LANDIS — Since 2004, Blair Phillips has quietly been building a reputation for innovative and cutting-edge photography at his downtown Landis studio.
Phillips, 35, works with clients from all over Rowan County and beyond on photographs of newborns, children, seniors and brides. He continues to gain national attention for his relentless effort, as his answering machine puts it, “to save the world from mediocre photography.”
On June 6-7, a film crew from PhotoVision of Wilmington spent time with Phillips in his studio, shadowing him with four separate cameras as he went about photographing his clients.
But perhaps “quietly” is not the right word to describe Phillips. While the cameras roll, he sprints through the studio, setting up shots, grabbing equipment, adjusting lighting — all the while putting his client at ease with low-key conversation. He is hard to miss in a neon-pink T-shirt and gray cargo shorts, topped off by his trademark spiky hair.
The filming project was nearly a year in the making, explains Suzanne Phillips, Blair’s wife and business partner.
“They contacted us,” says Suzanne, 34. The couple were paid for this project. “In the photography industry, it is a big, big deal.”
PhotoVision has about 60,000 subscribers who sign up for instructional DVDs and streaming videos on professional photography.
This is yet another way Phillips is gaining national exposure. He also does about 15 speaking engagements each year, appearing all over the country at photography workshops. Twice a year, 15 photographers come to his studio for a workshop.
“What Blair has accomplished nationally is phenomenal,” Suzanne says.
Back in the studio, Phillips continues to photograph Lauren Register, a 2013 graduate of South Rowan High School. Lauren has on sparkly, exotic makeup for some “glam” shots.
Phillips has dozens of sets inside and outside the studio. At the moment, the weather is not cooperating, and even though they’re set up right by the window, there’s not enough natural light in the rainy afternoon.
“If you don’t have it like you want it, just move stuff around,” Phillips says as he adjusts the lights. “I’m not gonna give excuses. I’m gonna make it happen.”
The film crew watches intently, all dressed in the obligatory black T-shirts paired with dark blue jeans.
Phillips urges Lauren to mess up her already tousled hair. With his left hand, he grabs a hair dryer to blow cool air on her while firing shots with a camera in his right hand.
“Do you have contacts?” he asks Lauren before turning on the appliance.
All the while, he tells the camera crew about how he’s shooting and the techniques he’s using.
Outside, the sets are surrounded by puddles of water, seemingly useless at the moment. But then Blair notices the rain has stopped and decides to transition outdoors.
“We can put you under a canopy,” he tells one of the camera operators.
With Phillips’ help, Lauren, dressed in a formal aqua dress, situates herself atop the hood of a truck that’s remarkably the same color. The rain has now stopped as Phillips demonstrates a pose for her, his right hip jutting out jauntily.
Ed Pierce is owner and producer with PhotoVision. Others on his crew include John Waldron, Chad Perz, Chase Killian and correspondent Brian Killian.
Pierce says of his decision to showcase Phillips, “He’s one of the guys who’s just on the cutting edge of all styles of photography. He’s doing profound and innovative work, and his persona in front of the camera doesn’t hurt.”
Pierce says a studio like Blair Phillips Photography is “non-existent” in many parts of the country.
He notes that photography studios must be innovative because of all the changes in photography, and the fact that, if you want, you can take pictures with your phone.
Pierce says he’s impressed with the way Phillips uses the studio’s space and the way he interacts with his customers. “It’s the whole package.”
His company’s purpose, he says, “is to help other photographers be successful and emulate people who are doing it right. He’s one of the guys who is doing it right.”
Pierce says that with the reach of the Internet and social media, customers talk with one another across the country — and word travels quickly these days. Pierce says that Phillips’ videos should be available with in the next couple of months, and appear on PhotoVision for about the next 18 months.
For more information about PhotoVision, visit www.photovisionvideo.com. For more information about Blair Phillips Photography, visit www.blairphillipsphotography.com.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.
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