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Behind the Lens: Van-Joe

"Right Place, Right Time, Right People."


One lens, one man, one vision. Being one of many taking the Houston streets by storm, this young photographer is certainly a hot commodity. For Van-Joe, photography and catching life's beautiful moments have always played an active role in his life. From childhood to adulthood Van has been a firm believer in making every day serve a purpose no matter how big or small and judging by his work it undeniably shows through his shots and the people in them.



Who is Van Joe?

Van-Joe: I go by Van Joe, I'm a photographer here in Houston. I was born in Beaumont but Houston is where I was really exposed to everything. It's the home plate, everything that started from photography came from Houston.

Where'd you get the name?

Van-Joe: I was working at the Van store in late 2012, they asked what name you wanted to go by and I had been rocking vans before this whole "epidemic" and then to top it off Joseph is my real name so it just clicked.

Did you foresee yourself doing this one day? When did photography come into play?

Van-Joe: As a kid I did what I wanted to do. Not meaning I was bad, was just ahead of my time. I wasn't trying to follow a structure, just wanted to do me, when I wanted to do it. Now photography came into play in high-school, I went to a school called Willow Ridge in Missouri City. I had been known for other things such as style, basketball, skating but I took this black and white film class for yearbook. '09-'10 I was actually in it for basketball and people really dudes in particular back then weren't big on taking pictures. By my senior year I was that main dude when it came to photography, I had received my certification in photo-journalism so with that I was taking pictures at other schools, different sports, just building my portfolio. My yearbook is actually framed because all of the photos, credits in it that's me.

When did you start to receive street recognition as a photographer? When was your first big break and do you recall the feeling?

Van-Joe: In 2015, I began to do a lot of industry work as far as entertainment goes with artist such as the Sauce Twinz and Dice Soho. I attended this GMT event and wanted to shoot but I needed approval from Sauce people, who at the time it was their manager Ms. Megan and she stated that she wanted to work THAT day. So that day I literally took pictures and went to venue after venue shooting them, it was just continuous work from that point on. Eventually, it became a connect I was part of Megan's team IAssistGlobal. It was the three strikes, right place, right time, right people. With those you'll succeed every time.

Outside of photography what is life like for you?

Van-Joe: My life is photography, there's no outside of it. Photography is my life, it's my job, it provides for everything I do. It's been like this for two years straight since 2015 it's been my whole life. So I can't even separate myself from the two. You have Van Joe the photographer then you have Joseph McKinney, but they the same person.

I've been following you for a minute.. You're into fashion right? Does this influence your work at all?

Van-Joe: Nah, fashion is just a feeling to me. It's just natural, it's just whatever you feel. It has no effect on what that picture is going to look like, what that edit is going to look like, or what that video is going to look like. If you're a customer you are satisfied with the work, you're not even thinking about what I have on. So nah, it has nothing to do with it, fashion just adds more to my personality it does more for my personality than my work.

Working with Imperial?

Van-Joe: Imperial? I'm their ambassador. You have Imperial Empire, that's the brand/company, now imperial Houston there's a store called options and have recently opened a store in Austin on 6th st and ShowGun is it's owner. It's like a sponsorship.

Most difficult aspects of photography? What are your strengths?

Van-Joe: Editing is definitely, pleasing your audience is coming in at second and timing would the third. Timing plays a major role, it effects everything. As far as my strengths, I'm good at capturing the moment especially the ones that no one's expecting to get caught. I can see things in you that you don't see from behind that camera.

Where do you pull your inspiration from?

Van-joe: When it comes from photography, it comes from me. I learned from myself now when it comes to life, I've been inspired by many and their life experiences.

Any favorite shoots?

Van-Joe: Shooting Kanye was a big accomplishment, I shot him for his Saint Pablo Tour at the Toyota center. Shooting in New York with the breakfast club was another good moment, working with them directly and having my partnership with IHeartRadio here in Houston allotted this opportunity. Lastly, when my family realized that photography was real for me, I was planning to do big things with this.

What projects should we be on the look out for?

Van-Joe: I have a new website coming with a new vlog, and I'm putting together a new journalism team, all female and just me. 6 total.

Advice To up and coming shooters or those just starting out:

Van-Joe: Always got for what you want, always. If there's a way that you can be cool going for what you want? Go for it. And always be real with yourself. Always speak the real, think the real, and see the real. be real as a photographer.

For more on the photographer, check out twitter and instagram:

Twitter: @GxldShxt

Instagram: @gxld_shxt

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