His Instagram bio reads, “creating with people to see themselves as art.” This is the foundation by which all creative work is born through the lens of photographer Tre Crews (@trecrews).
Whether through personal projects, client work with the likes of SUNNI SUNNI (@sunnisunnistudio), Arc of Andre (@arcofandre), Sincerely Tommy (@sincerelytommy_), or on-screen in Issa Rae’s (@issarae) critically acclaimed showInsecure, Tre Crews captures a facet that goes beyond the notice of detail.
If palpable emotion that can be felt through the curious eye is the arrow, then the target is undoubtedly the hearts and minds of those who are courageous enough to let it in.
Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to want to work in the photography and art space?
I am 26 years old, originally from Daytona Beach, FL, and I am now based in Brooklyn, NY. I attended Florida State University, and fun fact, I studied biochemistry and eventually wanted to become a geneticist but realized that it was not fulfilling me. After graduating, I became more inspired to start a freelance career in the photography and art space.
During my childhood, I was surrounded by so many mediums of art, especially music. I participated in art shows and competitions. Before doing photography, I was a sketch artist. I got my first film camera in high school and, from there, started my process as a photographer.
What specific experiences have been an influence on your work as a photographer?
In the years, I gained the attention of various creative collectives in the Tallahassee area, which landed me some group exhibitions in local art galleries. That made me think that the fine art space is something worth more understanding.
After leaving Tallahassee, I managed to land an internship at a local co-op gallery back home called Arts on Granada. It was there that I had my very first solo exhibition and sold my first large fine art print. Learning the ins and outs of running a gallery space and curating shows while still creating my own work influenced me to create with longevity in mind.
What work of yours do you feel the most connected to?
I feel most connected to the experience behind creating the work. For me, it is the people in the image and the story behind capturing them in ways they may not have seen themselves.
Until recently, a significant percentage of my work is from back home in Florida and with people that have never been in front of the camera. That is the special part to me, analyzing these amazing and beautiful people and formulate an idea or concept to see themselves in ways that I don’t see myself.
That process is vital because these wonderful people allow my ideas to reach a higher potential.
Your work was featured in Issa Rae’s INSECURE. Amazing! How did you come to that place in your journey, and how did it feel to see it on screen? What is the message behind that piece?
I still can’t believe that happened. She basically tweeted back in June 2019 that she was bored at the airport and asked who wanted to talk. So, me being the artist who has to market themselves, I replied to her tweet with four images and said, “I take some dope images of some dope black people.” She then likes the tweet herself and then later DMs me asking if it was for sale and told me to email her.
She commissioned me to do some prints for her, and I carefully curated a selection of 30 images for her to choose from. She winds up buying four for herself, which are now hanging in her new office space.
It was the most prominent print commission I have ever received, and it is what inspired me to move to NY finally.
Fast forward to October 2019; she emails me again saying her set design for Insecure was going to hit me up about a print being featured (ref image 1). I was alone in my apartment at the time when the episode aired, and I screamed and kept rewinding over and over to see it. The people involved with that image are essential to me.
The subject is my best friend’s partner, and we did not expect that a shot during a huge thunderstorm on the beach would lead to that moment. The piece represents unwrapping the chains that hold us and turning our experiences into golden splendor.
Who do you admire that motivates you?
Solange Knowles is the main artist who motivates and inspires me. She has consistently shown us that she has a creative range and impacts culture.
That is something I aspire to do and be. As for personal contacts, members of immediate and chosen family all play a huge part in shaping who I am as an artist. Creating a chosen family was a challenging journey, given that I had interesting experiences with friendships in the past. But I feel like I have found the right people in my life who really motivate me to grow in all ways and, as one of my friends would put it, just “be.”
As you worked in STEM education, it became more apparent to you that you must have kept the creative side of yourself alive. How do you ensure this balance is consistent in your life?
My work experience was in labs and pharmaceuticals. My curriculum mainly was math and science-driven, with little exposure to the arts during high-school and college.
I had no choice but to try and create some balance with that, such as creating my own work, the magazine, and being involved with the fine arts. Now I balance it in reverse by keeping up to date with what is happening in medicine and science.
I am a firm believer in keeping both sides of the brain stimulated to help keep those ideas flowing. I love to walk around my neighborhood in the mornings; I find myself analyzing how the light hits the buildings, how the color shifts in the light, and how it fits in on the block.
What is your next goal?
There are so many things I am going to achieve in the next five or so years. The main things are getting another solo exhibit, go to Japan to do a creative study for my eye (when travel is more lenient), own a brownstone or loft, start working on my business idea, and more importantly remain healthy and happy.