Whatever you do, dont call Freddy O the paparazzi. Though hes had run-ins with celebs from Kanye to Beyonce, Freddy says he merely captures images and subjects that are relevant to the times.
How did you get started?
I worked for V-103 for about two years. During that time, I was also a producer for Jermaine Dupri. And Im an artist, so I would have arts shows and worked with the National Blacks Arts Festival and other events around Atlanta. I was trying to figure out a way to make more money, and Im not a very focused person, per se, so I decided to just go buy a camera. I started taking pictures around the radio station, and then one day 50 Cent came into the station. It was during the time he and Kanye West were having their fake beef, and he had a teddy bear with him that he was calling Kanye. I took a picture of him with the bear, and soon all the blogs were requesting my photo because they had seen it online. It pretty much started from there.
Have you ever had a negative run-in with a celebrity?
Oh my God, yes. In this business, especially now that I have my own blog, celebrities immediately recognize me by face. I had a run-in with Kanye West a little before his mother passed away. He was at a bowling alley here in Atlanta. I didnt even know he was going to be there, but when I saw him I took out my camera to take my three pictures. As I was walking out, Kanye ran up to my car and was saying, Dont disrespect me. The funny thing about it was, later that night he took a whole lot of pictures at the Velvet Room.
What is your response to people who call you paparazzi?
That always gets me because a lot of celebrities get mad if people take their photos but without that their career is worthless. Look at Ciara. She had to move all the way out to L.A. just so someone will take a photograph of her and get her some press. I dont think Im paparazzi, because every photo I take I ask the celebrity to look at it first. I think thats part of the reason Im received well, because Im not trying to take photos of celebrities smoking and drinking; thats their drink and thats their blunt, the public doesnt need to see that.
Who is your favorite Atlanta celebrity to photograph?
My favorite Atlanta celebrity is Monica; she is always so good to me and shes so sweet. About a week ago, I was out in L.A. and she got me to take pictures with Bill Gates.
What was your craziest celebrity encounter?
Beyonce. I had been hired as a photographer for a Rocawear event, and I was sitting in the VIP section waiting for things to start. Beyonce came in and sat down in the seat directly next to me. We were literally touching shoulders. All of a sudden her bodyguard comes to me and says, If you take any photos of her, I will break your fucking camera.
What's a typical day on the job?
The hours are really long. On a typical day, I wake up around 5 a.m. and I work on my website for a few hours, and make sure that I service the photos to the blogs, because they need them early enough that the images are still relevant. Keep in mind that Ive been out at the club all night to get pictures of celebrities leaving. Sometimes I get really frustrated, because Im not making the kind of money I feel I should be making yet Im working so hard.
Is there a community of celebrity photographers within in the city?
There are a few of us, but much like a lot of the Atlanta bloggers, we dont really get along with one another. In Atlanta, there arent a lot of media outlets, which creates a lot of competition. People dont realize that images of black celebrities are just not worth as much money as images of white celebrities. A picture of Tom Cruise, for example, could make about $6,000, but for a picture of T.I. youll be lucky to get $60. Artists like Jay-Z and Beyonce are really lucky because theyve crossed over enough to be relevant to white media, which is where a lot of the money is.
(Photo by Joeff Davis)
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