Blake Armstrong runs a rapidly growing photography business 19 months after many of his memories disappeared and he began taking photographs.
In 2019, when he was 15, a Dunedin schoolboy bought his first camera for Christmas money.
“I lost a lot of memory and past just because I had a lot of mental health and family problems in 2018,” he says.
Because of this loss, Blake sees photography as a physical way of remembering.
Things you won’t lose easily – print and be there. “
He used to casually take pictures with his parents’ old autofocus camera. With his Christmas money, he bought a used Nikon D300.
He started taking pictures in earnest in August 2019 and started Armstrong Photography NZ by Christmas that year.
Born in no time
It can be said that it was born in no time.
Bayfield High School students volunteered to take pictures at the Stars on Stage, a biennial celebration of elementary and junior high school dance, drama and music at the Regent Theater in Dunedin.
A group was late, so the moderator (MC) called Blake on stage and asked him to take a picture of the crowd.
To fill the time, MC asked Blake the name of his business. The 15-year-old kid experienced a moment of panic and replied, “Armstrong photography, that’s my job.”
Blake remembered when he went behind the scenes and told himself, “I said it in front of 1500 people, so I have to do it now.”
This is how his business was born.
After Stars on Stage posted the photo online, the Dunedin Tap Dance Association asked him to take a photo at the National Qualifying Championships. Further committees followed.
Currently, Blake (17) covers about three events a month in the dance and theatrical scene. The same is true for sports, schools and private events.
He works full-time in spring and summer and 10 to 20 hours a week in winter and autumn.
When the country broke out of the second Covid-19 Alert Level 2 blockade last September, he shot 87,000 images at 11 events over a four-week period.
This was during the completion of NCEA Levels 2 and 3 qualifications in one year instead of two years, so in addition to photography I was able to do Manarangatahi, a youth development program that graduated last year.
Now that he’s graduated from school, he’s working part-time, working in the Mana Langatahi community, recruitment and promotion, pursuing the marketing and advertising aspects of his business.
Capture memories and emotions
Blake says that by taking pictures, you can capture personal memories and emotions that you can share with others.
By taking pictures for others, he can share and express their feelings and precious moments.
“This is really important to my job.”
For example, he works closely with UniQ, a queer support group at the University of Otago Student Association.
People in this group aren’t always comfortable with being intimate in public, so it’s special to be able to capture this and share it with them, says Blake.
Teens cover everything from motorsports to school formal wear, climate change activities to national aerobics championships with cameras.
I would like to say that his photographs are based on the dedication of models and subjects and show their motivation and passion.
Being “the moment” is also important to his creativity.
Blake says he needs to be 18 to register the company, but he runs as a sole proprietor, pays taxes, and runs a venture legally.
Many of him are second hand because the equipment is expensive. He upgraded the Nikon D300 twice and now works with the Nikon Z6 mirrorless lens camera.
Looking to the future, Blake loves photography to support him full-time, and as chairman of the Dunedin Youth Council, he wants to do more with it.
In addition, he wants to develop something similar to Mana Langatahi in the arts, providing mentoring and leadership.
The Covid-19 crisis means that many arts have become “big hits,” and it’s especially difficult for young people to make progress, he says.
What does he say to a young photographer?
“Send me a message, we will see what we can do.”
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