JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you want to be growing up?
ANDREW MANGUM: I had no clue. I still have no clue. All I know is that I’m a dreamer and my passions stay the same but my vision and creative process change, which makes it hard to concentrate on one particular career path. I was always a good listener, and I think that enabled me to capture images that tell a well rounded story of someone’s life.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
AM: My family. Especially my 2 year old son. Seeing the excitement of “newness” in his eyes is encouraging and uplifting. I wish I could see the world with new eyes.
As far as photography is concerned, I am inspired by people that continue to work. It’s hard to get out of bed everyday and create something. And then share it with the world. For me I struggle with blog posts and updates because I want to showcase my best, but I also want to post as much as possible. Seeing other photographers work and grind away on a daily basis is very inspiring - and most of these photographers are updating with personal work, so they’re not even getting paid! That is the definition of passion.
JC: What are you up to right now?
AM: Right now, I am focusing on a documentary showcasing Baltimore Hip-Hop (Always in Que) and its impacts and effects on the community. This project started in late 2012. I went to a Hip-Hop show in West Baltimore and seeing the positivity of the event conflict with the stigma of Baltimore’s violent culture made me realize there was something special here. About a month or so after the event, I saw one of the shop owners the show was held at. We talked and they informed that one of the young boys from that night was murdered, gunned down in an alley in West Baltimore. I was stunned. Here I am, a mid twenty-something from the suburbs of Washington DC living in Baltimore. It wasn’t so much a culture shock as it was a real punch to the gut. I knew this person. I saw his positive spirit and made a connection. Then in an instant he was gone. All I had left of this young boy was a picture. An eerily foreshadowing picture where he was letting go of a paper lantern into the night sky, signifying the lost souls of the previous year. It was in this moment that I realized how powerful a photograph can be. I immediately printed the image and sent it to his family. It’s moments like these that push me forward because we never know when the people around us will disappear. All we have is our memories, but with the help of these pictures we can bring back the emotions of someones character. That is what I aim to do.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
AM: Nope. I’ve tried. I have probably sent more than 75 emails or letters to different editors and photographers who I look up to. Not once have I had anyone offer, or accept my offer. That’s alright. I’ve always been the person figuring things out on my own, usually failing a lot along the way. I was always the kid taking apart the alarm clock, phone, VCR and putting it back together. It’s in my nature to do things my own way. I think its for the best because I will have my own style that won’t be influenced by anyone else.
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
AM: I am based in Baltimore, Maryland. I just bought a house in the County with my family. It’s great. I spend a lot of time in the city but I don’t live there. This allows me to see everything with a type of “newness” - just like my son. I approach things differently and I’m never comfortable, which I think is good because it pushes me to go to new areas with my work and try new techniques with my photography. I love Baltimore. The city has so much character and that extends to the County as well. I don’t see myself leaving, not anytime soon anyways.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
AM: Keep your head low, your ambitions high, and your friends close. Photography has grown into a competitive sport but just know that your colleagues help you get jobs just as much as people you’ve never met. So, don’t burn any bridges you’re not scared to erase because as big as this world may seem, the photography world is pretty small and someone always knows someone else.
JC: If all else fails - what is your plan B?
AM: There is no plan B! This is all I got. Get rid of the safety net and it will force you to work harder.
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
AM: It is. I really think its the only way we can all help each other. If I make it as a top level photographer I’m going to need help and I would probably hire people I know close to me than just anyone I interview. That community of people can really help get your foot in the door. Build together so we can all thrive together.
Honored to be a part of Mull it Over. Big shoutout to Jonathan Cherry for the interview.