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From socially distanced weddings to social justice protests, this Baltimore photographer captures the moods of 2020

Keith Garner Jr. was just 6-years-old when an ordinary day at his grandmother’s house in Baltimore turned into an influential moment for him. His cousin Chris, an art major at Loyola Maryland at the time, introduced him to photography by making him and his sister the subjects of one of his projects.

Garner, now 23, recalls being splashed in paint and having his portrait taken outdoors against a white backdrop. With access to Loyola’s darkroom, his cousin taught them how to process and develop the photos. Seeing the final print and how his cousin was able to transform this seemingly basic scene into a new world captivated him. Later on, his friend in high school would inspire him to pick up a camera. From there he was hooked.

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Today, The University of Maryland Eastern Shore graduate is a creative content creator and freelance contractor for commercial clients. He also runs his own production company, KG Visuals, where he directs and shoots portrait sessions and weddings.

“I approach photography as if I am the author of an open book,” Garner said. “I try to transfer the feelings and moods of the people or subjects that I am capturing and use that energy when composing and processing the images.”

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Garner is the winner of last month’s photo contest “New Normal Summer,” with his photo titled “Change”. And his story inspired this month’s contest theme, “Family Matters.” Click through the gallery above to check out more of his work and read more about his photography style below.

What kind of photos do you enjoy taking the most and why?

I enjoy candid photography so I would say street style, events, sports, and lifestyle portraits. The ability to capture a moment in time and transform it into an everlasting memory for life is just priceless so I love shooting high emotion events — seeing the story I can tell is always a challenge with every event/session that comes my way.

Small-scale quarantine wedding (wanted to capture the sense of being a small spec in the world, loneliness during times of isolation yet the unity of the bond between husband and wife, a partnership. - Keith Garner
Small-scale quarantine wedding (wanted to capture the sense of being a small spec in the world, loneliness during times of isolation yet the unity of the bond between husband and wife, a partnership. - Keith Garner (Keith Garner)

How did you start experimenting with double-exposures?

I can’t stress this enough! I love love love the Fujifilm platform. I shoot with a Fujifilm XT3 camera from the X series line and the camera enables the user to capture a double exposure (two-layered photo) within the camera. Previously this could be done on applications like Photoshop however being able to envision and execute my concepts within the realtime viewfinder of my camera is second to none! Such a luxury that opens the doors for even more storytelling and moody images.

Can you tell us more about the photo you submitted to the “New Normal Summer” contest?

My New Normal Summer contest submission was taken at a peaceful #BlackLivesMatter day-long protest in the heart of Baltimore at City Hall. I wasn’t able to catch the subject’s name, however, I was intrigued by the sense of hopelessness and uncertainty in the facial expression of the young man, the fact the face mask jargon aligned with the wording on the signage in the background made the image all that much sweeter. To top the image off, the signage with the fist really brought the mood altogether and contributed to a moody image that speaks for the times. I used a Fujifilm XT3 to capture this image, which was actually a 4K video screengrab from the after movie of the protest at City Hall, which I have published on YouTube at https://youtu.be/MTU7GAks37g

Outside Baltimore City Hall, a demonstrator's mask speaks to the pandemic and social justice movement that have marked 2020.
Outside Baltimore City Hall, a demonstrator's mask speaks to the pandemic and social justice movement that have marked 2020. (Keith Garner)

What advice would you offer to photographers just getting started?

I would tell a fellow creator just starting out to discover your true niche after you delved into many different realms within the content creation world. I still have yet to define my true niche/specialty and love to capture moments in all different lanes. Use platforms like YouTube and Instagram to discover other creators who can offer influence to your style and perspectives, as well as offer insight into the different gear you may have at your disposal or may potentially invest in. Learn manual mode as soon as possible. Study, study, study: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed and how they correlate as well as light. Lastly, never question whether you should capture an image or speak up about a concept you have thought about. Just execute as once the moment is gone you will never get it back or be able to recreate the exact emotions.

This shot from a prom reveal party evokes a red carpet appearance.
This shot from a prom reveal party evokes a red carpet appearance. (Keith Garner)

In what ways has the coronavirus pandemic changed or affected your photography?

The coronavirus pandemic has created more of a demand for media than ever before for my company. I have been shooting four to five gigs a week on average and editing around two feature films a week. Pre-coronavirus I was taking more photo commissions, however, after COVID hit I have been shooting mainly promotional videos and small scale weddings/ events such as drive-by parties and training videos for the fitness world. The outbreak has opened up the world of entrepreneurship and small businesses are more popular than ever before with a dire need for good marketing and promotional content.

Where can our readers see more of your work?

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