn Cooper
Shaughn is committed to making a Blueprint for aspiring young artists and entrepreneurs to regularly connect with mentors in their areas of their interest. The goal is for young people to learn life-skills from local creatives and professionals across the DMV. This initiative launches Fall 2019 in partnership with Man Up at Edgewood Commons.
Step 1) Believe in Yourself
Understand your own potential. Get out of your own way.
“I understood that there is an oak tree inside of an acorn. “
“A seed has the potential to start a whole forest.”
— Shaughn Cooper
Step 2) Only Believe the Believers
Shaughn’s (late) mother always believed he could be a full-time, freelance photographer. Shaughn explains that she would say, “Follow your heart. Do what you want to do. It will make sense eventually.” He’ll carry those words of wisdom, always. Through photography Shaughn feels his mother living through him.
Step 3) Read Powerful Books that expand your mindset
“I was lucky to read a lot of books in high school that put me in an elevated state of mind”.
He credits Amazon for referring him to books that make sense to his interests and goals. This steered him to authors like Paulo Coehlo, Napoleon Hill, Robert Green, Ryan Holiday. Through literature he was able to mentally travel beyond Clinton, MD and attract the life he visualized.
Step 4) Be Reflective and Completely Honest with Yourself
About a year and a half ago Shaughn noticed himself falling into a rut where he wasn’t getting better. He had to pause and reflect to identify kinks in the system. The process of reflection is essential to get better. Teamwork makes the dream work. This moment taught him to lean into the support of his manger, focus on the art and spend more time on his other interests.
Step 4) Build your team like Avengers
Shaughn has been building his team the last few years. He knew it would take time. So during that time he spent it with people he wanted to be on his team.
“I’d take chemistry over talent any day.” — Shaughn Cooper
He continues, “There is no boss on this team. Everyone can bring something to the table. You can subcontract me for a job. I can subcontract you for a job. That’s just how it works. It shouldn’t be this thing like Shaughn is the leader or the boss. No, we are all leaders in a sense.”
Avengers inspired this idea. Everyone has their own timeline and their own villains that they deal with. They have their own story. That’s why when they come together it’s a bigger threat. Some people are good for certain things, so hire them to help them for a job they would be good at. Don’t hire a photographer that specializes in events to do corporate headshots. Currently, Shaughn is building out a national team to increase his capacity by subcontracting out of state work to local photographers in that area.
Step 5) It’s all About the Connections
Building relationships is key to getting new business. Shaughn explains how his local DMV network has helped him over the years.
“I’ve been working with many photographers in the DMV since about 2010. It’s just finally starting to come together and work. Luckily, I was there early on and captured a lot of moments. People see that so they think, let’s just bring him in because he’s been around and he’s pretty good at taking photos.”
“The people I work with are my friends. It’s not hard to work with them. They connect me with people where there is a market place. I get a job in LA because my homie from DC is connecting me to that person with that job in LA.” — Shaughn Cooper
Step 6) Have Purpose
Separate yourself. When I approach these situations I think “How can I add value to the project, rather than what can I get out of the budget?” He believes he is a vessel sent here to inspire.
“When I started photography my goal always was to inspire just one kid, that they can do photography or any type of art full time. To show them they can do whatever they want full time.”
Step 7) Run Toward your Fears
“I got discouraged for some years. The thing about your talents is they always come around full circle.” – Shaughn Cooper
Shaughn did just that when he was tapped to lead the photo team at Broccoli City. It was his first time leading such a large group of photographers. To lead that many people was certainly something out of his comfort zone. He knew it would an opportunity to grow, so he took it.
He also recommends asking for critique from trusted mentors. I was so bad at photography in the beginning that taking this approach really humbled me.
“I figure if you mess up the first time, people will tell you what you did wrong, so you can learn from that and be better for the future.”
Shaughn has worked with many musical greats like Kanye West, Wale, Broccoli City, Dreamville, Interscope and many more.To learn more about Shaughn’s journey follow him on IG @shaughncooper or online at www.shaughncooper.com.
Shaugh Cooper is proof that you can be a fulltime artist. He is the true definition of an artist carving their own lane and leaving the 9-5 matrix.
Meet Shaugn cooper the Celebrity Photographer from the DMV who went from going to school for accounting to becomming a well known Celebrity photographer
@ShaugnCooper is everything that the music scense needs he is a beliver and a connector who knows that as long as you believe in yourself and the team around you you can achieve anything.